Why Florida's paying Pitbull; but keeping sum secret

Why Florida's paying Pitbull; but keeping sum secret

TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Mr. Worldwide has agreed to be Mr. Florida -- at least for the next year -- but taxpayers aren't allowed to know how much it's costing them.

Florida's tourism agency, VISIT FLORIDA, announcced rapper Pitbull as its official spokesperson last month.  Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, is a Miami native with 100 million social media followers and No. 1 hits in more than 15 countries.  He also has countless lucrative sponsorship deals and commands top-dollar for his endorsement.

But when 10 Investigates requested public records from VISIT FLORIDA as to how much state taxpayers are paying Pitbull, the 11-page contract was heavily-redacted, with nearly every word blacked out.  The state claimed numerous public records exemptions in withholding the information.

READ: VISIT FLORIDA's contract with Pitbull (redacted)

 

 

Under the state's "trade secrets" exemption to public records laws, VISIT FLORIDA told 10 Investigates the payments to Pitbull and business plans "remain propriety and confidential and the confidentiality is not waved by the owner of such information."

"It's not secrecy, it's trade secrets," said VISIT FLORIDA's Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps. "Part of it is, what Pitbull did for us, he wouldn't do for anyone else."

Phipps insists that the state got such a great deal on Pitbull that the deal must remain secret to preserve the artist's market value.

"'I can't believe I'm actually getting paid something for this ... I've been doing it for years,'" Phipps said of Pitbull, who also goes by "Mr. 305," representing the area code of his hometown.

Bang for the Buck

Even though the number of tax bucks going to Pitbull remains a secret, VISIT FLORIDA promises it landed a steal.

Phipps points to Pitbull's 1 billion social media impressions per month as the perfect opportunity to market Florida to millennials, who may be of the mindset the Sunshine State is just where their grandparents went to retire.  

Pitbull celebrated the partnership on Twitter in September and with a Florida-themed music video on Flipagram last Friday.  The song, "Sexy Beaches," is an ode to Florida with beautiful imagery to compliment the music.

WATCH: "Sexy Beaches" on Flipagram

Even though the Flipagram video was just a rough cut of what Pitbull fans might expect from the artist, Phipps says VISIT FLORIDA is collecting video from beachfront properties and attractions from all over the state for an official video release later this year.

Pitbull's deal also includes use of the #LoveFL hashtag at Pitbull concerts and on his social media accounts.  And he will reportedly promote VISIT FLORIDA from a nationally-televised New Year's Eve concert from Miami.

"We take advantage of the fact that Floridians like being Floridians and they like talking about Florida," said Phipps.

Find 10 Investigates reporter Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips confidentially to npransky@wtsp.com.


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