The Business of Endorsement

It is not new in our hemisphere to have celebrities endorse products. Major brands often look away from nameless pretty faces on manicured adverts and have popular individuals throw their personality behind their products instead.

We always had Lux beauty soap, and State Government campaigns. You would also remember Collectibles signing up Regnia Askia and then a long line of celebrities back in the day. Visine (eye drops) also signed Regina while Mic Cosmetics attached itself to the MBGN pageant and signed on 2 consecutive queens: Binta Sukai and Bianca Unoh (now Bianca Onoh-Ojukwu).

The trend has definitely taken a different turn in the past decade and a half. It has practically exploded.

Here is why:

The Nigerian Celebrities of Today are Sophisticated
Many watch their weight and channel a larger portion of their fortune into body and beauty care as opposed to the celebrities of the 60s and 70s who only focused on clothes and material things.

The truth is that no matter how popular a celebrity is, if he or she has bad skin or is extremely overweight, there is no cosmetic, skincare company, or even fashion house that would sign endorsement contract with them. You simply have to look the part.

Our Celebrities are Better Educated and Somewhat More Open-Minded
Signing an endorsement contract sometimes take a celebrity to very unfamiliar grounds; modelling, acting, presenting, voice-overs, event compere, and several other things, depending on the contract. To carry this off, a person must be intelligent and street smart.

Today’s Nigerian and indeed Africa celebrities are usually schooled and abreast with the trends. This is mostly because show business which births the bulk of our celebrities today is no longer a ‘thing for drop outs and scallywags.’ Show business today is a viable career path and its practitioners are sophisticated enough to undertake the responsibilities of endorsement contracts.

Alternative Income
With the menace of piracy eating into the income of entertainers, they are constantly seeking alternative streams of income and thus are more willing to sign endorsement contracts in spite of the restrictions placed on them by the brand.

Aren’t Regular Models Less Expensive?
Reports state that revenue from endorsement contracts in the first half of 2013 was close to ₦1 billion. More brands are catching the ‘endorsement fever’ as it is now called. But how lucrative is it for a brand to sign a celebrity for an endorsement contract as opposed to signing a cheque for an advert release form? Aren’t regular models less expensive? Wouldn’t they be getting the same results?

Before we answer those questions, we must point out that a model that has a significant following has already crossed the celebrity line; Gisele Bundchen, anyone?

Now this is how it goes; every time a brand has a new service/product or bonanza it gets an advertising company to whip up and advert. The faces that appear on this commercial are nameless. An average billboard advert would cost tens of millions; ₦900,000 to ₦1.5 million for the model and multiples for everyone else including the billboard space (rent).

Major brands were spending something in the neighbourhoods of ₦15 million every time they have something to shout about. If that happens ten times a year, then that’s ₦150 million; a third of which would go to nameless pretty/handsome faces.

A celebrity signed would not only bring in his or her crowd of followers, he or she is stuck with you for the duration of the contract: every new product or services, every time the product changes its image, every promotion, every season or special holiday, and every major announcement –this includes audio and audio-visual.

Endorsements Give Your Product a Ranking
Signing on a teenage all-national sweetheart would immediately bring a flock of teenagers to your doorstep.

Looking at it this way, spending that ₦50 million on a celebrity is more cost effective than spending ₦1 million each on 50 people that nobody knows. By the way, a model’s earning can be a lot higher depending of his or her ranking.

But there are people who think a few brands may be overdoing it. Before you judge, you must recognise that multiple celebrity endorsements generate a kind of synergy; that breeds multiples in results.

A person is more likely to listen through your advert when s/he hears the voice or sees the face of a celebrity they admire. They are also more likely to use the product.

Some Brand Ambassadors
Celebrities get attention and having a brand affinity with a celebrity ensure that the companies get that attention. It is a sort of osmosis. So you can understand how Delta soap moved away from its stable of drop dead beauty and to sign a contract with Nadia Buhari.

There is also the Funke Akindele ‘pay your tax’ campaign by the Lagos State Government –you have to admit she brought some magic to an announcement/commercial you would rather not watch.

Jobberman, the online recruitment firm, also signed actress Funke Akindele as its ambassador; Konga, the online shopping site, also signed singer Omawumi; and then there is the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency that signed actress Benita Nzeribe.

Globacom is one of the major heavy weights in the endorsement field. It clinched the duo of P-square in 2010 with ₦240 million (The D’banj saga here is still cloudy); then it snapped up Chioma Akpotha, Desmond Elliot, Uche Jumbo, Mike Ezuruonye, Ini Edo, Ramsey Nouah, Monalisa Chinda, and Rita Dominic. It moved on to grab Funke Akindele, Kunle Afolayan, Van Vicker and Odunlade Adekola. Each of these deals is reportedly between ₦10 million and ₦25 million. Although as at the time of going to press, all the actors and actresses on Glo’s list of ambassadors have been dropped.

News has it that Glo prefers musicians now, as they appear to have a greater followership, as opposed to Nollywood faces whose dwindling fortunes -by way of diminishing public interest in movies- have been a source of worry and concern to the brand-owner and custodian.

Little wonder, Globalcom got singer Lagbaja then it added more celebrities from the music scene for its mobile port campaign this year. In one long scoop it got Omawumi, Waje, Flavour, Bez, M.I, Burna Boy, Naeto C, Lynxx, and Efya. The average deal is speculated at ₦20 million.

As for Globacom’s rivals, they have caught the fever too. MTN sat tight as a major TV show sponsor but it had to move its advert strategies into the celebrity neighbourhood just as well. It snatched Davido for it ‘Pulse’ campaign for about ₦30 million, then it took up Project Fame alumni Praiz, Chidinma and Mike Ayesodo. The former two reportedly bagged ₦20 million each. It also grabbed Project Fame alumni Iyanya who reportedly bagged ₦40 million. Then there was Wizkid who reportedly bagged ₦45 million and even Star Trek alumni KCee.

That is not all, MTN raised plenty of eyebrows by stealing its rival’s (Etisalat) leading ambassador, actor/comic, Hafeez Oyetoro (a.k.a. Saka) for ₦25 million for its mobile port campaign.

Sasha and singer Banky W were signed up by Samsung mobile for its Samsung Duo mobile phone. Banky W was also signed up by Cocacola for it promotions about two years ago. Pepsi is not idle, it got Wizkid and Tiwa Savage signed up.

By the way, Tuface might have been snubbed by the Globacom money machine probably because of the raging triple baby-mama drama he had in his hands back in 2009 when he was snapped up by some brands.

Today’s African celebrity understands that poise, finesse, good breeding and sophistication is a prerequisite and many of them are enrolling for Finishing Schools to sit in class as well as train with models. They definitely know which side of their bread is buttered.