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Damilola Ishola: 10 corporate brands that have shaped Afrobeats in Nigeria

From the timeless beats of Baba Fela to the evolutionary efforts of 2Baba, DBanj and PSquare; from the glass ceilings shattered by Big Wiz, Burna, Davido and Tiwa Savage to the chart-topping hits of Rema, Asake, Ckay, and Tems; music has been the heart and soul of African homes for generations. Today, Afrobeats is not just a genre; it is a global phenomenon.

Brands have played a vital role in this journey, from appointing ambassadors to organising groundbreaking shows. Brands have helped to discover some of the trendsetters, celebrate the groove-makers, and empower the game-changers. These brands have made a significant impact on the growth and success of Afrobeats in Nigeria, supporting and elevating artists while promoting the genre both nationally and globally.

In this article, I have curated 10 brands that have fueled the unstoppable rise of Afrobeats, helping to shape the genre in Nigeria and enable its spread across the globe. From 10 to 1, these brands are:

10. Tecno Mobile

A Tecno event

TECNO Mobile, a leading smartphone brand in Nigeria, has been actively involved in the Afrobeats scene, sponsoring music events, endorsements, and partnering with artists to produce captivating content.

TECNO Mobile has facilitated the digital distribution and accessibility of Afrobeats music through their devices, making it more accessible to a broad audience and contributing to the genre’s growth and recognition.

9. Boomplay
As one of Nigeria’s top music streaming platforms and the biggest local player in the music streaming scene, BoomPlay provides a digital platform for Afrobeats artists to reach a wide audience, promoting their music and contributing to the genre’s growth.

The platform’s user-friendly interface and extensive catalog of Afrobeats songs have made it easier for fans to discover and enjoy the music. Boomplay also facilitated the monetization of Afrobeats music for artists by offering revenue-sharing opportunities.

8. Airtel Nigeria
Airtel has played a prominent role in promoting Afrobeats through partnerships, sponsorship of music events (The Voice NG), and the Airtel Trace Music Star talent competition, where emerging artists are given a chance to shine.

These initiatives have provided a platform for emerging artists to showcase their talent and have contributed to the genre’s growth. Airtel Nigeria’s involvement has helped raise the visibility of Afrobeats both locally and internationally, making it a prominent part of Nigeria’s cultural identity.

7. First Bank

First Bank CEO awarding The Voice winner a cheque of N10milion

First Bank has been instrumental in supporting the Afrobeats industry through sponsorships, concerts, and partnerships with artists. They have played a crucial role in providing financial backing and boosting the industry’s infrastructure.

From their #DecemberIssaVybe campaign – a month long end-of-year events campaign to sponsoring AfroZons – the first ever Afrobeat show on a major radio FM network in USA – to their involvement in talent shows like The Voice, and groundbreaking concerts like the recently held Timeless Concert, First Bank has always been a willing partner helping to push the growth of Afrobeats.

6. Globacom
Globacom, popularly known as Glo, has made significant contributions to Afrobeats through sponsorships of music tours, endorsements, and partnerships with artists. Glo-sponsored events like the “Glo Slide & Bounce”, “Glo X-Factor”, and “Glo Campus Storm” have energized the Afrobeats scene.

The indigenous telecommunications giant also leveraged its influence among young people, relationship with stakeholders and its position as an indigenous brand, to promote Afrobeats as a vital component of Nigeria’s cultural and artistic landscape.

5. Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola has lent its support to several Afrobeats initiatives, including the popular Coke Studio Africa, which brings together artists from different countries to create music collaborations and foster cultural exchange.

Coca Cola also sponsors music events and festivals in Nigeria. This has provided a vibrant stage for Afrobeats artists to showcase their talent and connect with their fan base.

4. Hennessy

A Hennessy event

The renowned cognac brand, Hennessy, has partnered with various Nigerian artists, organizing music events (Hennessy Artistry Finale Concert) and supporting creative collaborations, thereby contributing to the growth and visibility of Afrobeats.

Even though it is majorly for rappers and rapheads, their Hennessy VS Class has provided a breakthrough platform for some of the biggest Afrobeats artists including Blaqbonez, AQ, Vector, Falz to mention a few.

3. Star Lager Beer
Star Lager Beer has been a long-standing supporter of Nigerian music. Back when it wasn’t popular, they powered Star Quest, a platform for Afrobeats talents to showcase their craft and through which artists like KCee of the KCPresh fame was discovered.

Star Lager Beer is also recognized for powering music in Nigeria through their Star Mega Jams concerts that featured performances by internationally acclaimed artists like 50 Cent, Usher Raymond, Awilo Logomba, etc. Having home-based Naija stars perform alongside these global heavyweights contributed to raising the profile of Afrobeats artists and the genre as a whole.

2. MTN Nigeria

Chidinma Ekile winning the Project Fame competition in 2010

As one of the leading telecom providers in Nigeria, MTN has played a significant role in promoting Afrobeats through sponsorships, music competitions, and collaborations with top artists. Their talent development show “MTN Project Fame” which remains one of the most iconic talent shows produced some top talents like Iyanya, Praiz, Niniola, Johnny Drille, etc.

MTN Nigeria has also partnered with streaming giant – Apple Music to make streaming cheap and accessible to Nigerians. The brand has also sponsored music events and provided Afrobeats artists with technical support in the form of special data plans to stream their groundbreaking arena concerts.

1. Pepsi Naija
The number one brand on this list is none other than Pepsi. The brand has been actively involved in the Nigerian entertainment and music scene, sponsoring music events, festivals, developing the eco-system and endorsements with Afrobeats artists. Their groundbreaking campaigns have helped popularize the genre both locally and internationally.

Their ambassadorial list consists of all the creme-de-la-creme of Afrobeats from the biggest vanguards – Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Davido and BurnaBoy to the next gen pushing the boundaries in Rema and Ayra Starr. Outside the artists themselves, the brand has also made DJs their ambassadors, because they recognize that the turn-table champions are the life of the party and the soul of Afrobeats.

Turn Up Friday with Pepsi

If you attend a concert in Nigeria, there is a very high chance the concert is refreshed by Pepsi or the brand’s logo is graciously adorned somewhere visible in the concert. This is to show the extent of their reach when it comes to partnering stakeholders in the industry. Their long list of concert partnerships include The One Africa Music Fest, Rhythm Unplugged, Trace Live, Livespot Festival, Flytime Music Festival and individual concerts of your favorite stars.

Outside concerts, they are actively involved in on-air, digital and offline events that further deepen audience’ connection with music and expand the reach of Afrobeats; from Turn up Friday with Pepsi where audience gets to party from the comfort of their homes and a new upcoming DJ is discovered every season, to the hugely popular Block Parties on the mainland, island and Abuja.

From The Headies that celebrates Afrobeats stars to partnering with AMVCA to provide the music and entertain the fans of movies. Even recently, the brand collaborated with Ambassador Burna Boy on the Global Pepsi UCL Kickoff campaign that culminated in Burna Boy performing at the UCL final – the biggest football match in Europe, and second biggest football match in the world.

Burna Boy performing at the UCL Pepsi KickOff Show

Without any doubt, Pepsi has been at the fore-front of the growth of Afrobeats and they do not look like they are taking their foot off the gas. They recently announced the Pepsi Music Academy – to develop the next generation of superstars and while details are still sketchy, Afrobeats enthusiasts can only wait to see what the brand still has in store for the genre.

In conclusion, the vibrant and dynamic genre of Afrobeats in Nigeria owes a great deal of its success and global recognition to the unwavering support and collaboration of influential brands. These brands have not only provided financial backing but have also cultivated a sense of community, fostering opportunities for emerging talent and facilitating cross-cultural exchanges.

Their contributions have propelled Afrobeats onto the global stage, making it a cultural phenomenon that continues to captivate audiences worldwide. As we look to the future, it’s clear that the partnership between brands and Afrobeats will continue to evolve, driving the genre to even greater heights and ensuring its enduring legacy in Nigerian music and beyond.

Damilola Ishola is a Brand Strategist and Pop Culture Commentator

Email: [email protected]