Shamette Hepburn, Entertainment Editor
Elephant Man - file
In a bold and possibly controversial move, brewing company Red Stripe has announced its decision to withdraw sponsorship of live music events which its says facilitate "violent and anti-social lyrics".
In a statement issued yesterday, the company said that its main sponsorship beneficiaries, the annual Reggae Summerfest and Sting stage shows will no longer have its support.
"Over the years, however, a very negative trend of glorifying violence has crept into some of the music, causing much consternation among well thinking Jamaicans and others at home and abroad. This has far-reaching and damaging implications for the industry and for the country as a whole," the release stated.
"While our most recent efforts through the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors have met with some measure of success, some performers continue to propagate, through their live performances, violent and anti-social lyrics. Red Stripe will not be party to this, and thus we have taken the very difficult decision of withdrawing sponsorship from live music events. Consequently, Red Stripe will not renew our contract for title sponsorship of Reggae Sumfest and Sting. We will, however, ensure that our brands are made available whenever and wherever our loyal consumers enjoy premium alcohol beverages."
Red Stripe's Head of Corporate Relations, Maxine Whittingham-Osborne told The STAR that the withdrawal is in tandem with the company's corporate strategies and values.
"The key thing is the fact that Jamaica has been so labelled as the murder capital of the world and we need to take stock of all the things that we are doing to contribute to it," said Mrs. Whittingham-Osborne. "The glorification of violence in the music is not helping our situation."
She disclosed that Red Stripe will now shift its sponsorship focus to programmes which are analogous to its values.
"All we will be doing is shifting our marketing focus. It has to be in line with our corporate strategy and corporate values. We will be launching in the very near future a promotional activity that will be linked to the national football programme."
Declining to disclose the dollar value of the sponsorship of live music events, Mrs. Whittingham-Osborne said that it is competition sensitive information, but that the amount is in "the millions".
These ladies promote Red Stripe's involvement at an event recently. - Contributed
In response to the possibility of backlash stemming from Red Stripe's decision, she said: "To be honest we do believe that there may be some persons who are not in agreement with our position. It is time for us to take a stand. We have been working with the industry in trying to make a change. I know people tend to skew it in a particular direction."
"It is our hope that our action will cause the proponents of this destructive trend in local music to stop and take stock of the negative impact of their actions on the society and seek to make a change. Red Stripe looks forward to the time when good sense will prevail and we can see a return to improved quality and standard of music that all Jamaica can be proud of. At that time we will review our position."
When contacted Sting promoter Isaiah Laing declined to offer a comment on the matter: "I am not ready to respond."
Efforts to contact Director of Summerfest Productions, the promoters of Reggae Summerfest, Johnny Gourzhong were unsuccessful.
According to Mrs. Whittingham-Osborne, the company has been in dialogue with promoters and that the move was an individual one, separate from its affiliation with the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors.
"We have invested a lot of time and money and we believe we need to take a stand and while we have had some measure of success there is a far way to go, but this is our position on the matter. We have to think about what is in the best interest of Jamaica and Jamaicans," she said.