DJ Sbu: marketing genius or ‘African hustler’ finding his feet?

2015-03-25 13:25

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Sibusiso Leope, AKA DJ Sbu, has certainly proved to be the Moflava of the week.

In his attempt to pull out all the stops to promote his energy drink, the “young African industrialist”, as he referred to himself in an interview with Forbes magazine, has certainly been industrial about scoring free advertising wherever possible.

As the old adage goes, any publicity is good publicity, and Leope is treading a fine line between social media savviness, guerrilla marketing and media law.

He seems to have quite a knack for unconventional advertising methods.

First, he created a mini media frenzy when he was suspended by Metro FM after unashamedly promoting his energy drink, Mofaya, at the radio station’s recent awards function.

And then the South African Broadcasting Corporation announced its intent to make him cough up for every time he punted his products on his popular Sound Revival show.

This week he landed in hot water for retweeting a fake Forbes Africa Magazine cover that features him clutching a can of Mofaya.

By retweeting the fake cover, Leope – who has said that he saw the cover on social media and thought it was cool – has placed himself in line for possible legal action.

Forbes’ legal department is busy drafting correspondence for one of his representatives, but hasn’t indicated yet what action they plan on taking, if any.

The onus is on the Twitter user to take responsibility for everything that is posted on his or her account, just as the case is with any other publication.

The retweet function may be an easy way of creating posts, but the reality is that if users don’t have a basic grasp of media law, they could land themselves in hot water or court.

Just ask the 10 000 Twitter users in the United Kingdom who were sued by a politician, Lord Alistair McAlpine, when they hit that retweet icon on allegations of child abuse in 2012.

The allegations turned out to be false, and McAlpine successfully sued the BBC, who had initially broadcast the story, even though they hadn’t named him, for £185 000.

Those who had retweeted the claims avoided legal action by making donations to charity but one, the wife of another politician, had to cough up £15 000 after the high court ruled that the tweet was libellous.

It’s not as though Leope is new to the game. And his guerrilla marketing strategy may turn out to be an expensive exercise.

But the truth of the matter is that Leope’s gung ho tactics, and the fallout from them, have garnered him far more publicity – and thus free advertising – than he would have.

If Metro FM, the SABC and Forbes had just let the matter slide, Leope’s energy drink wouldn’t have been mentioned by just about every news outlet in the country.

Now the fledgling drink, which was launched late last year, has almost become a superstar.

DJ Sbu, untroubled by the Forbes saga, appeared on eNCA yesterday and tried to punt his drink once more.

The latest incident of DJ Sbu's ambush marketing was at the black industrialists indaba in Midrand today where he handed out cans of Mofaya to delegates.

DJ Sbu hands out MoFaya samples to delegates at the black industrialists indaba in Midrand. Picture: Xolani Mbanjwa/City Press

Ignorance or brilliant marketing at its best? DJ Sbu is fast-becoming a household name, above and beyond the 4 million-odd listeners that Metro FM claims.

On the City Press website alone, the statistics are quite telling.

Coverage around the popular DJ increased when Leope was suspended, and called a press conference to “please explain” and issued an apology to the SABC through the media.

Read: Suspended DJ Sbu apologises, says he could run the SABC

That article, which was published on March 18, scored Leope nearly 22 000 hits. Not bad, considering that he paid diddly squat for that publicity.

On Monday, City Press ran an article about DJ Sbu’s Forbes cover “scandal”.

Read: Forbes Africa and DJ Sbu in cover scandal

The article is one of City Press Online’s most-read at the moment, and has racked up nearly 12 000 page views.

If you factor in City Press’ estimated readership of about 462 000 that isn’t bad going. It’s far cheaper than paying for an actual advertisement for Mofaya or Brand Sbu.

At the moment, we are playing a waiting game. We are waiting to see if Forbes Africa will, indeed, sue him. And, if so, on what grounds. It would certainly make for interesting reading.

We are also waiting to see if he will pay for advertising his drink on the SABC platform, and whether he will be back on air soon. But the ignorance excuse can only be used once.

Leope is pushing the limits, and has used up any possible free passes he could qualify for on on-air commentary and Twitter, so all bets are on as to what stunt he’s going to pull next.

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