The Observer (Kampala)

8 January 2013

Uganda: Bell Lager Swimming At Deep End

opinion

If you are a profit-making company, you wouldn't want to close or start the year as East African Breweries Ltd did.

The brewery, under their brand Bell Lager, closed the year on a bad note after they promised to deliver 'a concert of the year' that didn't materialize, following a last-minute cancellation of the highly-publicized Mavado and Chris Martins show, after the duo reportedly missed their flight.

And now the brewery, together with Cee Cee Entertainment, an events company owned by Nigerian Chinedu Ikoroha, are faced with an uphill task of convincing Ugandans that the Jamaican dancehall duo will this time round surface. The concert, which was scheduled for December 29, 2012 at Lugogo Cricket Oval, was called off a day early after all preparations had been finalized.

Some people had already bought their tickets, as Silk Events made its final touches on the stage and the adverts were vigorously running. Once the concert was cancelled, the organizers were left counting losses. An insider who preferred anonymity put the losses at Shs100m. He says the venue alone was Shs 40m, money that had already been paid and was non-refundable.

The organizers have to foot another Shs 40m if they are to have the event in the same venue. A lot of money had also been sunk into advertisement on radios, televisions, newspapers and billboards. It is not the first time companies in Uganda have burnt their fingers in their attempts to bring in international artistes to boost their brands.

One that perhaps still remains fresh in our minds is that of Akon in 2007 when the image of Zain (currently Airtel) and BCE Brothers, the events company, were cast in bad light following a similar incident where the concert was cancelled at the last minute. And as it is for Mavado and Chris Martins, the excuse was Akon's failure to catch his flight.

It took Zain an extra mile to convince Ugandans that the concert would still happen in two weeks' time. In fact they had to fly Fred Masadde who was then the corporate affairs manager to the meet with Akon's team. He took photos and videos with Akon and after two weeks, Akon jetted in on a Zain-chartered plane.

Edward Sendikaddiwa, one of BCE Brothers' directors, says this event left them paying extra costs to have the concert happen.

However, given the cutthroat competition in telecommunications business at the time, Zain had to do all it takes to prove a point after MTN had successfully organised the UB40 concert rated as the country's best concert ever, only rivalled by Lucky Dube's Namboole concert in terms of pulling crowds. However, despite its success, organizers were still reported to have not broken even after having to fly in the whole UB40 band, paying their accommodation bills at Kampala Serena hotel, rigorous advertising, and the stage equipment which had to be supplemented by imported ones.

Since then, MTN has not actually ventured in this area of bringing in big international artistes. By press time, it wasn't clear whether the Mavado and Chris Martins concert would still happen -with Richard Wejuli Wabwire, Uganda Breweries Ltd's Corporate Relations and Regulatory Affairs Director, neither confirming nor denying whether the concert was on.

You could tell from the brief telephone call that the company was either singing Chris Martins' single, Cheater's Prayer - Oh Lord save me so I don't cheat my customers - or Mavado's Settle Down, we will bring on the concert because you are So Special. Whichever it is, good luck, Bell Lager.

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