Artiste Endorsements: Reading Between The Lines by @AOT2

Written by Ayomide Tayo 

Hardly a month goes by without a Nigerian artiste announcing that he or she has closed an endorsement deal. 2013 can easily have the tag ‘year of endorsements’ as several artistes are now brand ambassadors of the biggest companies in Nigeria. In these parts getting an endorsement deal is pretty much a big deal. Blogs and websites are quick to put up such stories with a lot of sensationalism.
When you see your favourite celeb tweet ‘#babagodtings, #celebrityendorsement, #endorsement deal’ and post pictures of his/her new ride on

Instagram, it is not a PR trick; he/she is really thanking God for the much needed income. Promo is expensive, music videos are expensive and payola is really expensive. Nabbing an endorsement deal apart from the financial point of view is the new cool for the Nigerian artiste, the new gold and platinum plaques. With no accurate and proper way of monitoring radio spins and album sales, an endorsement deal is the sadly the closest way to evaluate an artiste’s commercial value. In other words, if you don’t have an endorsement deal you are seen as a struggling artiste.
Signing the dotted line and getting that bank alert is usually a joyous affair but like in most contracts, the fine print will bring you back to reality very fast. An endorsement deal might look mouth-watering from the outside but from inside it is highly restrictive. Most brands in Nigeria try to ‘own’ these artistes. Recently, Tiwa Savage couldn’t perform alongside Mary J. Blige in Lagos because the concert was sponsored by a rival telecommunication company. There are other examples. P Square said they couldn’t attend last year’s Headies because they were the brand ambassadors of a rival telecommunication company. Since D’Banj’s Glo deal was cut short no other brand within the telecom sector has gone near him. After 2 Face’s Guinness deal in 2005 it took a pretty long while for Nigerian Breweries to do any business with him.
We can say that these artistes get compensated to not perform at shows sponsored by rival companies that they would normally have performed at. Yes they get paid but not once. Their endorsement fees come in parts and contrary to media reports, they are not that huge. This is not truly ideal in this business where music shows with hefty performance fees are not much. At the end of the day you can be a brand ambassador and acts such as Terry G and Timaya be earning more than you because they have no ties to any brand in corporate Nigeria which makes them free to perform as many shows as they like. The ironic thing is a brand manager can attend an event of a competing brand but a brand ambassador cannot. You can call it being held down by golden chains, chains nonetheless.
Nigeria’s economy has shown positive signs of growth the last few years but it is still small. Most of the brand endorsements in Nigeria come from the telecommunication sector. In more advanced countries brands have large amounts of money to spend on entertainment. Artistes in the UK and America peddle anything from healthcare products to the latest McDonald burgers. Aligning to one brand in a small economy like Nigeria’s might be detrimental to the artiste.
dbanj glo endorsementBrand endorsements should be mutually beneficial to both parties and not a master-servant relationship. Last year Beyonce bagged a $50 million endorsement deal with Pepsi. The lucrative deal sees the beverage giant funding Beyonce’s creative projects and anything else she is interested in. While it will be highly optimistic of us to think Pepsi will do the same for Wizkid and Tiwa Savage, it is within the realm of possibility that a nationwide tour with these two acts can be funded by the beverage company. Even Banky W’s N100 million deal with Samsung should have room for a nationwide concert somewhere? Alas we wait. Brand endorsements have gone beyond the ‘take-the-money we-give-you-and-hype-our-products’ level. It is a deal between two partners. In Nigeria, endorsements are still on this basic level.

Wizkid and Tiwa-Savage Pepsi Commerical

Wizkid and Tiwa-Savage Pepsi Commerical
What we have are artistes who are not adequately compensated for aligning themselves to a particular brand in our economy that doesn’t have many companies splashing money on entertainers. Despite the imbalance of these endorsements, artistes are still lining up to sell their faces and voices to companies. Why?
In Nigeria’s weakly structured music industry, an artiste getting an endorsement deal is something major. Beneath the razzmatazz of this industry of ours lies a poorly financed business system that has one major revenue stream- fees accrued from performances. TV and radio stations don’t pay royalties. Piracy takes a large chunk of album sales. Touring? Forget about it. For a nation that boasts of 150 million, it’s pathetic that acts such as P Square, Wizkid, D’Banj, Davido have never gone on a nationwide tour. Merchandising? Apart from DJ Jimmy Jatt’s snapbacks, celeb-clothing lines are vanity projects that boost egos and not pockets. Artistes really have no choice than to hunt for these deals.
In typical Nigerian manner, the celebrity endorsement deals have gone on overdrive. Brand managers have their ears to the radio and eyes glued to the TV in search of an average Joe with a hit song or a few hit songs. Apparently that’s what it takes judging from the most of the celebs who are now ‘brand ambassadors’. The rumour mill is buzzing with the gist that Sean Tizzle is about to sign an endorsement deal. As we speak the young pop singer has one verified hit under his belt. Brands are not meant to take knee jerk decisions, lately a lot of Nigerians brands in regards to choosing brand ambassadors have.
What does it mean to be a brand ambassador? A brand ambassador is an individual chosen by a company to use promotional strategies to influence a target audience to buy/consume its products and services. A brand ambassador is the bridge between the brand and the consumers. A brand ambassador should have enough influence to convince a group of people to patronize a certain brand.
This is where the brands have missed it. Your product or service will not be patronized just because an artiste or celebrity endorses it. How many of our brands ambassadors can actually influence people to buy a product? Since Don Jazzy became the Loya Milk ambassador, has the company witnessed an increase in its sales within the youth demographic? Are young Nigerians lining up to buy Zinox computers now that Iyanya is their brand ambassador? Where are the statistics and figures? In short, have you changed your line because your favourite artiste is the brand ambassador of that telecommunication line? Your answer is probably no. So why are companies signing artistes left, right and centre?
The brand endorsement fad is sort of like the arms race. Because company A has signed 7 artistes, then company B has to sign 10, while company C will be plotting to sign 13. Signing brand ambassadors is just bragging rights to see who has the most money to spend. In reality, it has not done anything to help our weak industry.
Brands should come with endorsement deals that will really benefit the artiste and the music industry that they claim to love. Abroad several top companies have built arenas which in return have created more venues for artistes to perform. Brand can also do that here. Nigeria is a large country with a low number of world class performance venues. The big brands can build these venues and also make money from them also. This will have a more lasting effect than the quickie endorsement deals.
The truth is the money these brands are spending is having little impact. By the time your favourite act buys a new car with his endorsement money, he has little or nothing to fall back on. Don’t be deceived most of these endorsement deals figures have been skewed to enhance the profile of the artistes. It is called PR in these our beloved industry. Instead of the ‘wham-bam’ approach of doing endorsement deals, brands should try and seek an authentic relationship with the music industry by participating in its growth and development. Yes, they are spending the cash but the change is so small that it might end up hurting the artiste in the long run. Brands are supposed to be about the long run, continuity. The use them and dump approach is old, we need something more impactful, meaningful and permanent.

Originally posted on HipHopWorld Magazine