OPINION : There is nothing ‘cheeky and classic’ about Tigo’s adverts

I want to use this line from one of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr’s greatest speeches to express my frustration and should I say fatigue at an article published in yesterday’s The New Times entitled ‘Tigo’s adverts are cheeky and classic’.

I want to use this line from one of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr’s greatest speeches to express my frustration and should I say fatigue at an article published in yesterday’s The New Times entitled ‘Tigo’s adverts are cheeky and classic’.

Since Tigo launched their ‘Official Sponsor of your Passion’ close to one month ago, I have been waiting to hear or read public reaction to what is truly guerrilla marketing and what I assume is in contravention of FIFA World Cup sponsorship rules and regulation.

But after Fred’s article that was toned in praise of the campaign, I decided maybe it is time someone spoke for the unspoken and challenged Tigo in this court of opinion.

Whenever there is a major sporting event, a number of corporate organisations make bids to gain the platform of honour and recognition by appending their name or product to the event through sponsorship.

The cost of doing so is usually pretty high and it was high for the FIFA World Cup. For many who lose out of the bidding they ‘kick their heels’ and walk away committed to fight another day for another event.

And then there are those ‘hyenas’ that stay at a distant waiting to take a bite at the cherry with no investment. To take a bite at this cherry, one (the organisation) has to engage in activity that is indirect and to an extent defendable.

This is what is known in the business as guerrilla marketing, this is what Tigo did with their ‘Official Sponsor of your Passion’.

Some like the author of the article may call it clever but when the dust settles and FIFA knocks on the door some may call this campaign irresponsible. Sources inside MTN tell me that when Tigo launched their campaign they were approached by MTN to reconsider exploiting an event MTN had invested heavily in, Tigo’s response was very dismissive and to an extent abrasive as  Tigo’s Marketing Manager told the New Times recently that the company was not breaching any legality to engage in the World Cup promotion event.

As is required MTN I am told notified FIFA who in turn contacted a Kenya based law firm representing their (FIFA) interests in the region to handle this case.

I am reliably informed that the law firm did contact Tigo thus the announcements circulated on Friday 25th June to all its customers and a change in approach to the promotion.

The questions we must be asking ourselves are the following: Is it right for a company to offer tickets to the greatest sporting event in the world and then withdraw them through colourfully wording aired on Radio, through SMS and printed in the New Times without any accountability to the public? Maybe Tigo never had tickets to the final as they claimed in the advertisement.

Should we believe that because someone complained they have changed the dynamics of their promotion, or should be assume the long arm of FIFA law touched them with a caution?

Do we the customers who may have purchased Tigo sim cards on a promise not deserve some sort of protection from government authorities? Does Rwanda not have a consumer protection agency to challenge this kind of activity?

In my opinion I think Tigo must come clean and tell us the real story, I think the government must activate the consumer protection agency to examine all promotions and penalise severely all who breach terms advertised.

In a country strong on accountability it is wrong that lack of accountability is celebrated or complimented as was done in the article.

My final word on this matter goes to the announcements circulated on Friday and running on FM stations. A similar advert was run by an airline in South Africa known as Kulula Airlines.

Like Tigo, Kulula tried to cash in on the FIFA World Cup with a campaign called ’Official airline of you know what’.

The official airline for the World Cup Emirates raised the issue with FIFA as MTN did. Maybe it is South Africa’s proximity to FIFA team currently in SA or maybe it was the speed of the courts, but Kulula withdrew their campaign and ran the advert Tigo is now using to jump ship.

Here is my final question to you, is it clever that Tigo plagiarised Kulula’s campaign or is it a demonstration of the creativity of the ‘you know who? If I may, use their expression.

The writer is a PR Consultant based in Kigali

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