Celebrities and the business of endorsements

Boy band Sauti sol entertains guests during the infinix NOTE 12 VIP official launch at Sarit centre in Westlands Nairobi on May 29, 2022. [David Gichuru,Standard]

For the first time in months, on this night, leading Kenyan boy band Sauti Sol has regrouped ready to entertain for a cause.

The crowd is elated and as the quartet hits the stage, everything gets electrified.

It is one of their rare public appearances since they announced taking a temporary break to have each work on their solo projects. And clearly, their absence has been felt by diehard fans.

This is not just a performance. On this night Sauti Sol has inked a new sweet deal.

After launching the Infinix Note 10 Pro Sauti Sol Limited edition last year, they are back as the brand ambassadors of the smartphone’s new gadget. It’s part of the accessories they use to shoot their content.

Sauti Sol isn’t the only band representing the showbiz fraternity in this unveiling. In an event hosted by media personalities and corporate emcees Daniel Weke and Violetta Ngina, in turn, Kate Actress, Lynn Ngugi, Chef Ali, Jackie Vike, Jackie Matubia, Rashid Abdalla take the cue as brand influencers.

This is the latest of many brands that are using celebrities to popularise their products.

Product windfall

Like many of their counterparts across the world, Kenyan entertainment stars are enjoying the product windfall that seems to be the new trend in town. The deals are lucrative. They are a quick way to get cash aside from the elusive gigs and music content sales.

A little bird tells us that a good sun has been involved in sealing this deal; just to have Sauti Sol become the face of the new phone.

“Sauti Sol is quite an innovative and inspiring group that is loved by millions across the world and so is our product. We are glad to work and walk with them in this innovation journey,” said Mike Zhang, the brand’s country manager.  

“We are glad to be part of this journey. It can only get better,” says Bien-Aime Baraza, Sauti Sol band member.

It’s only months since Kevin Kioko aka Bahati landed a major deal with a betting company shortly after sealing another one with a phone company. Early this year, King Kaka was named the global ambassador of yet another international betting company. In fact, it was just one of the many deals the entertainer and entrepreneur landed in three years.

“King Kaka is an inspiration to millions, not just for his game-changing music, but also for his humanitarian work. He’s the perfect match for our fun, fast and fair approach to crypto gaming, and we know this is going to be a show-stopping partnership,” said Albert Climent, Head of Africa at

While Khaligraph Jones and Fena Gitu have been working with East Africa Breweries Ltd, King Kaka has been promoting Remi Martin while Sauti Sol has been Chrome Vodka brand ambassadors.

Some of the sports stars who have had serious international endorsements include marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, David Rudisha as well as Victor Wanyama.

It is no surprise that being one of the biggest names in athletics, in 2019 top sports media company SportsPro named Kipchoge the 31st most marketable athlete in the world.

The list includes a VIP lineup with the likes of Naomi Osaka, Mohammed Salah and Kylian Mbappe managed by Global Sports Communication that runs the professional affairs of other world record holders like Faith Kipyegon and the legendary Ethiopian marathon runner Kenenisa Bekele.

Own collection

Sportswear such as Nike has been bankrolling Kipchoge with the shoe and apparel company unveiling his own collection. The collection includes Pegasus 37 in Kenyan flag colours as well as the words Eliud celebrating his record under-two-hours marathon run.    

Beer and spirits, as well as whiskey brands, are some of the products that pay handsomely for endorsement deals with some valued at Sh80 million per ambassador per year.

“Local celebrities have learned to leverage on their brands to make extra income for themselves. Most of the leading artists, especially those that have good teams are making a kill out of this. A brand endorsement can be a good deal,” says Michael Mutune, an intellectual property lawyer who has been working closely with artists on legal matters.

“The pay varies from one deal to another. For some, it is just having their pictures getting used as the face of a product. For others, it is about a complete walk with the brand teams for the entire period of the endorsement. For that matter, the pay does vary, it can be anything from Sh5 million to Sh60 million, and that is for the deals I have seen get signed so far,” Mutune said.

Tough conditions

As much as there are lucrative, most of these deals are pegged on tough conditions that the celebrities must keep.

One, for example, is expected to create a story social media presence and must stand out above the rest to win these deals. With most companies operating on tight advertising budgets, one has to prove they have a good following with the targeted clientele to land an endorsement deal. It is no wonder that most companies have been going for celebrities and influencers to push their products.  

Among some of the celebs who have had big-time endorsements include hip-hop guru Jay Z. From fashion, and sports to beer, everything he touches seems to turn to gold.

However, according to CeoWorld Magazine, the celebrities with the most expensive celebrity endorsements include Taylor Swift (deal with Diet Coke), DJ Tiesto (deal with 7UP), Beyonce (with Pepsi), Charlize Theron (with Dior’s J’adore perfume), and 50 Cents (with Vitamin-water).