Magnum's hip-hop safe sex campaign: Without rhyme or reason?

OPINION - It feels like a marketing gimmick that only a middle-aged, out-of-touch white man could dream up: Magnum condoms holding a rap contest...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

It feels like a marketing gimmick that only a middle-aged, out-of-touch white man could dream up: Magnum condoms holding a rap contest. But it’s true. Trojan condoms have teamed up with Ludacris to host their second annual Magnum Live Large Contest.

It’s shocking enough that the first contest was successful enough to warrant a second competition, let alone that it exists at all. The nationwide search for freestyle rap artists features competitions in four major cities and a round of online voting. The winners will get to appear live on stage with Ludacris, along with a $5,000 cash prize and — naturally — a year’s supply of Magnum condoms.

Of course Magnums and hip hop have had a longstanding relationship — the well-recognized gold package is basically the unofficial condom of choice for the hip-hop community, so it makes sense that they would want to capitalize on this market.

However this not-so-subtle competition risks being the punchline that writes itself. The press release alone is riddled with so many double entendres that either they are inside on the joke, or incredibly dense. “True to Magnum form, we’ve enhanced the competition to make the pool of entrants larger, the events larger, and the ultimate payout larger,” said Jim Daniels, Vice President of Marketing for Magnum.

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Rapper Ludacris offers this sound bite of sexual innuendo — “Living Large is really the only way to live…I’m a huge supporter of the product, I live the life, and I love how Magnum is giving other people the chance to shine and represent the gold standard.”

(“Living large is really the only way to live”? Average condom users fear not — Magnums are only centimeters bigger than your standard issue condom. So really the only thing larger is the image that they sell.)

All girth jokes aside, that Magnum went with the promotion vehicle of a freestyle rap battle at all just feels a bit dated. In a time of Auto-Tune and YouTube, being able to riff lyrically off the top of your head is no guarantee to fame and fortune, let alone minor success. Surely there is a more interesting and creative way to connect their brand with the hip-hop community, instead of running the risk of being embarrassingly corny.

Despite all this, I can appreciate the effort to promote safe sex. Though Magnum is more likely striving for brand recognition, it’s still raises the awareness, helping to normalize the practice of wearing condoms. The statistics on sexually transmitted diseases are harrowing and particularly disturbing for the African-American community. Anything that helps shine a light on prevention is okay in my book.

Magnum’s Live Large Contest is a somewhat risky bet for the brand — an attempt to capitalize on their hi- hop market through an equally unconventional and dated medium. I suppose that this contest is in its second year proves that there is a market for condom-sponsored battle rap competitions, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s more of a joke than a genuinely thought out and effective promotion.