Film Business, Music Business

The Politics of Celebrity Endorsement in Nigeria’s Entertainment Industry

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Like many of you artists and industry alike, I have been observing the problems arising from celebrity endorsement deals in the entertainment industry. Of particular interest to me has been how the law in Nigeria deals with celebrity endorsements both within the traditional and non-traditional context.

There is much to be said about the impact of endorsement deals on Nigeria’s entertainment ecosystem both from a legal and non-legal perspective. Below are excerpts of one view, an article Nollywood’s Charles Novia wrote on the same topic back in January of this year.

“A couple of days ago, there was an excited buzz on social media in Nigeria that Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji, has been signed on as one of the new Brand Ambassadors of Etisalat, a telecommunications company operating in Nigeria and sundry parts of the globe. Amid the congratulatory messages from her fans sent to her on some sites, a few cynical remarks caught my attention. (By the way, congrats Ms Nnaji!)

One commentator simply known as ‘Da Trut’ wrote in one of the comments section in a blog which I reproduce here;

‘Congrats, Genevieve. But wait o…your Boyfriend, D’Banj is a Glo Ambassador and now you are an Etisalat Ambassador. It has been reported that two of you will marry this year after being live-in-lovers and dating steadily for a while now. Since both of you have not denied this piece of news, I assume that it is true. With this new deal of yours, does it mean you cannot attend any show sponsored by Globacom in which D’Banj is a headliner despite him being your BF and you being expected to support your beau? And same goes for him too in any of your Etisalat sponsored shows? Won’t your relationship be strained by this?’

However nosy this comment may seem to some people, there is an underlying fact which many celebrities and of course the general public have overlooked when it comes to signing brand endorsements. Most of these contracts, if not all, are watertight for the artiste. The dos and don’ts imposed on the artistes could be argued in a civil rights court of law! But then, most artistes are quick to sign off the dotted lines basically because of the lump sum being paid to them by the competing brands – which is all well and good too, depending on how you look at it.

And don’t get me wrong. I wholly commend all the brands cashing in on the perceived goodwill and traction many of these celebs have and investing in their art and to a large extent, the entertainment industry. These brands have uplifted the creative industries through such investments and the industry is the better for it. Really, it is.

However, a glaring reality is coming to the fore and many may laugh it off right now but it is staring at us in the face. In 2013, many of the live events and sponsored concerts were tepid in performance value. Many of the top acts had been signed by one telecom brand or the other and since the headliners in the music industry have divided their brand endorsements among various telcos, many could not perform for friends or business concerns where a competing telco or brand was a major or support sponsor.

This was basically because of watertight caveats in the artistes’ contracts which forbid them from attending such shows. Thus, most of the live concerts in 2013 in Nigeria were either lacking in major star power or just repetitive in talents signed on by the brands. And the performance value of such events was basically average. Many of the brands which had campus shows suffered this fate.

In October 2013, the Nollywood Movies Awards held at the posh Intercontinental Hotel, in Lagos. Comedian Basketmouth had been hyped as the compere of the evening, supported by Dakore Akande. I was standing at the red carpet lobby, interacting with invited guests as we had cocktails when one of the organisers, Alfred Soroh, came up to me. He whispered to me that there was a problem and it had to be solved urgently. Apparently, immediately Basketmouth came out of the lift and saw a huge backdrop with Etisalat written on it, he quickly dashed back and refused to compere the show. His reason was that he was a Glo Ambassador and could not be seen on an Etisalat sponsored show. It makes sense. When I asked the organisers if they didn’t think it out before deciding on Basketmouth as the compere, they explained that Etisalat came in just a few days to the event. Segun Arinze, a tested and trusted hand, had to be drafted immediately to co-compere the event.

The example above is one of many others which are a usual occurrence. My gut feeling is this; the business will grow for the brands but the whole performance and event industry may very well suffer for this. For example, if a movie awards event had MTN as the major sponsor and 50% of the nominees are Glo Ambassadors, only an idiot would need explanations on why half the nominees would not be present at the awards even if they eventually won. Same goes for music awards events. This cycle is becoming predictable and the performance value suffers for it.

But there may be those who would argue that the brands are capable of sponsoring their own events with only their brand ambassadors as headliners. I concur but for every show such brands sponsor, it becomes predictable. I would know that any MTN show would have Wizkid, KCee, Davido, Don Jazzy and other ambassadors as performers just as a Glo event would have MI, Bez, Lynxxx, Omawumi, Burna Boy, D’Banj etc as performers. . .

Your thoughts? Visit www.charlesnoviadaily.com for more.

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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