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It’s not unusual for sports leagues to announce new sponsorship deals with alcoholic beverage companies.
The NFL, for example, has deals with brands like Diageo, Anheuser-Busch and E. & J. Gallo.
What is unusual is when a sports league announces a new alcohol partnership with a company no one’s heard of.
Just a few weeks ago, Major League Baseball announced in a triumphant press release that they now had an “official vodka,” in a wide-ranging new agreement with Distill Brands International:
“Major League Baseball and Distill Brands International (DBI) today announced a new multi-faceted sponsorship agreement that extends across television, digital media and retail locations making Distill Brands the Official Vodka of MLB in the United States and Canada”
It goes beyond even those substantial integrations.
The press release also indicated that MLB branding would accompany DBI products, including its “full assortment of Super Premium and Premium Vodka:
“Through this new multi-year partnership, DBI plans to promote its full assortment of Super Premium and Premium Vodka with integrated branding across MLB’s broadcast and digital platforms including MLB Network and MLB.com. In addition, DBI will begin selling products at retail locations in California, Florida and New York that will include MLB promotional displays during the first quarter of 2023. DBI will then continue expanding retail opportunities throughout North America in restaurants and storefronts as promotion of the MLB partnership grows.”
There’s only one problem; DBI appears to have only one employee and has seemingly never brought a product to market.
An astonishing new report from VinePair details their investigation into DBI’s background.
Among many other issues, the company has abandoned patent requests and lists both a “cryptocurrency” and “metaverse” page that both say “coming soon:”
“An exploration of MLB’s official vodka partner uncovers a multitude of pending products and abandoned patents stretching beyond alcohol; a cryptocurrency and metaverse that — true to form — also exist in concept only; and apparently false links to a publicly traded company.”
The registry of alcohol related products, that all brands are required to submit their information to, turns up no results for products, and the Patent and Trademark office also indicates they do not have any trademarks despite using the ™logo throughout the site:
“The TTB provides a search engine function to file through these listings — the ideal place to find evidence of DBI as a legitimate product. Yet, a search for the most common keywords associated with the brand — Distill Brands International, Stadium Series, and DBI — returns fruitless results. While the “™” trademark logo litters DBI’s half-finished website, none of the terms return results when searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s own database.”
Unbelievably though, the investigation did turn up a poorly photoshopped image of Barack Obama “shopping” for the company’s previous attempt at a product, “Booze in a Bag:”
The “company” appears to be mostly located in Canada, based on trademark filings, although the address listed on file is actually a residential townhome in Ontario.
The U.S. based addresses provided are also not offices, but instead services that provide “virtual” locations for businesses:
“Details of the Canadian-American company DBI’s addresses are also available online via press releases and its website. The brand’s one-time Niagara Falls headquarters seems to be the address of American Mailbox, a company that offers a U.S. mailing address for Canadian residents. More recently, the company has moved its U.S. offices to mailboxes in Santa Monica, and a service that promises ‘a Virtual address for you and your business’ on its website.”
Even more incredibly, the new vodka partner for Major League Baseball has literally one employee.
Not only does LinkedIn not have a generated company page for Distill Brands International, but a search of the website shows founder Paul Neelin as the sole individual connected with the brand.
Neelin also lists a stock ticker symbol on the DBI website, but it does not appear to be connected to anything remotely resembling his company:
“On DBI’s homepage, the ticker shows a value of $00.00, despite the NYSE listed DSTL trading at around $40.86 at time of publishing. More confusingly, the ticker does not seem to be associated with DBI in any way, but instead is linked to Distillate U.S. Fundamental Stability & Value ETF, a Chicago-based fund with which Paul Neelin and DBI have no easily discernible ties.”
An announcement was also made that the brand would be using a company called Red Boot Distillery to package products, with an unsurprisingly bad photoshop of a conveyor belt:
Except VinePair was able to get a comment from Red Boot that they do “not produce any product for DBI,” nor have they ever produced product for them.
MLB appears to have brokered an agreement with a company that has no track record of creating any actual products.
DBI has one listed employee and no office space, has produced bizarre, amateurish photoshops, lists some kind of cryptocurrency coming soon, has no discernible registered trademarks, and made inaccurate partnership announcements.
This raises the all important question; how did this happen?
Announcing an “official vodka” with an organization like Major League Baseball requires so much time, negotiation and research that it’s inconceivable that somewhere along the way, no one pointed out all of these concerning details.
MLB did not comment for the VinePair story, but it strains credulity to think that they’re not aware of these inconsistencies and possibly reevaluating the partnership.
The DBI website lists one of their upcoming offerings as a “limited edition” 750ml “Glass Collector Vodka Bat,” although there’s no link to actually purchase this rare, unique bottle.
The disappointment should not be long lived however; a link to set up home delivery of DBI products says it’s “coming soon.”
Follow Ian Miller on Twitter: @ianmSC
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2 CommentsLeave a Reply
Well, the ™ marker is used before you register with PTO. After your mark is registered, you use ®. But I’m sure if you follow the money trail, it’ll lead to some shady company with ties to China.
Someone is ripping them off for 6 or 7 figures and is about to get caught…