Season of promos and ambush marketing

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Penchant by corporate organizations for luring prospective customers to consume more of their products or increase patronage for their services during major sporting fiesta or seasons is generating ripples in many quarters, writes Olisemeka OBECHE.

                                                                     

Not a few were taken aback when the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) threatened to take legal action against corporate organisations that seek to exploit Super Eagles’ participation at the 2014 FIFA World in Brazil to gain undue advantage, without any prior agreement with the federation.

The decision of the Aminu Maigari-led FA to threaten legal  actions against such corporate organisations follows what has been observed as the unhealthy trend in the country where most profit-maximizing firms who shy away from corporate sponsorship of sports development rush to take advantage of the national team’s participation in major sporting competitions to make more sales. “We are disturbed by the ceaseless craze for ambush marketing, with some corporate establishments continuing to innovate on a daily basis in order to look innocent. This is very unfair. Such misplaced ingenuity could as well be deployed to convince the NFF on having a sponsorship agreement with the Federation on the Super Eagles, or any of the National Teams,”argued NFF General Secretary, Musa Amadu.

He contended that these organizations know what to do to be legitimate supporters of the National Teams or any aspect of Nigeria football but they prefer the short cut of ambush marketing and trying to harvest where they did not sow.  “We will no longer take things easy with these violators,” Amadu said.

 

Season of Promos

Investigations by TheEconomy reveal that promotional messages aimed at attracting quantum patronage for various goods and services have flooded the media space with the on-going of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. For instance, the ‘Experience the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Coca-Cola’ promotion launched by the Nigerian Breweries Plc on March 21 through June 13 has lured millions of Nigerians into the consumption of its beverage products in a bid to ‘stand a chance to be among the 22 people to win a trip to Brazil to watch the FIFA World Cup live’ or ‘win millions of instant prizes’.

To partake in the Coca Cola largesse, a participant is required to collect three Coca Cola, Fanta or Sprite (35cl or 50cl) gold crowns to spell Brazil; write his or her full name, age, street address, mobile number and signature on a piece of paper and place in a sealed envelope along with the 3 crowns before submission at the nearest Coca Cola plant, depot or any other designated collection centers across the country. Winners emerged from a weekly draw which is announced every Sunday on NTA Newsline. “While 22 winners will emerge for the trip to Brazil, 44 other winners will go home with 55-inch television sets and home theatre system while 66 other winners will also take home the 2014 FIFA play station game sets,” the Project Manager of the National Consumer Promotion, Mrs. Toyin Nnodi said.

Similarly, subscribers on the NTA-StarTimes cable network have been promised various incentives in exchange for renewing their subscription during the World Cup season. Under the ‘StarTimes Extra Promo’ which runs from May to August 2014, customers would be rewarded with two extra viewing days on every of its recharge cards including its Soccer themed card developed to show support to the Super Eagles. Purchase of the customized recharge card would automatically qualify subscribers for the monthly raffle draw where they would stand the chance of winning brand new Toyota Yaris cars or a 32’ Digital LED TV.

Mr. Irete Anetor, Public Relations Manager of the NTA-Star Time Network explained that the organisation’s decision to introduce customized ‘Soccer RechargeCard’, was to shore-up support for the national team. “We recognise the passion that Nigerians have for football and we wanted to at least show our own support to the Nigerian team during the World Cup, in our own little way, that is why we developed our Soccer Recharge Card for the season,” he said.

Likewise, MultiCoice Africa’s Dstv Nigeria floated its own promo: ‘Win with DStv Home Advantage’ aimed at rewarding subscribers who use recharge cards to renew their subscriptions during this World Cup season. To qualify, subscribers are required to buy a minimum of two Home Advantage Recharge Cards, scratch the grey panel on the football jersey to reveal a player – striker, defender or coach — to win prizes ranging from pressing iron or sandwich maker to the grand prize of a kitchen revamp consisting of a gas cooker, freezer, microwave oven and a vacuum cleaner.

“The promo targets subscribers on the Access to Premium packages and will run from May 12 to July 31, 2014.There will not be any raffle draws. Winners are to redeem prizes after confirmation that the cards have been successfully loaded and used to pay subscriptions,” a statement posted on its website read.

Other notable World Cup niche promos include the Jumia’s ‘Road to Rio tv madness’ and the ‘Fly me to Brazil’ promotion of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN). Jumia, a frontline online retail shop, had designed the promo to stimulate sales of its smart television sets by promising customers certain percentage cash-returns according to the progress made by Nigeria’s Super Eagles during the Mundial. For instance, customers would receive 10 percent, 25 or 50 percent cash backs if the Super Eagles qualify for the quarter finals, semi-finals or finals respectively for any of the television sets purchased on its platform on or before 9 pm, June 12, 2014. And buyers of its promotional television sets stand to get 100 percent cash-back should Nigeria win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

TAN, a non-governmental organization promoting President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, also took advantage of the World Cup to shore-up political support for his second term ambition. As part of its campaign, Nigerians from all walks of life were invited to sign-up on its platform (www.tan.org.ng) to stand a chance to qualify for the 12 lucky disciples to enjoy an all-expense paid trip to Brazil as Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria. “Be one of 12 lucky Nigerians to enjoy an all-expense paid trip to spend 12 nights in Brazil to watch the Super Eagles World Cup Group qualifying matches as TAN brings to you ‘‘Fly Me to Brazil 2014”, its promo message read.

 

Course for concern

Expectedly, the potpourri of promotional messages churned out by different corporate organizations during the World Cup; with mouth-watering rewards ranging from cash, gift items, multi-million naira worth star prizes like car and trips to Brazil to watch Super Eagles matches, have raised eye-brows in many quarters.

Although, corporate organisations take advantage of major sporting championships like the World Cup or festive seasons like Christmas to mount special promos for increase in  patronage of their products or services, critics say the way it is being done in Nigeria in recent times leaves more to be desired. Apart from the fact that the NFF has openly expressed its reservations with the marketing trend in the country, many view it as an unhealthy development, especially in the light of lack of transparency in the prize redemption by the firms.

“We have a situation where so much is promised and at the end of the day, you don’t know how many of those prizes were actually won, the beneficiaries and how they emerged,” Mr. Joshua Dantiye, a concerned Nigerian said.

According to him, there are growing fears that some of the sales promotions do not follow strict guidelines in the Consumer Protection Council Act (1992 No.66) and the Consumer Protection (Products and Services Monitoring and Registration) Regulation 2005.

Based on the provisions of the Act, the Consumer Protection Council as part of its supervision of sales promotions, should participate in the meetings of the planning/implementation committee of the promoter; check, inspect or test their products, that is, the subject of the promotion; assist in the verification of claims or prizes won by consumers or participants; and ensure that such claims or prizes won are presented promptly to the winners; as well as investigate complaints arising from such sales promotions and generally ensure that the interests of consumers are protected.

However, complaints arising from recent promotions show that compliance to these provisions are less than satisfactory. For instance, one of the entrants to the Coca-Cola World Cup promo named Lucky, had on May 7, 2014 called the attention of the Nigerian Breweries Plc to what he called ‘evil activities of some Coca Cola mini plant/depot attendants’ who tamper with crown cocks submitted by consumers.

His petition posted on the company’s online platform where one Gloria Aniagolu Ogunoh interacts with customers on daily basis did not receive any response nor were the claims refuted.

Similarly, Mr. Uchechukwu Obiajulu Simon Sakar, who claimed to be the week one second prize winner on the Coca-Cola promo, wrote on May 22, 2014 to draw attention to how his second winning on the promo which was upturned by “ubiquitous NB officials without cogent explanations.”

He said: “I received a call from the staff confirming that I had won again; but on learning that I had won abinitio, he hung up with style saying, “The team will decide when to call you back”. Later that day I called him back, he never answered with a homely voice. He told me that they will still get back to me after their cumulative assessment.”

He explained that he waited for four days but they did not call him as promised.  He called them back to ascertain what was happening but was shocked to hear that he did not win and that it was a mistake.

Sakar who claimed to have submitted up to 200 different entries since the promo commenced in March, said he would take legal action to claim his prize since the firm refused to look into his matter.

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