How cool is it that Nigerian celebrities continue to build strong brand value worth writing home about? This year, we have seen a handful sign brand ambassador deals for diverse products and services. In music, for example, Banky W and Sasha P signed a deal, earlier this year, with Samsung. Prior to that, Munachi Abii signed a deal with Lux Soap. The fashion industry, not to be left out, joined the bandwagon when Agbani Darego recently inked a deal with Arik Airlines. Oh! How could I forget Genevieve Nnaji? Ms. MUD Cosmetics and Luna milk ambassador? The woman has been busy. Side note: Taurus/Bull recognize bull but I like Genevieve Nnaji, best, when she smiles. It seems like she always gets this really one dimensional roles of tough personality. We need some flexibility directors and producers when you cast Ms. Nnaji. Thanks in advance.
In any event, joining Genevieve and representing Nollywood to the fullest is the beautiful and talented Stephanie Okereke, who I have had the privilege of working with in the past, via Ladybrille. Just recently, I received press info that Okereke is the new brand ambassador for Kanekalon hair. Is Kanekalon a Korean owned hair company? If so, many huge extra gbosas i.e. “congratulations” to her.
I still remember using that brand, especially during my college days. For you the artist and other soon to be , similarly situated, future brand ambassadors, here are a few deal points to note before and when negotiating a brand ambassador contract.
1. Long Throat No Good, Make Sure You Are Compatible: You all know how it is. One person starts, everyone too wants to do the same thing, by force, by force. When you enter a business contractual relationship, you can’t just enter anyhow. Nigeria’s entertainment industry is becoming even more sophisticated by the moment. There will be lawsuits and/or legal fights, it is only a matter of time; and true to form and passion, of course I will be here giving you my legal commentary. 🙂
If you do not want to be dragged into the “Africa Legal Drama” category, don’t get in bed with the next man or woman that makes a pass at you. Check up on their credentials and in fact trace it to their families in the village to be sure they are a fit. In the business world, this means you MUST know the brand of whom you endorse. For example, if you are a carefree personality, why do you want to endorse a brand that is very restrictive, to the point where they regulate everything you do and say?
If you are an entertainment personality and a cereal company aimed at children approaches you, you should know that once you sign the dotted lines and a marketing campaign begins, you are now a role model to kids. Why would you endorse the deal and then hang out and engage in all the wild shenanigans that do go down at a wild Lagos party? If you do so, you will make your cereal brand owners cringe, because their target market are children and you just ruined their bottom line. If they cringe, you cringe when they pull the plug on your deal.
If a brand has crappy service and disgruntled customers, no matter how much they pay and tempt you with smiling for them and waiving your hands to the crowd, stay very far away. Why? If a brand does not care about their customers or products, what makes you think they will care about you when the relationship hits the tough times? In fact, expect, “who is your father?” as in “Do I know you?” in tough times. Assuming you endorse a product and God forbid the product causes harm to customers. If you can’t get a brand to commit to basic safety standards how does that affect your name and your money? Look before you leap.
2. Get a lawyer to review the contract terms. Speak with an entertainment lawyer once your soon to be new brand admirer starts talking about walking down the isle with you, i.e once they slide that contract across your table.
3. Long term commitments are a no, no. Nigerians love weddings and marriage talk. Chai! If there is a time to be very cautious when it comes to long term relationships and walking down the aisle in business relationships, this is it. Baby steps first. One year commitment might make sense. 2 hmmm . . . 3, okay you are really pushing it. Five years? You’ve totally kolo and you need to calm down, really. The love thing is really not that serious.It’s prolonged infatuation. Why? It’s the same reasons why you don’t rush into a relationship before you really get to know a person. You usually will regret it or learn the hard way before you figure it out.
4. Understand your obligations. Brand ambassadors are expected and should promote the products or services they endorse. Expect to be involved in promotional activities for the life of the agreement you signed. Genevieve Nnaji is earning every penny of her MUD Cosmetic deal. She is everywhere on that MUD stuff. Did you all see her sneak in MUD on the YNaija recent shoot? No joke. Well, that’s exactly how you do it and what will most likely be expected of you, if those whose deal you sign are business savvy.
5. Watch out for partnership language. Nigeria’s entertainment industry is still very young and most celebrities are just glad to sign on the dotted line and send a press release out.
If you are a celebrity, you don’t want a company claiming you were business partners when you signed a brand ambassador agreement. Similarly, if you are a business, and a successful one at that, you don’t want a celebrity claiming he/she was business partners with you. As in “Really?”
Newsflash, those of us in the industry know celebrity does not necessarily mean “rich.” In fact, especially in Nigeria’s entertainment industry, “celebrity” does not equal rich. “Celebrity” really means that the media finds the subject (the “celebrity”) interesting enough to keep them buzzing in the news. The media buzz in turn attracts companies and individuals who hopefully can help bring profitable financial opportunities for that celebrity. Accordingly, if you are the business company approaching such “celebrity”, you want to make sure your celebrity is truly a brand ambassador not a partner, no more, no less.
6. Royalty Based Contracts: The flip side of #5 is that businesses and celebrities can sign a royalty based contract which gives an incentive for all parties to work hard for a nice chump of change. Royalties are also a new concept in Nigeria’s entertainment industry. BUT, for the companies that are endorsing Nigerian celebrities, Royalty is not a new thing. Samsung, MTN, Lux etc. have been doing royalty fee structure and is no new thing. You as the talent have to get a good lawyer who knows what he/she is doing to help negotiate your contract for you.
What are the numbers in royalty based contracts in Nigeria? It depends on how skilled a negotiator you or your lawyer is. In the USA, it could range from 8-30%. Obviously the bigger the celeb, the higher the percentage.
Under a royalty terms in the agreement, the celebrity wants a co-ownership interest i.e. joint venture/partnership etc., and has an added incentive to be involved in the product or service endorsed. Exhibit 1, Genevieve Nnaji. Depending on the deal terms, she might also have a stake in the business and it could explain why she is as involved in MUD Cosmetics as she is.
7. Don’t Rock a Competitor’s Brand: Paris Hilton signed a brand ambassador deal with a hair company to have extensions in her hair, and before they could smile, they allege she was rocking hair extensions from their competitor. If you want more flexibility, negotiate that in your agreement. Otherwise, if you signed to wear only Kanekalon, for example, you are stuck with that brand for the duration of the agreement or wearing your real hair. For the ladies, does Kanekalon sell human hair? I think they only sell synthetic from what I can remember.
8. Morals Clause: What is a morals clause? I already gave you an idea with the cereal example above. If you are a Nigerian company looking to have a brand ambassador or spokesperson, you MUST factor bad behavior into the agreement. If your celebrity behaves bad what do you do? You need to have the option to say, “My guy or Lady, it’s been real. Thank you but I have moved on.” You do so in advance, before the wahala shele (problem happens) through what is called a “morals clause.”
WHAT COMPANY WANTS: A broad morals clause that allows company to terminate agreement if celebrity behaves badly.
WHAT CELEBRITY WANTS: No morals clause. If there should be one, then a narrowly tailored language that gives room to wiggle out. For celebrities, you have to think, who defines “bad behavior?” There are clear examples defined by law i.e. breaking the criminal code i.e. 419, robbery, murder etc. But, what if you were in public and someone gets aggressive and shoves you? You all remember when Killz visited a night club in Lagos, a bouncer touched in and Killz went completely Karate on the bouncer? It made headline news. So, what if that happens and ypu beat the living day lights out of the person? You might not be thrown in jail as you would in the USA but the company you represent might not like the lack of self restracnt. What if the company whose brand you represent now wants to pull the plug because under the morals clause, “it is offensive” to many that you beat the guy that shoved you aggressively in public, what do you do? Are you just going to lose all that money like that?
To prevent losing all that money, you have a morals clause in your agreement before you even reach that junction.
Finally, if you are great at music, why try to be great at law all at once, consult with an entertainment lawyer whose job it is to be great at law to help you. There are a growing few in Nigeria.
Follow me on Twitter @africamusiclaw @uduaklaw
I dig this video where Okereke speaks of Women Filmmakers. Check on it.
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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine.
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