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.