Rapper AKA trended on social media after revelations that Reebok has opted not to renew his lucrative ambassadorial role due to a shift in their brand direction. Other than the non renewal of the rapper’s agreement, AKA revealed that Reebok had not paid him royalties for the use of his stage name on the collaborative sneAKA limited edition collection. The multi-award winning artist wrote on his twitter account:
At the end of last year they told me they wouldn’t be renewing my contract because “the brand” wasn’t about the Reebok “classic” direction anymore … they were now geared towards selling gym clothes to women predominantly.
— AKA (@akaworldwide) May 14, 2020
Can you believe they didn’t pay me a single cent for this? … not one cent. https://t.co/EgW8AKkXBA
— AKA (@akaworldwide) May 14, 2020
AKA’s Humpty Dumpty fall
AKA – government name Kiernan Forbes – experienced life’s hard knocks in Rustenberg, both metaphorically and literally – when he stage dived into fans while performing in March. Rather than catching him, fans watched as the Cape Town born MC fell to the floor. Fortunately he did not suffer injuries, apart from perhaps a bruised ego and a bit of dirt on the Fela in Versaci’s clothes.
Twitter fans catch AKA
But this time, his adoring Twitter following of a staggering four million did not let him down like the people of Rustenberg. The rapper trended throughout Thursday the 14th of May as fans gave support. Unlike the botched crowd surfing incident, fans fuelled a #ReebokMustFall twitter campaign which will have scuffed the sneakers of the global brand.
What happened to Loxion Kulca is the same thing that had happened to Reebok. In the history of clothing brands in SA there has never been a bigger resuscitation then Supa Mega bringing back to life Reebok#ReebokMustFall pic.twitter.com/0gK1YWc8YO
— UmalambaneZN ➐ (@UmalambaneZN) May 14, 2020
I beg of you to stop assuming. You can’t say that without facts. Reebok won’t be where it’s at without AKA in South Africa and that’s a fact, considering I worked for the brand. Our show screens showed Americans superstars but when it showed AKA, sales went up
— chubby john (@chubby_mauke) May 14, 2020
But there were some who took the opportunity to highlight the exploitation of artists. There exists a running joke in the creative industry about clients offering to pay artists for appearances and/or other services in the currency of “Exposure”.
In summary, Reebok actually approached one of the biggest artists in South Africa and said "this is good exposure for you" and he said yes.
This industry is tough.
— Siyabulela Nomoyi (@S_Nomoyi) May 14, 2020
Public relations nightmare for Reebok?
Reebok officials who had operated under the assumption that their relationship with the rapper was “on a strong footing” – pun intended perhaps – were “surprised” to learn of AKA’s twitter rant. Their statement, in part reads:
“In October 2019, we executed a successful launch of the Reebok SneAKA. Upon entering into the relationship, both parties were happy with the agreement, and the terms of the launch were not disputed.
Reebok met all of our contractual obligations related to the launch. Earlier this year, Reebok communicated with AKA and his management that due to shift in strategy, we would not be able to renew his contract as an ambassador for the brand.
However, we did discuss a new approach of working with AKA. Reebok is thus very disappointed to be learning of the issues raised on social media, as we believed the relationship to still be on a strong footing to negotiate potential future deals.”
Will Reebok negotiate?
There is of course the question whether AKA launched his Twitter tirade simply to bring Reebok back to the negotiating table after his lucrative arrangement ended. AKA’s influence is not only huge in South Africa, Rustenberg flop notwithstanding, but beyond Mzansi, due to shrewd collaborations with artists in Nigeria, a trendsetter on the African continent. It remains to be seen how – if at all – Reebok intend to deal with the obvious PR mess in the South African market, where fans of the rapper believe that he singlehandedly resuscitated the sports shoe brand locally.
Featured photo from SA Hiphop Magazine