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Sponsorship Woes Creep Into Carnival Space

Published:Thursday | April 13, 2017 | 12:03 AMShereita Grizzle
Senator Matthew Samuda (left) with Julianne Lee and Pietro Gramegna, at Wray and Nephew’s ‘Spirited’ announcement where it was announced that the liquor company would be title sponsor for this year’s Jamaica Carnival.
Kamal Bankay, director of Xodus Carnival.

In recent times, corporate Jamaica has had to come out in defence of its marketing strategies after being accused of siding with certain events as the soca vs dancehall debate intensifies.

Some industry insiders have blasted corporate Jamaica, claiming that their bias for soca-related events was evident, as dancehall events continue to suffer from a lack of adequate sponsorship. However, in a recent interview with The Gleaner, at least one of the bands participating in this year's carnival said the struggle to obtain sponsorship is also being felt within the carnival space.

Julianne Lee, CEO of Jamaica Carnival, expressed that as the economic climate in the island continues to worsen, every aspect of entertainment, irrespective of genre, has been feeling the effects.

Lee expressed disappointment at the slow pace that support has been trickling in from corporate Jamaica as she says companies are waiting on the last minute to lend a helping hand.

"Support has been challenging. Corporate Jamaica wants to make back their money, so if you show them that their return on investment (ROI) will be immediate, they will do it. Therefore, the higher-ended products or bands will have the higher turnover, and ultimately, they will receive more support," said Lee, adding, "Unfortunately, our model is not based on making a profit from the event, therefore, the ROI is not the focus. We are about making the experience available to those that do not have as much disposable income, because carnival is about the people and including as many of them as possible."

Lee went on to say that the soca vs dancehall debate is outdated and needs to be put to rest.

"If your package is good enough and if you have done your research and you have your target audience hooked into your product and you show corporate Jamaica that your event is something that will be supported, then they will come on-board," she said. "Despite the fact that the country is going through a difficult economic period, corporate Jamaica and the Government has the ability to do more than they are currently. You have to give them a reason to support your event."


She also explained that, like every other aspect of life,

politics plays an important role in determining who receives support and who does not.

"There has been a big shake-up in terms of branding and support in this country recently. Support is not necessarily based on the product, but is about the who's who," she explained. "You have many soca promoters and you have many dancehall promoters. Look and see who garnishes most of the support. It's the usual persons, the regular persons you see being supported all the time. I do feel like sponsorship for events, regardless of the nature of that event, will be forthcoming, but you have to establish relationships. Those relationships will determine long-term partnerships."

Kamal Bankay, director of Xodus Carnival, shared similar sentiments at a gathering to announce Campari as its main sponsor last month. Bankay expressed satisfaction with the level of support he has received from corporate Jamaica, saying that sponsorship of events goes a far way in determining the success and longevity of that event.