It is difficult to pinpoint the advent of the giveaway culture and how it has become so striking. However, it safe to say that it is the inevitable implication of a plummeting economy, a rise in inflation rates, and the country entering its deepest recession…
By Sybil Fekurumoh
It has become quite common to find giveaways pop up sporadically on and off the Internet, especially in this age of digitalisation, and with the widespread usage of mass media. With about half of Nigeria’s teeming population active users of the Internet, it is almost normal for giveaways to appear on the social media handles of celebrities and influencers across different channels. The value for social followership for an icon is now, more often than not, measured in terms of the number of freebies they are able to dish out, and not necessarily out of a feigned interest.
When browsing through social media, it is the norm to read whimsical comments such as “do giveaway na,” “send funds,” “make I drop aza,” etc. It is more laughable to find tips on how to stand better chances at winning giveaways from social media platforms.
Fans believed in self-entitlement, may sometimes criticise as selfish or tight-fisted, celebrities who do not give in to the indulgent giveaway culture. A few of these celebrities have come under public scrutiny for their supposed lack of generosity. Other celebs have had to make come backs about their supposed unwillingness to give.
So, what stirs the giveaway culture? Does giving to fans come from a place of genuine philanthropy, an act of goodwill, and as a way to give back to others? Or is it, for the lack of better words, another “agenda that will agend”?
It is difficult to pinpoint the advent of the giveaway culture and how it has become so striking. However, it safe to say that it is the inevitable implication of a plummeting economy, a rise in inflation rates, and the country entering its deepest recession in years. This has pushed people to unabashedly solicit for funds from celebrities through social media to alleviate their financial woes.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown, and a sit-at-home order saw already struggling citizens partially or completely out of jobs, hungry, tired, and with more time on their hands. Celebrities began to, collectively or as individuals, display benevolence. At the early stages of the pandemic, they gave out cash gifts to fans on social media to cushion the effect of the lockdown. Artistes such as Runtown, Banky W, Yemi Alade and others gave cash prizes to followers. Off the Internet, celebrities and other socialites gave out food items and other forms of palliatives.
Celebrities as well as charity organisations have also used the giveaway culture to celebrate a new age. For example, when comedian, actor and activist Debo Adedayo popularly known as Mr. Macaroni turned twenty-eight in May, 2021, he took to the streets of Lagos to give out cash gifts in wads of twenty-five to fifty thousand naira to his fans.
In a rather iconic twist, megastar Davido broke the Internet after he took to his Twitter to ask his fans, friends and colleagues for money. He subsequently received a whopping cash donation of about 200 million naira. Davido soon donated the sum to charities and orphanages across Nigeria with an additional 50 million naira, setting up a committee to distribute the money to orphanages in celebration of his 29th birthday. This gesture would be the grandest highlight in the celebrity giveaway culture Nigeria has seen in a long time.
This big-heartedness by the musician would also build more fan loyalty for him and his music brand and label, an aspect that will come highly beneficial to his future marketing strategies.
If u know I've given you a hit song .. send me money …. una know una selves oo ???????
— Davido (@davido) November 17, 2021
The concept of using giveaways and freebies for marketing is not a new one. It is a form of contest marketing that companies and businesses have identified and used to build their brands. The central objective has been to improve promotion. This marketing tactic has become so often used by celebrities; a small price to pay for more visibility. Whether or not the expression “we rise by lifting others” is ostentatiously used is left to the receiver’s discretion. After all, free money never hurt anyone, and true generosity is always an expression of love. But then, as the saying goes, if you get something for free, you are most likely being marketed.
We rise by lifting others .. ❤️
— Davido (@davido) December 1, 2017
For example, when “Bolanle” by IVD and Zlatan Ibile was released in 2019, Zlatan, possibly to promote the new single, took to Twitter to start a contest, promising cash prizes to fans that would participate in the #bolanle chorus singalong challenge. A tweep, whose name was also Bolanle, won an Audi Dallas, and featured in the song’s music video as a video vixen. The song became a hit, making it to top ten on Apple Music in Nigeria at the time. Zlatan later released a follow, “Yeye Boyfriend” the same year.
2 people 50k each !!
— #WorldPresident ? (@Zlatan_Ibile) September 8, 2019
Celebrities, as ambassadors for brands, also use the giveaway tactic to create more awareness for products or services. Nigeria’s leading digital bank, Vbank, as part of its marketing campaigns with music producer and owner of the Mavin Records label, Don Jazzy, became a popular trend on Twitter for the many cash giveaways to users of the online banking app. The brand in 2020 extended Don Jazzy’s endorsement by another year.
Also, the Abeg app, asides being one of the lead sponsors of the Big Brother Naija reality show, also deployed the giveaway tactic again with Don Jazzy and other celebrities on social media, especially using Twitter to increase user base and downloads of the app by the number. The Abeg app is a social payment application that allows users to send and receive money, making asking for “urgent 2k” a gambit. Davido also employed the same system with his endorsement with a similar payment company, Bitsika.
It is not uncommon for social media influencers to give a range of freebies, from airtime, data subscription gifts, and phones to cash prizes to encourage users to stay active on their handles and/or to generate more followers and stay relevant on the spotlight. On Twitter and Instagram, you find captions such as “If 5k is not too small for you…,” “tell me what 20k can do in your life right now.” with call to actions to like, follow, share, repost, retweet, etc. It has become an easy gimmick used by influencers for clout chasing.
Sybil Fekurumoh is a freelance writer that is passionate about literature. She writes poetry and is enthusiastic about tech. She publishes a bi-weekly newsletter (Soft Pallet Newsletter) that curates news on policies, tech and culture. She’s on Facebook as Sybil Okubo Fekurumoh and on Twitter and Instagram as @toqueensaber.