The downturn in the economy seems already to have had a negative impact on Carnival 2016 fetes and events as two promoters say sponsorship has been either hard to come by or unavailable since some sponsors have pulled out.
Chief executive officer of SouthEx, George Singh, who promotes the Chutney Soca Monarch (CSM) competition, said the cuts have been deep.
It costs close to $10 million to host the CSM, inclusive of prize money. Singh said it was difficult to say the number of sponsors but that there was a drop by 50 per cent.
He told the Sunday Guardian, “In years gone by, sponsors would jump on board even if it was with smaller amounts but this year they have pulled back completely.”
He added that certain corporate sponsors had “gone off” the Carnival party scene.
Singh said it was understandable that the sponsorship pie was smaller for 2016 since almost all promoters send requests to the same companies.
“The thing about it is that it’s a small pool of people that support Carnival. The corporate market is very few and so you have all these promoters going to the same people so they are burdened with all these requests and there is only so much they can accommodate.”
Telecommincations giant TSTT said it would be cutting back on sponsorship of events as Carnival was coming right on the heels of the public celebrating Christmas, amidst a slowing economy and low energy prices. Digicel and Carib Brewery said they were ensuring they received value for what they put out.
This year there are over 150 all-inclusives, cooler fetes and breakfast parties spread over January 1 to Ash Wednesday—a total of 41 days, with as many as 60 in the five weekends of January and 90 in the first ten days of February.
On Carnival Saturday, there are expected to be 19 events, while 18 are carded for Carnival Sunday.
Already ten days into the 2016 Carnival season, one highly anticipated fete—Soka in Moka—which was held last weekend, saw a lower turnout than in previous years. And there is also word that some events have “fallen off the calendar.”
The December announcement that T&T was in a recession seems to have resonated with several partygoers who have expressed mixed views about the fetes they intend to patronise.
Some have said they will be cautiously watching their spending habits while looking for value for their money in a wave of fetes ranging from $250 to as high as $3,200.
Harris, who promotes Army Fete, also said promoters are faced with challenges like sponsorship. “We aren’t getting the kind of sponsorship we enjoyed in the past but there are ways and means you can advertise otherwise.” He said he was capitalising on social media for advertising.
He did not want to disclose the cost to host the fete but said he was still in negotiations.
Harris said there was no doubt that sponsors have held back this year because of the recession. Asked if the support was cut by 100 per cent, he only said, “We are not getting the support we used to receive in the past.”
Army Fete will be held on January 29.
Harris said with three weeks still to go for the fete, it was a bit early to gauge support from feters.
“I think we need to wait and see. It is Carnival and we love our Carnival. We live for Christmas and Carnival. I am still optimistic it will be a good one.”
Both promoters, along with Randy Glasgow of Randy Glasgow Promotions and Derrick Lewis, events producer and founder of Island People, are optimistic that the season will be a success.
Businesses weigh in
Acting senior manager—brand, public relations and external affairs at TSTT, Graeme Suite, said although the company would significantly reduce its carnival expenses on party events, it would continue to be part of the energy and excitement in carnival celebrations and would maintain its presence in various aspects of the culture at the community level, Panorama and in traditional calypso tents.
Suite said, “The economic climate will continue to demand that individuals, families and companies make prudent decisions on managing finances while sustaining productivity.”
He said the concentration of events within a few short weeks presented the real possibility of contracting consumer spending at Carnival and as such the onus was on companies like TSTT to find a balance between its longstanding commitment to culture and its responsibility to customers.
Meanwhile, Carib Brewery sponsorship and events manager Colin Murray said his company has not stopped sponsorship.
He said, “We are still supporting the events we have supported over the years.
“We have in fact looked at the events in terms of the short season and the clashes that some events are going to have. Where you may have supported an event that may have drawn 4,000 people, we are still supporting the event, but if it only draws 2,000 people we may obviously have to look at what spend we need to put.”
He said the company was certainly more mindful of its spend and getting full value for whatever sponsorship it put out.
Chief executive officer of Digicel Foundation, Penny Gomez, yesterday said, “What we do is that every year we evaluate our partnership and it is really what best aligns with our sponsorship strategy...those are the sponsorships that we will go with and what we will support.”
She said it was not a matter of cutting back, just that sometimes sponsored events may vary and each one had a different budget.
“So depending on what that budget is and what we decide works best for us and the alignment, that is what we will go with.”
Gomez said the company was “pretty much involved in culture and Carnival.”
Feters will be selective
and watch $$
Glasgow, who promotes Ladies Night Out, Chutney Brass and the Alternative Comedy Shows, said people were “observing their dollar.”
He said, “I think the mere fact that the announcement was made brought on a level of consciousness that people needed to watch how they spend. It’s looking tough.”
He said he was hoping that patrons would choose his events since they cannot attend all that were being offered. Ladies Night Out will stage its 13th edition on January 23 and will feature international singer Jon Secada.
“It is a better show with better talent and despite the recession, we are working to make money and give patrons value for their money.”
Glasgow said ticket prices for the comedy shows starting after Carnival had been reduced by $25 since “money is now harder to come by.”
He said, “We have to cut profits but we rather the level of the shows remain at high standards.”
Meanwhile, Singh said for this 2016 season, people would be selective. He said they would look at the price of fetes and the value they’re getting.
Regarding CSM, Singh said, “We have been marketing CSM21 as something different. The reason we are doing that is because it is something different. It is not the normal carnival event; it is a chutney soca event.”
He said the vibe and feeling were different and believed that they would maintain their market.
Under the patronage of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Singh said the all-inclusive Red, priced at $1,200, would cater to an affluent crowd.
He said, “It is a new event and we have been told that we are taking a chance introducing a new event in a recession and in a short season but we are catering to a very exclusive crowd.”
Lewis said he believed people would be conservative at first, especially in the first couple of weeks. “They would be listening for things like leading music and songs to encourage them further as the temperature rises.
“I think some people are going to let go some of those initial apprehensive feelings about what they are going to do...they will make some choices,” he said.
Lewis said while people would be selective, they would not abandon the fetes.
“People will be selective and will choose the fetes that have the most value and the events that are school-based or cause-based.”
We have loyal patrons
Co-chair of the Old Hilarians’ Fete, Wanda Bernard, said on Friday it was not the first time the fete was being held during a recession nor during a short season. This year is the 20th instalment of the fete with a $50 increase from last year’s $850.
Bernard said, “We manage it in such a way that we can hopefully enjoy an eventual success because during times of a recession it is expected that there would be an impact on ticket sales.
“What is incumbent on all promoters is to manage the implementation creatively so that while we offer a premium event, we can still ensure we manage the expenditure prudently.”
She said the fete has its loyal patrons and by hosting it at the school, they could see where their money was going.
Partygoers holding their hand
Indira Heeralal-Ram, who has been attending fetes for years, said she has become selective since the prices have become too exorbitant and she felt she was not getting value for money.
This year she said she may attend the popular Beach House all-inclusive with a price tag of $1,400.
For 34-year-old Ruth Romilly, this season she’ll be attending three fetes—Insomnia, Illusions Black 2 Blue cooler fete and Headley’s All-inclusive.
Romilly said, “The most I’ll spend on an all-inclusive is $1,000 seeing that I won’t be attending many of the fetes.
“It’s all about tightening my belt and watching how I spend.”
She said she wanted to get value for her money and was looking for “a good lime.”
Karina Dhaniram, on the other hand, would not spend more than $250 on a cooler fete. The 23-year-old said she’s never attended any all-inclusives because she cannot eat or drink anywhere close to $800 or $900.
So far, she has been to Tribe Ice and will go to iUP and Kees’ concert.
Last year she attended more than five cooler fetes but because of the recession, she can only attend three this year.
“I’m taking the recession announcement seriously,” she said.