Sell off or Sell Out?: Experiential Marketing Using the Massive Jamaican Dancehall Market, 2005 – 2015 by Melville Brenton Cooke

In April 2005 the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors banned Jamaican deejays Beenie Man and Bounty Killer from events they supported, after the two cursed while criticising homosexuals during a live free-to-air televised concert.

Comprising Cable and Wireless, Digicel, Courts, Red Stripe, Supreme Ventures, Jamaica Tourist Board and J Wray and Nephew, the coalition refused to support events or persons inciting violence, using profane language or discriminating against any group of persons. However, its objective was perceived as eliminating dancehall’s anti-homosexual content, leading to confrontation with dancehall. After the Coalition suspended activities in January, 2006, Red Stripe took individual action against dancehall in 2008, leading to further conflict over anti-homosexual content.

Agency-structure theory, hegemony, critical theory, corporatism, structural functionalism, semiotics, governmentality, exchange theory and articulation are utilised in a political economy and cultural anthropology approach to analysing the conflicts. Textual analysis, thick description, participant observation, comparison, semiotics and interviews are used for data collection and presentation.

In chapters 3 – 6 I evaluate the balance of power over anti-homosexual content between Coalition members utilising dancehall-based experiential marketing (Schmitt, 1999) and dancehall in a single intrinsic case study, as the companies use hard power and dancehall counters with soft power (Nye, 2004).

In chapters 7 – 10, in a collective intrinsic case study I assess the authenticity and effectiveness of a number of dancehall-based experiential campaigns emphasising the implementing company being Jamaican.

I find that regarding anti-homosexuality Jamaica’s dancehall is a site of successful resistance to corporate sponsors’ regulations. However, I also find that anti-homosexuality apart, dancehall is malleable to corporate exploitation.

The study shows the importance of an authentic local identity in brand building, reinforces the importance of Jamaican popular culture in successfully marketing goods and services and identifies the agency of dancehall in the effectiveness of experiential marketing in Jamaica.

Keywords: Melville Brenton Cooke, experiential marketing, dancehall, homosexuality, corporate sponsorship

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