Respect the Hustle: Aubrey Flynn Talks CIROC, Working with Diddy and Blue Flame Agency


It’s a balmy October evening in New York City and inside Serafina, a trendy Upper West Side eatery, Aubrey Flynn is talking business. “I got some real big dreams [of] wanting to be the dot-com don of this thing,” he quips over the restaurant’s famous Regina Margherita pizza, complimented by rounds of CÎROC Peach. “I hope when people hear my story, they feel inspired to chase their dreams and know that hard work never pays you short.” As Brand Content Director for Blue Flame Agency/CÎROC Ultra Premium Vodka, the ambitious industry heavyweight knows a thing or two about hard work and chasing dreams. Whether he’s aware of it or not, Flynn is already a dot-com don in his own right—it’s his principal responsibility for a well-known mogul by the name of Sean “Diddy” Combs.

A Southside Jamaica, Queens native, and University of Florida graduate, Flynn, 30, has gone from interning at Diddy’s full-service marketing and advertising agency, Blue Flame—where he worked on famous campaigns like “Vote Or Die” and “Diddy Runs the City”—to managing online efforts for everything under Sean Combs Enterprises’ umbrella, including Puff’s vodka of choice CÎROC. Since landing the gig in 2009, he’s set the bar in digital initiatives for the brand, helping take CÎROC from less than 10,000 Facebook ‘Likes’ to more than a million, as well as topping longtime spirits like Belvedere and Grey Goose in all areas within the social media space.

“I wake up in the morning and I still feel like I’m an intern,” he asserts when asked whether or not he feels like he’s made it, and it’s no surprise. While Flynn’s accomplishments are indeed impressive, his road to get here is another outstanding tale that’s worth mentioning. As we sit over another platter of marghertia pizza—this time with a round of CÎROC Red Berry, he talks road to triumph and his desire for more. Respect the hustle… —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)

Growing Up In Southside Jamaica, Queens and Moving to Florida


“My parents are Jamaican [they] both migrated from Jamaica to Queens. They moved down to Fort Lauderdale, FL to escape the violence. It was crazy out in Southside— Laurelton to be exact—and my pops didn't want to raise me up North because of it, especially where we were at. He took me down South, which was crazy too, but a different kind of crazy [Laughs] when I was about five, six years old. Lucky for me, I had so much family that was older than me [over there]. My father had like mad brothers and sisters and they all started slowly relocating to the South 'cause it was just a little quieter so, I had a bunch of older cousins from New York that migrated down there. I spent most of my time down South so I'm sort of like a transplant; I came back [to NY] a few years ago so now I'm starting to get comfortable with my surroundings.”

Developing Interest In Entertainment Media


“I went to University of Florida, studied Business Administration and graduated in 2004. Freshman year was around the time that I was always into music. I used to produce, that's how I started in my interest in entertainment. I used to make beats in high school but when I was in college I was always about the hustle so, I used to sell beats to artists. I used to go to this little recording studio and meet up with a lot of the local cats that were trying to do their thing. I started picking up my skills on the computer. When I went to college, I got my first computer, a Mac Book, and taught myself Photoshop. No books, no classes, nothing. I was just trying to get some flyer money you know, like campus organizations, clubs and all that. I didn't have like a scholarship or anything so I had to pretty much pay my way through school.”

“My mother died when I was young so my father [raised me], he never went to college and didn't really have nothing—all he told me was, "You got to stay in school and try to figure it out." He's from Jamaica, he's a blue collar worker so, you know he just wanted to see me do well. So, I got this lil’ computer trying to make this little side money, selling beats. I also had a job doing graphic design, that's how I first started getting into computers and realizing that it was something I was interested in.”

Landing Intern Gig at Blue Flame Agency


“Shortly after that, I think it was 2001—around the time of The Saga Continues…—I landed on and I saw this little link in the corner for Blue Flame marketing and advertising. I'm in school, I think that I'm going to be the next big business man so I click on this link and see this real busted form. Like the whole site was fly but this little link to Blue Flame, it had a form on there that just looked a little weird. I put in my information but didn't get a response or nothing. [The opportunity mentioned on the site] peaked my interest because I was a business student. I was like, Damn I would love to get that sort of gig and be in that world with Puff. I was an ambitious young cat thinking big so, it just so happened, I ended up working during Spring Break.”

“When I say 'working', I went down to Miami to go to this marketing retreat [in 2001] and they brought a bunch of industry cats from New York and LA with the Fortune 500 companies like Pepsi, the big brands and they was just all there in Miami just networking for this retreat. I snuck in and started politicking with people and listened to the panels just trying to get my hustle on you. I ended up speaking to the president and vice president of Blue Flame Agency. I was like, "You're website needs work man." I was a young cat so I was like, "Yo let me help you with your site" and I met a few other people.”

“To this day I'm a big supporter of reading. But not just reading like fantasy novels or comic books, I think people need to read to learn things that allow you to apply yourself. I used to read a lot of those "Web Design for Dummies," all of that stuff in college so, I could get what I needed to get and know what I needed to know in order to make it happen. So, next thing you know I'm sending Blue Flame wired frames, comps all from my dorm room. I pretty much stalked them for a few months and they finally let me go up for an internship. During my first summer I worked with them on Diddy's “White Party” in the Hamptons, that was one of my first activations then we had the 'Vote Or Die' campaign, 'Diddy Runs the City,' 'Bad Boys II' premiere party, soundtrack and more."

Putting Entrepreneurial Skills to Test


“Being part of that scene was cool, so I ended up going back. Blue Flame asked me, ‘Yo you not gonna stay?’ I was like, ‘Nah I gotta finish school.’ My pops, he might have gotten his G.E.D but he never got his diploma or college degree so I was determined to graduate. I didn't know if I was going to make it back [to Blue Flame] or not but they ended up bringing me back for two straight summers. So I finished school in 2004 and before I went back, I started my own campus organization: Bad Boy On Campus. I also started this social network—this was before Facebook, MySpace—it was called ‘Gator Neighbor.’ It enabled students to pretty much get their books to each other instead of going to the ‘Buy Back’ [at the campus bookstore] and getting robbed for your book.”

“So I did that then I did the Bad Boy On Campus and graduated but there weren't that many jobs available. Long story short, the guy that hired me and put me on as an intern he actually gave me my first gig to come back to New York. His name was Emmett Dennis; he was the former VP of Marketing for Blue Flame Agency. Him and Jameel Spencer, who was the president for Blue Flame at the time, they pretty much are like my big brothers and mentors to this day. Emmett had given me my first job so, that's why I came back to N.Y. in 2005.”

“From there I worked for him for like two years and then started my own company with a friend of mine. Pretty much started my own Internet marketing company in 2007 and had an office on 44th and 3rd Avenue.”

Stint in the Pharmaceutical Business


Stint in the Pharmaceutical Business


“I was doing the entrepreneurial thing since like 2006 to 2008, somewhere around there. So I was like 25 years old at the time and it was wonderful for me. I was young, had my own company, an office on 44th and 3rd so you know I had to go buy me a crazy drop. [Laughs] I went and got the whip and then the recession came. As an entrepreneur you got to be ready for the peaks and valleys. At that stage, I wasn't really ready for no valley [Laughs] so I ended up stepping away from the entrepreneurial thing and going to the only industry that really kept it moving during that time, the pharmaceutical industry online. The pharmaceutical business online was popping. They still had big budgets so I ended up putting my entrepreneurial thing on hold after a couple years and started doing pharmaceutical marketing for Pfizer.”

“Next thing you know, I'm in like corporate, corporate America. It was for an agency downtown called CDMI; they had all the pharmaceutical brands. So [evidently] I went from doing my own thing to being in the middle of corporate America managing 35, damn near 40, pharmaceutical brands. It was like one of the most regulated industries out there. So, I got with this agency focused on pharmacy and they really cleaned me up in terms of organization and just really understanding some of the corporate structure.”

“Before then, I was fresh out of college I had worked for one entrepreneur, Emmett; we had a very small company. It was just me and him. But lucky for me, he was the boss and worked with Puff for all those years. He taught me the game as far as how to network, get new business and all the interpersonal stuff, the regular industry moves and shape. When I started my own thing, that sort of gave me the courage I needed as a professional to just be fearless. That really put a battery in my back.”

“I think when I went to CDMI on the pharmaceutical side, it was more like okay here’s the organization, here’s the structure. Here’s how you really gotta work with corporate America in order to get things done. Here’s what sort of big budgets—I thought I was making my little money, you know you’re 25 years old making a few $100,000s and think you’re doing real good but then when you start seeing they got four, five, seven to 10 million [dollars] on the table those numbers are totally different.”

“That didn’t really work out for me man. It [got] pretty boring [Laughs] ain’t nothing sexy about Viagra [Laughs], aint nothing fun about that.”

Working at Blue Flame Agency, CÎROC


“There’s this spot by the Hudson [River] where I go out to meditate and pray. I went there one day and I pretty much sent out a prayer, I never really closed the circle with the whole Bad Boy and Puff thing so, I wanted an opportunity to do that and [I mentioned in the prayer] ‘While we’re at it bring me down here to this crazy spot that I’m at because I need a crib up here.’ [Laughs] So, I went back to the pharmaceutical office and put in my two-weeks after working there eight months—Yeah, I did a real short stay at that joint [Laughs]. Next thing you know, HR [from Blue Flame/Bad Boy] reached out to me on some, “What are you doing right now?” It was on from there.”

“When I came back they wanted to start the digital department here at Blue Flame because they had just started the CÎROC arrangement and Puff was really adamant about taking digital to the next level. I was introduced to the team here [Blue Flame] and we pretty much made it happen. I joined the team in 2009 and ended up taking the gig and started off as a digital strategy manager. That meant that I oversaw the strategy for Cîroc Ultra Premium. Now at the time when I first joined, I want to say that they had less than 10,000 likes on Facebook. I don’t even think Puff was on Facebook at the time. Fast-forward three years later, now I’m the brand content director for Sean Combs Enterprises. Whereas when I started I was just working on CÎROC now I also am involved in the digital strategy for the record company, Sean Combs Clothing, CÎROC and when Diddy did “Get Him to the Greek” film premiere. I also was involved in the Last Train to Paris album release, the tour, the live streaming, release party and UStream.”

“Now with CÎROC, we don’t only have over a million fans on Facebook, we’ve passed Belvedere, we’ve passed Grey Goose—brands that have been around for years. We actually lead in all areas that are digital—YouTube, Twitter, Facebook you name it we’re beating the competition. We published the first Foursquare check-in in Times Square in December 2010. In 2011, we were the most engaging promoted trend on Twitter amongst consumer-packaged goods.”

“It’s been a blessing to get here and I thank God because he answered my prayers. And by the way, he moved me into that crib by the water [Laughs]. It’s been great. I’m married now, got a daughter. It’s been beautiful.”


Still Feeling Like An Intern, Hunger For More


“It’s hard to even—like I wake up in the morning and still feel like I’m an intern. DJ Drama said that on one of his ’tapes. Even with Jay-Z, I remember when Jay put on The Black Album, he was like B.I.G. said one thing Puff told him was “The key to this thing was always treat it like it’s you’re first project.” There’s cats that get comfortable in this game and they start to think that they’re real cool and real fly. I don’t think I’m fly, I don’t think I’m cool, I just work hard [Laughs]. I just try to stick to the script and treat everyday like it’s my first project and thank God for the blessing because at the end of the day, I know how I got here.”

“This isn’t the end I’m interested in taking things further. Right now I’m the director of the company, who knows what opportunities lie ahead. I know a lot of people are looking to see what’s going to happen with REVOLT. REVOLT is going to be the first network that’s based on social media. So me being the digital guy here, I know cats are going to be wondering what’s really going on with that. I am too [Laughs].”

“I hope when people hear my story, speak to me, however they react or get involved in whatever it is I’m doing, they feel inspired to chase their dreams and to be fearless and know that hard work never pays you short. It always pays off. I’ve never met somebody who said they worked so hard and didn’t reach some sort of benefit from it. I got some real big dreams, wanting to be the dot-com don of this thing.”