So, Burna Boy and Wizkid win Grammys and everyone is losing their mind. Not me. It is a tough time in Nigeriana right now. If you lose your mind, whoever finds it may not return it. Finders keepers. Or if your mind has a smidgen of value, you’ll have to ransom it. My mind is all I have. So, I’ll be keeping it very close.
Young Turks have lost their marbles on the Burna-Wizkid-Grammy win. They are at each other’s throats on whose Grammy is more legit and who is the greater artiste. These bambinos need to get a life. Everyone knows Genevieve is the most talented singer in Nigeria…
Awards and praise-singing fuel the ego of artistes. It’s hard for it not to. You’ve become primus inter pares. A silverback. Earned the right to pound your chest and bare your canine.
But Kong-sized ego and being prima donna make artistes lose out on lucrative sponsorships.
When marketing teams make decisions on celebrity endorsers, we consider hard and soft attributes. Hard attributes are things like match with brand image, target consumer appeal, online followership, previous and current endorsements, cost and the like. Soft attributes are issues like reputation, character, and the ease of working with the celebrity. I’ve seen celebrities lose out of brand endorsement deals because of soft attributes. Painfully, these celebrities don’t even know they were being considered for the opportunities.
Know this: a lot of important decisions about your career happen behind your back. You might not see them, but decision-makers are always watching.
Most folks think managing artistes is easy and fun work. What heresy! Managing Nigerian artistes can be harder than landing men on the moon. I mean, how hard can it be strapping three men on a 2,800-tonne rocket requiring 203,400 gallons of kerosene and 318,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and traveling at 9,920km/h? Compared to getting Eedris Abdulkareem and 50 Cents to fly together on the same jet, that’s easy peasy japanesey.
Marketing teams don’t like artistes/celebrities that are difficult to work with, perceived or real. We don’t want a celebrity that’ll show up at 1 am for a 10 pm performance. Or a celebrity you’d pray and fast for before s/he shows up for a commercial shoot. It’s hard enough fighting Sales and Finance over pricing and SKUs. I don’t need to add some supercilious navel-gazers to my headaches.
Let me regale you with some episodes. I’ll shield the artistes names to protect their faded reputation.
When I was at Arik Air, I’d struck a deal with Viacom for the 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards. Arik Air would fly Nigerian artistes and celebrities to Johannesburg for the awards. In return Viacom would give Arik Air advertising spots on its network. It was a good deal for both of us. Advertising spots are perishable inventory as are airline seats. Once the plane flies, an empty seat is a lost inventory. Our seat load factor on the LOS-JHB route was about 65-70% at the time. I might as well punt the unused seats for some advertising spots.
A week to the event, we’d been ferrying MTV-designated personnel and celebrities to Johannesburg. The flight leaves Lagos at 1:30 pm to arrive Jozi at about 7:30 pm.
On the day of the event, I got a call from a guy who introduced himself as the manager of two of Nigeria’s biggest hip-hop artistes of the time.
One of the artiste came on the phone. In a lordly voice, he introduced himself. He then proceeded to make the most outrageous request. He said they were running late and asked if the flight could be delayed for them!
Yup. You heard right. We should hold the flight for them.
His Majesty impressed it upon me how important it was for them to be in Johannesburg for the event.
If it was important for your butts to be in Jozi for the awards, you should have been on time for your flight!
Of course, I didn’t tell them that. I told them I would have loved to help but couldn’t due to protocols beyond the airline’s control.
The second artiste then came on the line and reiterated the importance of their presence at the awards. Now I was going to lose it! But I managed to keep calm. I told them I would try my best.
I didn’t. It was a no-brainer. It was not as if they were going to South Africa to fight apartheid. Would they have dared made a similar request of BA, Virgin or South African Airways?
But lucky geezers. The flight was delayed. So they made it. They won too.
I called the artistes’ manager to ask if they made it. He asked who I was. I introduced myself. He cut the phone.
Right. Another one bites the dust from the list of future endorsers.
Back in the days at Guinness, there was this budding artiste begging for support. He’ll give us his CD to listen and give feedback. We tried to support him as best we could. We’d collar event organisers to get him to perform at our events. Everyone needs a leg up, don’t they? Suffice to say this dude was most humble and beseeching.
Then, he ‘blew.’ One of his songs became a sensation, gloryfying in internet scams. He was sought for every show.
What do you know, this dude transformed like Optimus Prime. More like Megatron actually. We couldn’t talk to him. If he saw us at events and we wanted to say hi, he’ll rebuff the attempt. In other instances, he’ll avoid us or pretend he didn’t recognise us.
Could be he didn’t recognise us in truth. I mean, those fellas smoke more marijuana than the devil has sinners.
Talking about marijuana, there was this artiste that almost got us thrown out of our hotel in Benin City.
We had taken him and a host of other artistes to Benin for a big event. We put them in the best hotel in Benin at the time. He was in a suite on the fourth floor with his crew.
But once you got out of the elevator on his floor, the smell of marijuana wafted out from his suite and pervaded the whole floor. The haze of the igbo was so thick, you needed air traffic control to guide you to his room. That dude smoked more igbo than Fela and Shaba Ranks rolled into one. The din from his room was embarrassing. There were, of course, other guests in the hotel.
But an artiste like Tu Face was and is marvelous to work with. Meeker than a lamb, that Tu-Baba. Even at short notice, he was accommodating.
When he was the celebrity endorser for Guinness Extra Smooth, we’d taken him to an event in Enugu at Polo Park. I was in the same hotel with him. He made it a point of duty to come and ‘hail’ me as his ‘chairman.’
There was some fine chick I was ‘toasting’ in Enugu. She was hard to get. I managed to convince her to come to the hotel for lunch.
When she came around, I told her I wanted her to meet someone. I took her to Tu Face’s suite. I knocked. The door opened. I ushered her into the room.
That was when I knew Tu Face was a megastar.
This chick who could talk the hind leg off a donkey just froze at the sight of Tu Face!
Tu Face was effusive.
“Chai, my oga don bring him mata come greet us O,” he enthused.
He asked his crew to make way for the chick to seat on the sofa. She looked at me as if she was dreaming. I shrugged smugly. That’s how I roll.
Let’s just say afterward she didn’t think I was a short black ugly Yoruba boy.
Tu Face is something of a Neanderthal in the music industry now but enjoys immense goodwill and equity. Can’t say that of his contemporaries.
So, my advice to Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Zlatan, Naira Marley and all other celebrities; be the celebrity everyone enjoys working with.
It has a huge payoff.