Ratings required to guide sponsorship
lack of sponsorship has been a cry that has been echoed throughout the entertainment fraternity in recent times. Event promoters have been calling out corporate companies on their lack of support for entertainment events, lamenting that rather than supporting the events that already exist, several corporate companies are seeking to establish events of their own.
While the lack of sponsorship has been affecting events across the board, promoters of dancehall events say that they have been the most affected as corporate Jamaica does not want to support these events for fear it will affect their brand.
Dancehall has long been referred to as reggae music's rebellious cousin. The raunchy, untamed flavour of the music that some dancehall artistes produce is hard to digest for some consumers. Because of this, dancehall events are a hard sell, particularly to corporate companies who have a 'certain image' to uphold. It is with the latter in mind, and an awareness of the sponsorship woes that are currently facing several event promoters, that Damion Crawford, spokesperson on youth, has suggested that a rating scheme be put in place for entertainment events.
This is not the first time that Crawford has made the suggestion of a rating scheme, however, the senator wants the suggestion to be considered as a serious solution to the sponsorship problems facing the entertainment fraternity.
Speaking at a recent editors' forum at the Gleaner's North Street office, Crawford explained that a rating scheme would make it easier for corporate Jamaica to decipher what events they wished to back based on their brand. Explaining just how much public perception affects the extent to which a company is willing to support a particular event, Crawford highlighted the first time Government threw its support behind STING.
"We get baay cussing fi dat wid people saying, 'how can Government sponsor STING?' But STING brought so many visitors to Jamaica, and we only gave $2 million Jamaican dollars, and people were cussing because of the perception of STING," he said. "When I go to Trinidad, carnival is sponsored by banks, if a nuh liquor and phone company, nobody is sponsoring certain events out here. When you see GraceKennedy, for example, who eat more tin mackerel dan who guh dance? But Grace don't participate inna dancehall because dem don't know if yuh go say bun gay, or whatever. If we nuh have a rating system weh Grace can feel like, 'yow! this is a G event and I can participate as Grace, even though it is a dancehall event or reggae', we a go keep fighting for Red Stripe only, when is 1 million event a go to the one company."
Agreeing with Crawford was Tony Rebel. Revealing that he has had those encounters before, the founder of Rebel Salute laments that corporate Jamaica is more concerned about the perception of a certain event than the prospective mutual benefits.
"I look sponsorship from some organisation in Jamaica where we not asking them for anything, but we have a brand that could help them," he said. "Like a JN (Jamaica National) for example. Forty-seven and a half per cent of the population of those that come to Rebel Salute are foreigners, so at some point they would have to do some money transaction in some way and I'm sure that a company like JN could benefit from that, but a man a go look pan me and say, 'so how di weed part ago go?' because we know di man dem a go smoke weed'...now, Ganja is decriminalised, and, they still won't do it (sponsor the event) because it's the perception that people have that it (rebel Salute) is a 'boogu-yagga' thing."
Rebel pointed out that as a result of the lack of sponsorship coming from corporate Jamaica, event promoters have to be working overtime to establish 'links' within these corporate companies in a bid to secure some investments.
Lecturer at the University of Technology (UTech) with responsibility for tourism and events management Bennie Watson pointed out that unless corporate Jamaica is willing to drop the notion of certain events being 'boogu-yagga', as Rebel said, entertainment events will continue to suffer.
"Creative tourism cannot evolve in a space that doesn't support investment or sponsorship, and as long as we have that label of 'boogu-yagga', then the sort of investment that is required to drive the development will never emerge," she said. "So what we have is a situation where sponsorship is based not on the fact that people are educated and their proposals are well put together, but based on, one, the perception of the event, and two, my relationship with the person who operates as gatekeepers, essentially."
When The Sunday Gleaner spoke to the Hon Don Wehby, chief executive officer at GraceKennedy and Company Limited, he highlighted that the company did not have a policy that permits them against sponsoring a 'dancehall' event.
"Some of my favourite artistes are from the dancehall. I mean, I grew up on Beenie Man. We have no policy at all at GraceKennedy about not sponsoring dancehall events, but obviously, we are not going to support any event that's going to in any way promote violence or push hatred through the music," he said. "We sponsor the Port Royal Seafood Festival with Tropical Rhythm, which is a dancehall event that's centred around the family, so we're obviously happy to sponsor the events that are not associated with any negativity."
With that said, Wheby said that he can see how the proposed rating system could help to bring about more sponsorship for dancehall events as companies could know before hand whether the event suits their brand.
"Dancehall is an integral part of Jamaican culture. it just has to be kept at a certain level, where there isn't so much negativity, especially at live events. So I can see how that (the rating scheme) could be a solution," he said. "If you have the ratings, then it would be a lot easier for a company like GraceKennedy to make a decision on whether to be associated or not. I am definitely in support of that."