Rihanna as Tourism Ambassador: Smart move, Good deal, or drowning man grasping at a life preserver?

by Nevermind Kurt

The world’s news media is still full of Rihanna and Barbados stories in the aftermath of the announcement that Barbados entered into a three year promotional deal with the Bajan-born singer. Rihanna will exclusively promote Barbados as a wonderful tourism destination and is kicking it all off with a concert in Barbados on August 5, 2011.

Presumably Barbados is paying the star, but it is unclear if big money is trading hands or if Rihanna is mostly lending a hand to her home country in difficult times. Perhaps Barbados is paying only a nominal amount and the contract is only a necessary formality to allow Rihanna to retain control of her brand. Whatever the arrangement, Rihanna will be doing commercials and promoting Barbados using the power of her fame and her image.

“Presumably the Barbados tourism adverts will not show Rihanna’s genitalia hanging out as she squats on stage or slides out of a limo in true commando fashion – but maybe that’s part of the plan. Who knows?”

The fallacy of “There’s no bad publicity”

Fame is one thing, image is another though – and it is Rihanna’s image that might be the two-edged sword in this arrangement. Some have said that there is no bad publicity, but I have a feeling that Congressman Anthony Wiener might disagree with that statement. As the Huffington Post puts it, Wiener’s support has “gone limp.

Suppose Congressman Wiener had been a Barbados Tourism Ambassador?

Mr. Wiener isn’t a Barbados Tourism Ambassador, but suppose he was? There would be a moment of awkward embarrassment, and then he would be tossed aside like the brands dumped Tiger Woods when the world and his wife discovered that he wasn’t the wholesome family guy he’d pretended to be. That’s why endorsement contracts usually have a few clauses that allow for the termination of the contract if the celebrity’s image gets into trouble.

Beggars can’t be choosers

Beggars can’t be choosers though, and I’d wager that whatever contract Barbados signed with Rihanna doesn’t mention anything about termination if the star’s image takes a tumble due to behaviour.

It can be argued that Barbados already knows that Rihanna’s personal life and stage performances haven’t exactly been great examples for our young people and that her occasionally shocking behaviour is part of a cultivated performance image – but her name is famous and we should take advantage of this opportunity to promote our seriously ill tourism industry and failing economy. “Any port in a storm and any life preserver that floats” shouldn’t be ignored in the current economic tempest, and that’s probably not an inaccurate representation of what is happening here.

There have been noises in Barbados and the world’s media before that Rihanna’s antics on and off stage made her position as Culture and Youth Ambassador a bad joke. I predict that these concerns will disappear from the Bajan news media because it’s “all hands on deck” to save the sinking ship known as Barbados tourism.

Presumably the Barbados tourism adverts will not show Rihanna’s genitalia hanging out as she squats on stage or slides out of a limo in true commando fashion – but maybe that’s part of the plan. Who knows?

“One hopes that the Barbados concert will not feature Rihanna in simulated sex with a man pulled from the audience as happened in Winnipeg and Montreal this week.”

See the Winnipeg Free Press article Rihanna’s over the top show

There is no assurance that Rihanna as tourism ambassador will yield more tourists coming to Barbados, at least in the short run. When we consider our targeted tourism markets and the type of higher-end tourist that we’ve always claimed we’re trying to attract, we must ask ourselves if Rihanna’s presence in advertising will reach our markets or if the good of her name in some markets might be offset in others by her semi-nude gyrations.

I’m not so sure that we can rely upon Black Entertainment Television’s assessment of the deal when it says “Nice move Barbados. Tourists will flock to this lovely island with ravishing Ri Ri on every promo item.” (BET article here)

We must also ask if our target market clients are likely to recognize her name as a positive association with any product. Indeed, a good portion of our age 50 plus higher end tourists might not even recognize Rihanna’s name at all and if the Barbados Tourism Authority think that’s unlikely then I’d say their perspective is too narrow and they should re-examine their presumptions about this campaign.

Most advertising is geared to younger people not because they have disposable income, but to foster brand loyalty early on. If we’re trying to attract the hoards of screaming teenagers (primarily girls) that attend Rihanna’s concerts to be lifelong Barbados fans, then Rihanna’s name associated with Barbados tourism might yield some results in the long run. If, however, the BTA thinks that Rihanna’s name will yield more folks from the American midwest that the BTA said we were targeting last year, the results might be disappointing.

Tourism Hype vs. Results

And speaking of results, I’d love to believe that the BTA has some way of monitoring the results of each of their advertising campaigns. When spending a hundred million dollars a year on advertising, one would hope that some formal monitoring and assessment process exists – but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that!

In the end, this is again more management of our tourism assets by hype, rather than by focusing on the quality of the tourism assets themselves. Barbados needs the hype, but we desperately need tourism management and a government that realizes our product is falling short of what it used to be. Our tourism industry long ago forgot that it is better to have repeat customers who return year after year for the quality, than to spend our resources continually chasing new business for one trip to Barbados.

14 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Celebrities, Music

14 responses to “Rihanna as Tourism Ambassador: Smart move, Good deal, or drowning man grasping at a life preserver?

  1. Anfaani

    Rihanna is a Bajan and there is nothing wrong with using her image to promote tourism to the island. There are some who still think that Barbados is part of Jamaica…this article is written with an obvious bias against her and although i am not a fan of her behaviour she apparently has a large following and has made a large dent in the entertaiment world, like it or not she is an international star. with the state of the world’s economy being what it is, whatever works is fair game!

  2. Bajan Cutter

    “Our tourism industry long ago forgot that it is better to have repeat customers who return year after year for the quality, than to spend our resources continually chasing new business for one trip to Barbados.”

    The last sentence and there is the key to the article. I think that Rihanna’s presence in any campaign will be positive and good for Barbados. I wish this Rihanna campaign was in addition to a focus on quality of product but I fear that it’s hype and hype alone that our BTA types rely upon.

  3. J. Payne

    I believe it’s too early for me to say. If she does a hip hop song signing about Barbados, how it could be good P.R. Something like Rupee’s What happens in the party. I that song he briefly mentions Barbados but if Ri Ri did one full line it could stick in people’s minds when they’re memorizing the song.

  4. J. Payne

    correction: I believe it’s too early for me to say. If she does a hip hop song signing about Barbados, then it could be more good P.R. Something like Rupee’s ‘What Happens In The Party’. In that song, he briefly mentions Barbados but if Ri Ri did one full line or two, it could stick in people’s minds when they’re memorizing her song.

  5. David

    This is a snotty and slutty article judging the chosen angle of the commentary, There are many sides from which a level headed journalist could have approached Rihanna’s pending visit/show but your chosen headline coupled with the content gives an insight into the mind embodied in the article. This pull-down diatribe tells us more about the writer than about Rihanna and her effort to make a contribution to the country that gave her a home and an education. I guess this writer would be praising her were she ranting and raving about the ills of this temporary low in our and the indeed the world’s history.

  6. Islandman

    This move is a bit late…better late than ever!

  7. Father Cries

    The only thing slutty about this post is that it mentions Rihanna’s behaviour. She has become very rich and popular by prancing about like slut on stage, but she still prances about and dresses and acts like a slut and that cannot be denied. She is a horrible example for our Bajan daughters and now that she is our official tourism spokesperson our daughters have been shown how to be successful.

    Act like a slut.

    Thank you Rihanna.

  8. nanci

    she can do some good for barbados, but her recent shows in the US have not been doing too good, and then she uses her appearances with no clothes on to get the crowd excited, so all that behavior could be good in a way and negative in a way, but just wait and see cause not everyone like her. I think barbados should not only use her as advertising the country, showing scenes of the country can also bring tourist to the island.

  9. Mervin

    Okay. Is she still the youth ambassador? If she is the current tourism ambassador does that mean that she is getting paid to promote Barbados? Correct me. This sounds like a case of double dipping. More power to her.

    Hey I don’t visit a place because some celebrity is promoting it. That means Rhianna will have to do a concert each year.

  10. Anonymous

    Nasty no talent slut springs to mind when the name rhianna pops up

  11. Get all your heads out your arses and re-read this article, it wasn’t bashing and the key question is this – Is Rihanna+BTA building Barbados’ brand or just looking for the fleeting tourist. If you don’t build your brand and really form relationships and aren’t passionate and on top the product you’re selling – i.e. Barbados; then what have you got? an empty shell of a product and people who’ll go elsewhere when vacation time rolls around and let me tell you this, they’re loads of vacation spots the world over! Get your brand – BARBADOS – in top gear and you’ll be a hell of a player on the world stage of the tourism market. Stop resting on laurels built up years ago – if you don’t get hungry and stay on top of the game – someone else willgladly eat your cake!

  12. island sun

    i do like some of her songs,others i don,t,lets face da truth,she is a good girl gone bad n a nasty way.an i don,t want to stand under her umbrella,any way in the carribbean sun.

  13. Pingback: Barbados Government paid Rihanna £1.25 million for concert. Good value or outrageous? | Barbados Free Press

  14. Pingback: Barbados Tourism needs more than hype | Barbados Free Press