As a parent who has tried to hunt down the YouTuber-promoted Prime energy drink, its popularity makes me seriously uneasy about the gullibility of young lads.
The clamour for it should not be laughed away as the obvious result of scarcity created by a cynical branded content deal between two of the best-known social media influencers – Logan Paul and KSI. Instead, it should be viewed as a wake-up call for parents that monetising misogyny – rather than athleticism, good looks or video game prowess – is only a step removed.
I’m sure there are many girls sucked in by the clever marketing tactics of Prime, but it feels to me like a “boy” phenomenon. When videos emerged of the chaos when Prime landed in Aldi stores, the melee seemed mainly to feature young lads with close-shave haircuts, ensconced in puffa jackets and trackie bottoms. It felt like watching my eldest son and his gang descend on a supermarket; young boys look so alike these days.
There were determined-looking adults shoving into the mix – perhaps some grown-ups looking to sell on for an obscene profit, but probably mostly frazzled parents on a mission.
Maybe it was just the videos I watched, but I spotted few girls in the scrum and it was telling that on the Prime Twitter account, the retweets were mostly of parents posting pics of beaming little fellas of around eight years old, in football gear, clutching their bottles of Prime.
In Ireland where we live, we don’t have Asda (though you can buy it in stores in Northern Ireland) and Aldi over here released a statement this week saying they have no plans to offer it – but this does not stop it being a focus of great desire for my son and his pals since it came out in the US this time last year. Meanwhile, my 12-year-old daughter and her peers have no interest. I just asked her if any of her girlfriends were after a bottle and she shuddered in distaste, “Urgh, no way.”
There were rumours of a niche shop stocking it for €15 in Dublin city centre, but anytime we went searching, we had no joy. I’ve heard of some parents going up north, but it was always sold out. After a trip to a family wedding in Derby last August was dominated by unsuccessful Prime trips to Asda, I refuse to get involved again.
But why get upset about a brightly coloured energy drink? Its boilerplate marketing tactics have been around for years, but I think I dislike it so much because of the disconnect between what it seems to be and what it is – and how much power the two influencers who promote it have.
It’s not just two lads, big into boxing, goofing around and setting up a drinks company together. There’s cold, calculating big business operating behind the madcap style of the creators. Prime is manufactured by Congo Brands, a company run by two American men who control a drinks empire making millions.
Obviously, I am not the target market, but I’m not a fan of these social influencers. For years, I’ve been wary of Logan Paul, ever since my eldest son’s friend – eight years old at the time – sang one of his songs at the school talent show.
Called “Help me, Help You” it is about how a girl just wants to try on clothes all day and demands to know if her bum looks big, while her fella is just looking for an easy life. It’s an awful message for eight-year-old boys and when Logan Paul was temporarily cancelled a few months later for vlogging Japan’s suicide forest, I had made up my mind.
As for KSI, who started as a games YouTuber, and now counts rapping as one of his many gigs, well, in 2012 he was banned from attending future Eurogamer Expo events for his behaviour towards women during the show, and he has also been widely criticised for his “rape face” videos. I can remember my nephews telling me about him at the time.
Recently, I sat down with my son and watched some of his videos and the content is shouty, aggressive and too grown up for the kids watching him. There was one video of KSI’s from five months ago called “clips that made Andrew Tate famous” which shocked me. Andrew Tate’s content shows him to be an unashamed misogynist, he was arrested on 29 December on charges of human trafficking, forming an organised crime group and rape.
His videos play on the insecurity of men, how they should dominate women. It is harmful stuff and yet KSI says in this video Tate is “mainly wrong” about women, but he believes in a lot of the things he says. This dilutes the horror of Tate and makes him into someone that says some mad things but is not the worst.
KSI has over 41 million subscribers. Eight million watched this video. He must know many of these kids look up to him and are soaking up his opinions. My six-year-old and nine-year-old boys know the words to the YouTuber’s IShowSpeed World Cup song. They told me they learned from watching KSI’s review of it. They are watching his videos a lot, but I didn’t realise this.
Research from the University of Oxford suggests that boys are more vulnerable to the negative effects of social media later than girls, when they are 14 or 15, rather than 11 to 13. At an age when they’re likely to be exploring romantic relationships with others, it’s vital that they’re learning how to treat others in a respectful manner. Sadly, the fact this drink has been so popular shows that young boys are sitting ducks, years before this, waiting to be told what to think.
They will buy anything they find convincing and parents must get acquainted with exactly who they are watching online, because it’s no longer family and your child’s peers who are setting the agenda.
Thirty-five years ago, Noam Chomsky wrote Manufacturing Consent, warning of the social control of the media. Now, all the social control is online – this is where our kids’ opinions are moulded and parents should know who they are learning from.
This article was amended on January 5 2023. It previously referred to KSI’s World Cup song, but should have referred to his review of IShowSpeed’s song.