Since 1902

By Matilda Nzioki

Debra Sanaipei

First it was the postponement of Kenya’s premier music awards Kisima Awards and now, the only stable and arguably most glamorous awards ceremony in Kenya’s showbiz calendar, the annual Chaguo la Teeniez Awards (CHAT), seems to be on the rocks. The awards event was slated for April 18 but Insyder Magazine, the CHAT awards organisers, recently placed adverts, postponing the event indefinitely. The company is now pointing an accusing finger at the Coca-Cola Company, which has been the sole sponsor of the event since its inception eight years ago.

"Everything was set, nominations were already done, the teeniez had cast their votes and we had already booked the venue at Carnivore, but we were rudely shocked when Fanta pulled a fast one on us at the eleventh hour," explained Ann Ciru of Insyder.

Adam Nyakundi also a director at Insyder notes that the breach of contract has not only inconvenienced the company, but has also caused it embarrassment since they do not know what to tell the youngsters as they go back to school, without witnessing their crËme de la crËme in various categories receive the awards.

Insyder says that the Coca-Cola Company approached them last year and proposed a three year contract to be the exclusive sponsors of the event. . "In the past few ceremonies, especially the 2007 one that was held at KICC, we had some companies coming in and doing guerilla marketing, which did not go down well with Fanta, our sponsors," said the third co-director Ngaruiya Githegi, in enlightenment of why Fanta was interested in being the sole sponsors.

Abandoned unceremoniously

"Coca-Cola Company refused to co-sponsor with any other company, and this was meant to be the second year of the contract, until they abandoned us unceremoniously," he said.

Ngaruiya Githegi

When contacted, a brand Manager at Coca-Cola Maureen Sika, who Insyder say had been sitting in the CHAT awards meetings was reluctant at first to give their side of the story, saying she would refer us to a more appropriate person. She had not done as promised by the time we were going to press . She also insisted that the company was involved in other matters regarding the drink Coke, and would look into other affairs later. "We have not breached any contract. In every contract, there is an exit clause, which clearly defines the rights and responsibilities of each partner at the time of breakup," she later defended her company, and dodged the question whether the three year contract to sponsor the CHAT Awards ceremony with Insyder covered this.

"We told any sponsor who approached us about this annual event to check with us in 2010 because we knew we were comfortably covered. Little did we know we were to be thrown into confusion prematurely," says Ciru, adding that Fanta had blocked out all other sponsors, by signing the contract which they have not honoured. Insyder also say that they have resolved to take the matter to court, and a hearing is hopefully set for next month.

Sika laughs this off, saying that they have not heard of any court hearing regarding their company.

Dishonouring a contract

Insyder are now speculating there might have been some malice behind the whole thing. They claim that they are not satisfied with the reasons given to them by Coca-cola. "They cited the global recession among other reasons, but they are involving themselves in some things that are not worth dishonouring a contract for," notes Nyakundi. They also suspect that a change in management may have resulted in the dissolution of the contract. Sika said there are a number of reasons the company pulled out. She explained there are other issues taking precedence over the CHAT awards. Insyder view this move as unprofessional.

According to Coca-cola, if Insyder have counted their votes, they should announce them, regardless of whether there is a ceremony or not. "Fanta as abrand, came in as a sponsor, and in the event that we are not there, Insyder should do away with an occasion and use their website and the media to announce the winners," said Sika. Insyder on its part says that it is in a position of running the event without solely depending on a sponsor, but with planning. "It takes a year to plan this kind of event, if you are to avoid doing a shoddy. In this light, we cannot start doing it on our own now, it’s bad timing and it will be as good as not running this year," stays Ngaruiya.

He explains that the strictness they observe like hiring Deloitte Touche to count the votes has made their event reputable in transparency compared to other local awards, hence the need for a heavy budget.

Fanta has been sponsoring the event since 2003 and even had the brand’s name included in the awards along the way, hence the Fanta Chaguo La Teenieez Awards. They additionally went ahead to launch the Bamboocha campaign at the 2007 CHAT Awards.

Gossip fodder

The Awards identify and reward the achievements of individuals and organisations in the entertainment industry who have made meaningful contribution to the society, as well as excelled in their art. They have also helped create some of the big names in the industry and facilitated the growth of the Kenyan music industry.

When they begun, mainstream media houses were giving little airtime to local music. The glitz and glamour showcased at each annual event has continously made headlines on entertainment pages. The stir caused by celebs as they make a grand entrance using convoys of luxury cars or horse drawn chariots has always been ample gossip fodder. It has become the best venue to ogle local celeb swagger and style.

Although Kenya is preparing to host the prestigious MTV MAMA Awards in October, the country has nothing to show when it comes to local music awards.