Rapper Pitbull‘s latest video is an advertisement to come visit Florida’s sunny beaches. That’s not a metaphor; the video is literally an advertisement for Florida.
Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing agency, hired Pitbull as an ambassador to promote Florida tourism last year. The agency has drawn criticism for using a loophole in the Sunshine Law to keep its contracts secret and for the millions of taxpayer dollars it receives.
About two-thirds of Visit Florida’s budget comes directly from the tourism industry, but it does still rely heavily on taxpayer funds: rising from $26.6 million in 2011 to $75 million in 2014 and just shy of $85 million in 2015.
The contract with Pitbull also drew scrutiny, although most media reports acknowledged the advantage in promoting Florida to the rapper’s more than 80 million Twitter and Facebook followers. The new video for “Sexy Beaches,” however, had even the skeptical Tampa Bay Times admitting “it seems like they’re getting their money’s worth.”
Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, was born in Miami to two Cuban expatriates and frequently references Florida themes in his music.
“I wanna go somewhere exotic. Let the sun massage my body. Meet a sexy stranger in the lobby,” croons Chloe Angelides as Pitbull strolls down a staircase in a beige linen jacket, pale pink shirt, and white pants, a confident smirk spreading across his face.
The tempo speeds up and Pitbull and his lady friends — his many, many lady friends — party on the beach and in hotel lobbies. The video is full of gorgeous aerial shots of dozens of Florida beaches, as well as scenes shot inside several South Florida hotel hotspots.
Overall, “Sexy Beaches” is incredibly tame by most rap or pop music video standards. However, it’s certainly racier than previous Florida tourism promotions, which have often focused on the family-friendly element. The ladies in the video might be wearing one-piece swimsuits instead of the bikinis you might expect to see at South Beach, but they’re still in swimsuits or slinky sundresses as they happily dance around with Pitbull, and the lyrics make it clear he’s not inviting them to come play gin rummy with him (albeit with PG-13 language).
The song is from Pitbull’s 2014 album Globalization, and just in case it wasn’t clear where all the stunning scenery was located, one of the video ladies saunters by wearing a tank top with Visit Florida’s #LoveFL hashtag on it.
The video has racked up almost 1.3 million views since it was posted on YouTube a few days ago, and is launching at a fortuitous time. Pitbull is in the middle of a nationwide tour and was just awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
— Pitbull (@pitbull) July 15, 2016
The calls for increased transparency for Visit Florida aren’t likely to die down any time soon, but at least it does appear that taxpayers are coming out ahead in the deal.
“I wanna jump into the deep end, get lucky like the number seven, treat every day like a vacation,” continues the chorus later in the song. Florida benefits greatly from people wanting to vacation on those “Sexy Beaches” that Pitbull raps about, driving millions of dollars into the economy as well as filling state coffers through tourist tax revenues.
According to a January 2015 report by legislative economists, Visit Florida generated an estimated $3.20 for every $1 of taxpayer funds it received from 2011 to 2013, for a total of $373.4 million during that time period.
Photo credit: Screenshot via YouTube.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.