Back in 2015, Cassper set his sights on the TicketPro Dome in the peak of his popularity following the release of his first studio album Tsholofelo, and filled up the 19,000 capacity venue. He doubled the ante the following year and attempted to fill up Orlando Stadium in Soweto, which sits 40, 000 people. On both occasions, he reclaimed venues previously reserved for visiting foreign acts and soccer games because, apparently, ‘local acts do not have the ability to draw such huge crowds’.
In just under 3 years, we have seen Cassper Nyovest’s #FillUp movement go from a rapper’s ramblings to the biggest locally-grown hip hop music festival in recent history.
This is not the first hip hop event to have surfaced in the country, but is arguably the first time in a while that one has resonated with South Africans like this one has. The impact on local music events in general has been unparalleled.
What Casper proved was that the problem wasn’t the what, but the how.
Festivals with the greatest line-ups will not draw a crowd if not marketed correctly. What the #TeamNyovest did expertly was to get the public personally invested. Fans of local hip-hop — and by extension, Motswako – were made to feel that they too are making history by purchasing tickets to be part of filling up these venues. The marketing team framed this as a win for black South Africans and the genres we dominate, genres not considered by corporate entities locally and elsewhere on the planet. That sense of community and camaraderie has proven to be this movement’s greatest strength.
Then came 2017.
Papa #FillUp and his line-up of A-listers are headed to the biggest stadium in Africa (capacity 94,734). The aim is to sell a little over 75 000 tickets. That’s over double that of Orlando last year.
It’s ambitious, to say the least. To pull what would be a momentous achievement, Cassper reportedly would need around R15,000,000.
And this is where it gets annoying.
Speaking to Metro FM’s Masechaba Ndlovu during the first week of November, the rapper shared that he was so broke, he’d even considered selling his luxury cars to help finance the event.
He continued: “I have two employees that haven’t been paid this month. This is the first time since [#FillUp The Dome] that I don’t have money. I am in debt.”
With that he pulled on the nation’s heart strings, causing more people to rally behind, and further promote, the already highly-publicized event.
Less than 2 weeks following his desperate pleas for help, 3 major sponsors –Ciroc, SABC 1 and Budweiser – seemingly appeared out of thin air and announced they would sponsor #FillUp. They did this via Twitter a mere 17 days prior to the concert.
For context, Cassper has been a Ciroc ambassador since April after signing a year-long contract for an endorsement deal reported to be worth millions. SABC 1 secured broadcasting rights to two prior #FillUp events. #FillUp Orlando Stadium premieres a week before the FNB event.
There’s no way to confirm at this point that this was staged PR/marketing, but it sure looks like it. These aren’t deals one secures a fortnight ahead of time for an event that was announced, booked and began advertising on-line months ago.
Cassper and his team went from the perfect balance of relatability and showmanship, to totally disrespecting his audience’s intelligence.
The need to perpetuate the “underdog” narrative is lazy. Cassper, currently the biggest Motswako act on the continent and amongst the top celebrities in the country, is no longer an underdog of any kind. He can flaunt wealth, success, and his new status all year round. How come then that now it’s ticket-selling time he’s ‘broke’?
(This is the man who tried to re-sell the sneakers he performed in at #FillUp 2015 for R100,000!)
What this whole strategy highlights is a continued and concerning practice in South Africa’s PR/marketing/advertising industry of having no respect for the average black citizen’s intelligence, even from black industry professionals tasked to come up with these strategies. They resort to the most patronizing form of faux humility at hand. They believe we are incapable of connecting evident dots.
This is not the approach they have when the majority of the target market is white South Africans.
What would have been wrong with Cassper starting his promo with an honest approach? Both he and his event wouldn’t have lost a thing if he came out of the gate like you guys see I’m living different now and as such I have been able to pull bigger sponsors to make this an even better show than before. Come through. Buy tickets. It’s lit!
That’s exactly what he would have done, as an act whose fanbase still supports him largely due to the deep personal and aspirational connection they feel to his rags-to-riches story.
After the hype dies down, maybe people will realize that none of this was necessary because we who attend were never not going to #FillUp and that, instead of resorting to desperate pandering that leaves a bad taste in your real fans’ mouths, transparency and honesty are integral in building a sustainable event of this calibre.
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