‘With KultureFest, we’ve become a strong pillar of support to major Nigerian festivals’
In line with its desire to preserve and project Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, MTN Nigeria initiated KultureFest, a platform through which it sponsors cultural festivals across the country. Beyond putting these cultural festivals on international scene, the initiative helps to galvanise their potentials to generate revenue for the communities and engender communal bonding. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, Adekunle Adebiyi, the Sales & Distribution Executive at MTN Nigeria, spoke on the idea behind the initiative and the desire of MTN to use KultureFest platform to uplift Nigerian culture.
What’s the idea behind KultureFest?
KultureFest is literally ‘Cultural Festivals.’ Here at MTN, we tagged them KultureFest simply because we wanted this uniqueness about it. It is a celebration with people of various communities across Nigeria. With Kulturefest initiative, we’ve been able to evolve into a strong pillar of support for major festivals Nigeria such as Osun Osogbo, Ofala Nnewi, Argungun Fishing Festival, Anioma Festival and other festivals across the country.
When did MTN start participating in Nigerian festivals?
This has been an over 10-yearlong journey; we wanted to find a way of winning the hearts and minds of people in various communities. The communities are not MTN communities, the festivals are not MTN festivals, so, these are festivals that the people in the community would normally be celebrating on their own. To enrich them and make them bigger and better, MTN is putting a lot of investment behind them. We’re also ensuring a way to give back and create affinity between the people of these communities and the MTN brand.
Why does MTN Nigeria support festivals? Are there benefits for the organisation?
It’s a platform that enables growth. The real reason why we go into such communities is not for commercial benefits; we go in there to give back, to show the people that we care about what they care about. If I’m doing business in your community and I see that one of the things that you’re happy about is the festival; that all the people in the community will rally behind, participating in such festivals also shows that I am one of you. So, MTN is Nigerian, it belongs to the communities. MTN wants to show that, ‘yes, we’re the same family and the first thing really is to give back.’ Whenever we do that, as an organisation, we first of all derive utmost satisfaction in the fact that yes, we’ve identified with the people. The second thing is that we want to grow our retail presence. When we go for such festivals, we would see people, who come to us and say ‘I want to do business with you, can you give me a kiosk? Can you help me brand my outlet?’ These are some of the things that we do as well. We go into the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and paint everywhere Y’ello. We gain more customers and partners in these festivals every year.
Is KultureFest a yearly event?
It’s been a yearly event and we’ve been partnering with various communities for over 10 years. The good thing about KultureFest is that every year, we have more communities coming on board. So, it’s a platform that is growing and it’s something we will continue to do.
How do you choose festivals to support, do you have criteria for that?
Our regional teams do selection; they go into communities and if they see that there are festivals with proper structures and impressive foot traffic, they suggest them to the team for support. Another way is that some of these communities actually write us. There’s a Cocoa Festival in Osun State for example that the Oba of the town wrote to MTN, inviting us to come and participate and I think we’ve been a part of that festival for about two to three years now and it’s getting bigger. One thing about these cultural festivals is that even where it was previously unknown across the country, when MTN steps in, we take it to a higher level. So, selection is via our regional teams or the communities themselves, through mails or letters they write to us.
Selection is based on the loyalty of the people, based on the affinity of the people of such communities to the MTN brand and of course, based on the opportunities they also see in the horizon because when we go into such festivals, we’re able to win a lot more minds of the people in the community to MTN. For us, it is an opportunity to be able to grow as well. Of course, it’s also a way of giving back to each of these communities.
Apart from cultural festivals are there other festivals MTN is involved in?
Yes, on a bigger platform, you’ll find MTN participating in various platforms relating to festivals; MTN is very big on CSR. We’re a very big company when it comes to giving back. We work on Calabar Carnival for instance; it is now almost bigger than any other festival in Nigeria. Osun Osogbo has even gotten bigger too. Even people, who do not believe in the festival itself, are now making it a tourist attraction. We participate in the festivals that are not limited to the culture of the people as well.
This year for instance, how many festivals are your sponsoring altogether?
We are picking 37 across the country this year and I do believe that by next year, the number will increase.
Will it be a random selection or are you going to be looking at spread across states including the FCT?
It is a random selection. I’m not sure there’s a cultural festival in the FCT for instance, but we will participate in various other activities in the FCT.
Does MTN sponsor the same festivals every year or there’s a variety?
There are some festivals that if they don’t see MTN in a year, they’re uncertain of the festival holding so they look forward to MTN being a part of it because like I said, the moment MTN comes on board, we change the game. You find a lot of our competitors also going to those communities to sway them but MTN has a first right of refusal. We want to reinforce the existing festivals we support and of course add more festivals to that list.
MTN is an enabler and a catalyst for the socio-economic development of Nigeria and presently, talk is about diversifying the economy from being a mono-cultural economy and exploring other fields where there’s potential to have foreign exchange. So, how do you situate MTN with its support for Nigerian culture? What is the nexus between that and MTN given that its role is as catalyst and enabler?
Diversifying the economy and making forex from various other layers is a very good pointer to what I said earlier in the sense that people, who don’t even believe in some of these festivals, are beginning to come in because they now know about it. Knowing about a lot of these cultural festivals is as a result of MTN coming in and participating and putting in the fire and power of the MTN brand behind it. So people who are outside Nigeria see all these things and want to participate subsequently. So you see a lot of forex coming in because it has now become a major cultural attraction. Calabar Festival is a very good example. Even the Lagos Eyo Festival, Igue Festival in Benin, Gembu Mambila World Tourism Day in Taraba State, and Nupe Festival in Kotangora are attracting a lot of people from far and wide. So if you see some of the festivals they have in the developed countries, the Notting Hill Carnival for instance, it is that kind of attraction that we are targeting. We want people to be able to bring their resources into Nigeria.
KultureFest is a starting point, the fact that MTN is behind a lot of these festivals is beginning to attract a lot more growth around forex and it’s going to continue to grow. Osun Oshogbo and Calabar Festivals are UNESCO certified Festivals and that in itself makes them bigger. MTN has been participating in both festivals for more than eight years even when they were relatively unknown, today they are worldwide programmes and people from far and wide look forward to coming back to Nigeria for the festivals. It’s a major source of forex for the country.
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