The creative industry has over the years witnessed a number of Malawian artists being engaged by various companies as their brand ambassadors.
Artists such as Fredokiss, Namadingo, Eli Njuchi, Wikise, Faith Mussa, Toriah, Onesimus and Phyzix are among those who have been given the role by different corporate entities. But apart from the time the deals are unveiled, little is seen on the roles they play.
The financial implications of most of the deals are kept under wraps and it is not known how much the artists earn from the agreements. By observation, most of the deals silently run out without any fanfare or anything to show for them.
But why do corporates engage artists as their brand ambassadors?
Zodiak Broadcasting Station director of commercial affairs Emmanuel Maliro in an interview said marketers use artists because of their ability to resonate with a specific audience.
He said corporates expect brand ambassadors to assist in expanding market reach, generating a buzz around products or campaigns and creating content and emotional connection with consumers.
Maliro said: “Artists have a dedicated following that would align with the brand’s demographic. Their association brings authenticity and relatability which can enhance consumer trust. The approach can be effective here in Malawi because we have artists who are loved.”
One of the artists who have enjoyed a number of ambassadorial roles, Wikise, said he regrets some of the deals he signed because they did not benefit him.
“My understanding is that both parties should see values in such arrangements. But for some it seems the only moment that matters is when they unveil you as their ambassador. There is lack of sustainable value appreciation,” he said.
Artist manager Prince Chikweba said the lack of uniformity on the market expectations guiding such deals has created a gap on what is expected on the ground in terms of returns and it is a struggle for both the artists and the corporate entities.
He said: “The problem surrounding this conversation is that there has not been a reference point in terms of the expected value and assumed value. There are a lot of informalities in the industry, as a result, the expected value is not registered.
“Everything is in the context of assumed value. In that case, there is always someone who doesn’t understand that your value can be higher or lower.”
Chikweba said by engagin artists, the corporates must look at them as their employees where they bring value in terms of visibility and promotion with the artist tapping from the corporate brand as leverage is created for both.
Chikweba, who is Eli Njuchi’s manager, said: “When a company has a deal with an artist, they have to remember that it is not just the artist’s job to represent them because they have a career to run. The responsibility of exploiting the deal does not just fall on the artist. The responsibility is on them to create content and campaigns where the artist can be used.”
Seasoned radio personality Patrick Kamkwatira said the ambassadorial deals are a welcome idea and an opportunity for the artists to earn serious money provided their managers are able to negotiate better deals.
He said if a corporate entity which deals in billions approaches an artist it means they have seen value in that artist and it needs to be well paid for. “What matters is how they negotiate the deals. Who initiates the deals? Most likely it is the corporates who go to the artists with the proposals which are already prepared. Looking at our economy, for an artist who doesn’t make so much it is difficult for them to turn down any deal,” he said.