The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, including the way we enjoy, provide and support entertainment. Bandile Mngoma, Sponsorships Manager at Old Mutual, discusses the repercussions for local talent and the music industry.
Many of life’s great pleasures, including live entertainment, may never be the same again. One of the early fallouts of the pandemic was the banning of mass gatherings. Although it was a responsible action designed to combat the spread of Covid-19, it sent shockwaves through all sectors of the entertainment industry.
The suspension of mass live entertainment of course did much more than disappoint thousands of music followers. It also caused the devastating loss of income and livelihoods of artists.
Corporates like Old Mutual that use sponsorships of entertainment platforms as a conduit for reaching their client bases and building their brands were also affected. In most cases, rights holders and sponsors have had to revisit their current sponsorship models and contractual agreements.
Whatever the result of these negotiations, it is clear that in future, sponsors around the world will be evaluating their financial exposure and examining the possible downside risks of their commitments with a much more cautious ‘Covid-trained’ eye.
It is likely that old partnership models will need to be reviewed and risks reassessed. The way sponsorships are delivered, how agreements are drawn up and how corporates can safeguard expected returns and measurable brand-building value will certainly be on the cards when planning strategies.
In South Africa and across the continent, although concerns and discussions on sponsorships will be similar, pan-African sponsors like Old Mutual will be reviewing and planning their activities in a slightly different light.
Fortunately, unlike the developed markets of the USA and Europe, many of our sponsorships are based on recognising and then addressing social and economic deficits. We, therefore, have an advantage over our international counterparts because we are continually identifying suitable sponsorship opportunities and potential audiences rather than pouring funds into the coffers of already wealthy, well-established entertainment brands.
Old Mutual already revised its sponsorship strategy in 2018. By observing global trends and competitor behaviour, and evaluating previous sponsorship properties, we found ways to engage and deepen relationships with our existing and potential customers. We opted to do so by tapping directly into their interests and passions in a way that went far beyond visibility and branding.
This approach has enabled us to continue to build our public image using platforms that help to strengthen and grow customer support by using relevant, meaningful and accessible platforms.
The common link across many of Old Mutual’s entertainment offerings is an approach that is deep-rooted in the philosophy of enabling and empowering others. Through our continued focus on the music industry and our aim to identify, empower, enable and uplift ‘up and coming’ artists, Old Mutual has been implementing a sustainable and effective way of engaging with this industry and its followers.
The search for effective new ways of engaging with our target markets naturally led to the digital world. Two Old Mutual sponsorships that have clearly demonstrated the effective use of digital platforms to maintain and grow audiences are the AMPD Studios in Newtown, Johannesburg and the Old Mutual Amazing Voices Season Two series.
Amplifying talent and future wellbeing
By sharing the content of the AMPD Studios Masterclasses and Icon Hero conversations with TV and digital audiences, we were able to equip aspiring artists with the hope, tools and motivation they need to take those vital small steps that lead to achieving great things. This was particularly important at a time when their livelihoods were at stake.
Old Mutual joined forces with ViacomCBS Networks Africa to create a ground-breaking edutainment series called “AMPD Studios Live powered by Old Mutual”, which featured weekly on MTV Base and BET Africa as a series of 10 highly informative and inspirational episodes.
The repackaged video material, which contains learnings and insights from heavyweight South African and international artists, were flighted on SABC3, MacG on YouTube, and Zkhiphani, a social media influencer platform. Partnering with Primedia 947 allowed material to be aired on radio too.
The clear lesson in this digitally-led approach to broaden audience reach and keep the music alive is that content remains king. It is the energy of the artists’ physical performances that enable them to showcase their talent, draw and entertain audiences and ultimately generate strong support and followers.
The numbers speak for themselves. Where the digital (Website, Facebook & YouTube) audience used to be around 40 000, it increased to a few million.
Growing African voices
The Old Mutual Amazing Voices pan-African singing competition that launched last year is designed to give unsigned talent the opportunity to showcase their talent and win a healthy USD 100 000 to kick-start their musical careers.
Working on the premise that necessity is the mother of invention, Old Mutual devised an effective digital way of engaging with entrants this year. Contestants were encouraged to submit digital online audition entries. This not only increased the number of entrants this year but also broadened the opportunities for aspiring artists across the continent.
As tough and immensely challenging as the year was, it cannot be denied that it changed some things for the better.
Fresh thinking came to the fore and previously untapped resources and opportunities were ignited.
Besides these benefits, the year also revitalised brands using collaborations and partnerships to achieve their objectives. The power of working together is more evident than ever, as are the benefits of creating shared value.
The move to digital has given sponsors much food for thought and revealed new truths:
- Overt sales messages no longer work effectively
- Brands need to be connected to people’s emotions and vulnerabilities, and help to re-energise them
- They need to contribute to creating a sense of optimism about the future
- Traditional five-year sponsorship strategic plans have been rendered meaningless
- What’s important now is to be nimble and ready to adapt to sudden market changes
A key message from Old Mutual has been that although times may change, the important things in life seldom do. Families, relationships, and wanting brighter futures for your children will always be fundamental lifestyle concerns. Brands that understand these issues and cater to them will be the brands that succeed.
It is our role, both as a leading responsible business and as marketers, to translate brand promises into actions. We do this by using meaningful, differential positioning to support these efforts and by offering people solutions that are forward-looking, relevant and meaningful.