Make us your home page

Visit Florida, Pitbull pull plug on tourism partnership

Pitbull performs at Amalie Arena in Tampa during the 2016 Bad Man Tour.  [Luis Santana | Times]

Pitbull performs at Amalie Arena in Tampa during the 2016 Bad Man Tour. [Luis Santana | Times]

Pitbull may still #LoveFL. But he's no longer getting paid to say so.

The multiplatinum pop and hip-hop star is no longer under contract as a paid tourism ambassador for Visit Florida, president and CEO Will Seccombe said Thursday. The contract ended June 30 and was not renewed.

But that doesn't mean Visit Florida wouldn't do it again.

"For the value of the promotion, it's extraordinary," Seccombe said of the partnership. "Pitbull's been an incredible spokesman for the state of Florida, to a huge and very important audience for Florida tourism. He's been outstanding, and the results have been huge for the Florida tourism industry."

The contract, signed on Aug. 3, 2015, and announced a month later, received attention and criticism around the state, as almost no details of the deal were made public — including how much the Miami-born Pitbull was getting paid, and what, exactly, he was getting paid to do. Visit Florida says the Pitbull deal contained proprietary business information, which is exempt from public records requests.

Florida man: From the 305 to worldwide, Pitbull is Florida's paid ambassador

For months, Pitbull plugged Visit Florida's #LoveFL hashtag a few dozen times on Twitter and Instagram; filmed a tourism-heavy, #LoveFL-branded video for his 2014 single Sexy Beaches in Miami Beach; and hosted a live, nationally televised New Year's Eve concert in Miami's Bayfront Park. On July 30, he performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena in a high-energy show laden with plugs for the Sunshine State.

"Nobody parties like folks from Florida," Pitbull said then.

Both sides have already discussed how to "leverage the relationship" going forward, Seccombe said. Pitbull has used the #VisitFL hashtag as recently as Aug. 15. Even freed from his contract, Seccombe said he has "no doubt" Pitbull will keep representing his home state in a way that resonates with the younger travelers Visit Florida is trying to reach.

"We're talking about an audience that's critical to the future of Florida tourism," Seccombe said. "This audience is one that does not necessarily embrace or trust advertising. The power of the endorsement of an influential celebrity is exponentially more impactful than a tourism ad."

He pointed to the Sexy Beaches video, which has 5.3 million YouTube views since dropping July 13, and according to Seccombe around 11 million across all platforms.

"That's definitely a success," he said.

This year, Visit Florida received $76 million in state funding — as well as an audit ordered by Gov. Rick Scott to ensure those funds were being properly dispersed. While the Department of Economic Opportunity found no wrongdoing with regard to the Pitbull contract, it did recommend Visit Florida take steps "to help address the tension between operating in the sunshine and needing to restrict select information," in part to ensure "that all public funds are expended properly."

Seccombe said Visit Florida was planning to analyze and make public the results of the partnership, even if the contract itself remains private. He said Visit Florida expected to recoup about $5 in media value for every $1 spent on the deal, and that the Sexy Beaches video would continue to reap benefits long after the contract expired.

"That video is still going to live on YouTube and Vevo and wherever else it is, promoting Florida and continuing to gather views," he said. "It overdelivered, from our perspective."

Contact Jay Cridlin at or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

Visit Florida, Pitbull pull plug on tourism partnership 08/25/16 [Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2016 5:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. St. Pete Economic Development Corporation lures marketing firm MXTR to town

    Economic Development

    St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation has lured its first big catch to St. Petersburg — MXTR Automation. The digital marketing company announced Wednesday that it will fill 20 "high-wage" creative positions within the next 18 months, as well as open an office in downtown St. Petersburg this year.

  2. United Airlines CEO to investors: We'll be more focused on customers


    CHICAGO — The CEO of United Airlines assured shareholders Wednesday that the company is doing all it can to be more customer-friendly since video surfaced of a passenger being violently ejected from a plane last month.

    Chicago Police arrest protesters after they sat down in a busy street blocking traffic outside a United Airlines shareholders meeting Wednesday, in downtown Chicago. The people who were arrested were protesting the low pay of employees of companies that provide meals and other services for United Airlines at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
[Associated Press]
  3. Humana adding 200 telemarketing jobs in Tampa Bay

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Health insurance company Humana Inc. is hiring more than 200 workers in Tampa Bay. The Louisville, Ky.-based company said Wednesday that the new positions will focus on phone sales for Humana's direct marketing services department.

  4. Tampa Bay home prices still soaring amid tight supply

    Real Estate

    Sales of Tampa Bay homes dropped in April but prices surged yet again as Florida's real estate market continued to be defined by tight supply and high demand.

    The historic Century Oaks estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor has sold for $11.18 million, the most ever paid for a home in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy: Coastal Properties Group]
  5. These days, don't hit the theme park without an app and a phone charger


    Emile Crawford stocks two back-up phone battery chargers these days when she takes her kids to Disney World. But she dare not venture into a theme park without a smart phone app, an accessory becoming as necessary as sunscreen in Florida theme parks.

    A wristband visitors will wear at the new Volcano Bay water park in Orlando, Florida. The wristband, called Tapu Tapu, tells you when it's your turn to get on a ride. It also lets you pay for food so you don't have to carry a wallet and opens lockers so you don't have to  carry a key. (Universal via AP)