Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Music and More | Liquor and sponsoring irresponsibly

Published:Saturday | May 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/ Gleaner Writer
CB has PAN as the major event they sponsor annually.
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I am accustomed to persons putting on large- scale outdoor concerts presenting predominantly Jamaican popular music (commonly called 'stage shows') complaining about the lack of sponsorship from businesses that they hope will inject some cash into what is really a risky business. One downpour, one 'fool-fool' person with a firearm in the crowd, one headliner who calls in sick, and what was looking like a great idea is suddenly like a brick tied to an unwanted puppy tossed into a lake.

These days, it is mostly the alcoholic beverage companies that have their names splashed all over the party flyers and their dancing girls in spandex and heels wiggling their way around the venue. Gone are the early to middle years of the last decade when companies like Digicel and LIME (now FLOW) were utilising Jamaican popular music extensively in their battle for customers. Yes, there are still some events of that sort that get significant sponsorship from companies not in the liquor business (Sumfest and Rebel Salute), but FLOW has its Skool Aid, and Digicel has Redemption Live. CB Chicken has PAN X, and Best Dressed puts a lot into Fun in the Son, if we extend it to the birds.

But back to the liquor. One of the shows whose organisers complained about sponsorship, Sting, has gone belly up. And another, Startime, is pulling up stumps and heading to the US (Atlanta) next year. It is Michael Barnett of Startime who lodged the non-sponsorship complaint most recently, saying that the alcoholic beverage companies are focusing on the 18-to 25- year-old bracket. And that is, to put it mildly, bloody frightening. For while we talk about the inevitable health complications that will result from the rash of bleaching, a deluge of liquor in our young people is going to have very serious repercussions. Think diabetes and its various complications. Think livers like kidney stones. Think car crashes and the like.

Alcohol is great for those take a tipple of their favourite brew. However, despite the cautions to drink responsibly from various quarters, there is no getting away from alcohol being something that, in varying quantities from person to person, changes moods and is potentially addictive. If we are going to talk honestly about a healthy nation, we cannot avoid the conversation about the long-term effects of alcohol and the targeting of the young through music-event sponsorship.

It is a ticklish situation as alcohol is big business not only for not only the producers, but the sellers from bars and supermarkets to vendors at dances and roadside stalls. Plus, some alcohol products taste good (not that I have had many). But, if the focus is on persons just past the legal drinking age into their mid-20s, it is the same strategy as banks offering junior accounts to persons under 18 and keeping them as customers when they are legally adults. Acquiring a taste for alcohol while young is likely a lifetime habit, I am thinking.

Is there anybody tracking the connection between alcohol consumption and event sponsorship by producers? I bet the liquor producers are, happily so.

melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com