Nigerian Celebrities and Brand Promotion

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Written By JohnBarnes

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Various Blue Chip companies in Nigeria, operating in diverse spheres such as Manufacturing, Telecoms, Banking, Consumer services are springing up with fresh concepts that would put them ahead of their rivals. The post Independent epoch (1960 till date) has witnessed the continuous influx of companies both local and International into the marketing arena, eager to compete in the Nigerian open market Championship. An annual event held to determine which companies products/services thrived the most in the Nigerian Market. Their performances were rated by the profits posted during the Companies Annual General Meetings. A few who started the race at its inception are still in contention for the golden prize, while their counterparts have fallen along the way side.

The competition to dominate the Nigerian market has grown tougher with each passing year, and companies have deployed various marketing strategies “in and out of the box” in a bid to steal the market. For example the regular use of promos by companies luring customers to purchase their products and ultimately wining whooping monetary rewards and an array of consolation prizes, game shows/lottery, where juicy monetary packages are up for grabs by customers who participate and obey stipulated instructions have become rampant. These ‘over flogged marketing strategies’, have propelled a few to look towards the direction of the celebrities (especially those in the Entertainment circuit) to invoke a Sales- Reload needed to thrust them far ahead of their competitors.

In the eyes of the public, celebrities are seen as a rare unique breed of Homosapiens who move about with an aura of greatness, and possess the golden touch capable of transforming the ordinary into extra-ordinary within a splitting second in their respective chosen career. They possess the power to keep ones eyes riveted on them, igniting the star struck syndrome on their fans. They easily stir up excitement in the crowd with some cringing their necks much to the nerves discomfort, in a bid to catch a glimpse of them. This phenomenon is best described during live concerts performed by popular artistes when the crowd goes into a frenzy, with the babes of course screaming their names(if they are guys) and shouting “I Love You X”, amazingly shedding tears, and sometimes passing out or nearly passing out at the slightest physical contact with the stars or otherwise.

The posters of these great men and women who wield the financial wands in their hands are kissed and talked to by their fans who have them hung in a corner of their rooms, and dream endlessly about how good they could have been together, profess their undying love for them, adoring, idolizing them, thereby provoking the good Lord to jealousy. Celebrities by reason of their popularity naturally possess the power to influence consumers to swap loyalty to the endorsed brands, and make such adverts to linger continually in their memory data banks. On a wider pedestal, celebrities such as James Earl Jones endorsed “CNN”, Catherine Zeta- Jones “Elizabeth Arden”, and Pepsi has continually made use of International top rated footballers and artistes to promote its brand.

In Nigeria, the concept of using celebrities to promote various brands was at its lowest ebb prior to 2007. Advertising companies on the pay roll of rival companies delightfully used “Unknown faces” to try and lure potential customers into purchasing the products being projected or to maintain customers loyalty or initiate a cross carpeting to the use of the displayed products, through the Electronic media(dominantly TV).


1. IGNORANCE: Most Advertising practitioners were not conversant with the concept of using celebrities to promote the brands. They were hired to simply advertise, showcase the products of their clients to viewers, which they did. They were not deeply involved in any marketing strategy to out do brands from rival companies.

2. INDIFFERENCE: A few were rather indifferent, adopted a lackadaisical approach to the concept, since they believed that the use of celebrities had no effect on the quality output of the adverts produced, so why bother using them?

3. UNWILLINGNESS TO SPEND: Most Clients were unwilling to pay the fees required to engage the services of the celebrities to promote the brands in the advert (which was not as expensive when compared with what obtains today). Only a few consented to the soliciting and eventual use of celebrities such as the now defunct Universal Trust Bank (UTB advert: Chief Zebrudaya and Jegede of the New masquerade TV series fame), Visine eye drops (Regina Askia), Morning fresh (Bimbo Oloyede), Panadol ( Ovuleria, Akpena in the TV series of the New masquerade), New Elephant Blue detergent (Chief Zebrudaya, Samanja)

4. LOW COMPETITON: A handful of companies with rivals producing brands in the same sector existed. In the 80’s we basically had two known rival brands of products drawn from different spheres for eg Detergents “Omo and Elephant Blue”, Soaps “Lux and “Cussons Imperial leather”, Soft drinks “Coke and Pepsi”, Cars “Peugeot and Volkswagen”. On the other hand a few companies produced brands that went unchallenged such as Okin biscuits, Peak Milk, Maltina, Robb, Thermocool fridge/freezers.

The game has now changed with Companies eagerly parting with cash to ensure that celebrities are effectively used to promote their brands via the electronic media (still dominantly TV) based on its large viewership base, and in some cases the Print media is also used.


1.Omo detergent (Adesuwa Oyenokwe – TV presenter )

2.Chivita ( Jide Kosoko- Nollywood actor)

3.Chi Exotic (Sunny Neji – Artiste)

4.Peak Milk ( kanu Nwankwo- International footballer)

5.Hollandia Milk( Ali Baba- comedian, Julius Agwu- comedian, Omotola Jalade Ekehinde- Nollywood actress, Bukky wright- Nollywood / TV actress)

6.Lux (Genevive Nnaji- Nollywood actress)

7.Amstel Malta (Dakore Egbuson- Nollywood actress)

8.Onga (Kate Henshaw- Nuttal- Nollywood /TV actress)

9.Robb( Julius Agahuwa- International Footballer)

10.Harpic ( Nkem Owoh- Nollywood actor, Bukky Wright- Nollywood/TV actress, Joke Silva- Nollywood / TV actress )

11.La Casera (Ikponwonsa Osakhiodua- Radio presenter)

12.Power Fist (D’Banj- Artiste)

13.Ok Sweets ( Osita Iheme, Chinedu Ikedieze, both Nollywood actors)

14.Mimi Noodles ( Bukky Ajayi – Nollywood/TV actress)

15.Guinness (Tu Face Idibia- Artiste)

16.Zain (Bryan Okwara- Mr Nigeria)

17.Yoyo Bitters ( Jide Kosoko- Nollywood actor)

18.Damatol (Desmond Elliot- Nollywood actor)

19.Lagos State Government on the payment of Tax ( Kate Henshaw- Nuttal, Bimbo Akintola, Funke Akindele, (all Nollywood/TV actresses, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God)

20.Malta Guinness (Basket Mouth- comedian)

21.Etisalat ( Banky W- Artiste)

22.Glo (RMD, Joseph Yobo, John Utaka, D’Banj, Ego, Madam Kofo, Sunny Neji, Funke Akindele, Basket Mouth, Ramsey Nouah jnr , Monalisa Chinda- Richards, Ini Edo and many more

It is a fact that some customers aware of the mouth watering take home pay tucked safely in the kitty of the celebrities, are not moved by the adverts believing that more often times than not the celebrities do not use those products at all, opting rather to use products from rival companies or those made by companies in other countries that are yet to be established here. Regardless of the hype made these days about their presence in the adverts, having them endorse the products does not automatically bestow a “snail proof seal” on the sale of the products. For one, it is germane that the celebrity being used must ideally fit the brand that is being projected, other wise known as the “product match”. Therefore factors such as physical appearance, charisma, credibility, acceptability, attraction sparks between the celebrity and the target consumers, are fundamental and cannot be waived aside, in order to generate not only the customers interest in the product but also to take practical steps in purchasing it.

For example the use of Nkem Owoh (male) in the Harpic advert was a mismatch. As a norm in Nigeria, men do not clean toilets at home, since it is regarded as part of the domestic duties of a woman. Hence the target audience to promote any toilet cleaning products are “women”. The use of the celebrity was hinged on outstanding success recorded as a Nollywood star, hence they felt his popularity would effectively promote the brand and tremendously boost sales. They must have realized that using him was a wrong move as women considered it as a mere advertorial propaganda to make them buy the product. His stepping aside brought on board the remarkable Bukky Wright, though following her predecessor’s formulaic advert. Women easily warmed up to her, and the stereotyped message became realistic, casting out earlier doubts as to the product’s effectiveness which had lingered on in their minds prior to the celebrity swap. Joke Silva has also taken over the brand promotion reins from he,r regrettably with the monotonous advert. Imagine using a man for a diapers advert, or one aimed at promoting a range of baby or cosmetic products! No matter how good looking the man is, no matter how humorous the advert turns out to be, at best it would translate into a well packaged splitting seconds side show applauded by the women folk.

The impact Akin ( Chinedu Ikedezie) and Pawpaw (Osita Iheme) made in promoting “OK Sweets” would not have been the same if an “adult looking” celebrity had taken a shot at it. Children regard the duo as “Children stars” to whom they can relate with, though naive about their real ages, or their inability to comprehend that they are “little men” with child like facial and physical features who have lit up the lives of Hollywood fans. Children have gladly embraced the products prompting their parents to purchase the treasured sweets.

“Etisalat”, a Telecoms company that made its debut into the highly competitive Nigerian Telecoms market in 2008 was faced with the reality of battling with the three major players “MTN”, ” ZAIN” and “GLO”, though not under rating the existence of others who could give them a run for their money such as Starcomms, Multi Links, Visa Phone, Reltel , Intercellular. They had hitherto resorted to marketing aggressively, with various adverts spearheaded by unpopular faces promoting their brand via the electronic and print media. A break could have been termed to have been achieved when “Banky W”, the sensational R n B artiste with the hit track “Ebutte- Metta” which made waves in the music front was used to promote the brand. His smooth velvety voice and the closing lyrics “080,0809ja for life” did the trick. Nigerians took a great liking to the song and in different quarters, children and adults were heard reeling out the “0809ja for life song”, soaring the Etisalat brand to higher heights.

Celebrities can be used to introduce a new brand, break the cycle of sales stagnancy that had hitherto held the product bound, and dispel nose diving sales rumors being peddled by rivals. The use of celebrities sometimes has a devastating effect on sales where the celebrity endorses one brand and is seen using the competitor’s, or suffers a major set back in his/her profession. Whether the sole aim of using Nigerian celebrities in adverts to promote the companies brands, with a view to achieving the prior set projected sales profit and even surpassing same has been attained, lies coded on the mysterious sales card which the companies have held securely in their hands abiding doggedly by the principle of “for our eyes only”.