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Where was Branding of Kenya during the New York Marathon?

Posted by Administrator on November 7, 2011

By Xpect Peter (Peter Kerre)

It’s unfortunate that on the one day of the year New York City comes to a standstill to focus on the world of running, Kenya, which produces the world’s greatest long distance runners has absolutely zero presence from a marketing and branding standpoint.

This is the one day that the Kenya government should have spend dollars marketing the country’s tourism sector…Banners on the streets along the parade route, Ads on TV, name it. Half the day, local major channels were airing nothing but the marathon and millions watched on TV.

This was Kenya’s big day, the superbowl of marathons…..yet no branding blitz? I’ve only seen Kenyan runners on TV Ads twice ( Subway Ad and Nike Ad). Never seen them promoting Kenya as a tourism destination.

There were several events this weekend leading up to the marathon such as parade of nations e.t.c. where over a hundred countries were represented by marching teams wearing country colors.

Kenya, who literally define the word marathon, had ZERO presence. New York City literally comes to a standstill for this event. There is a Kenyan mission to the United Nations which hastily convenes meetings and dinners in expensive hotels for Kenyans to meet and listen to politicians who sing the same songs over and over, but none ever put together to celebrate the runners who have given the country notorious fame.

It is not uncommon to even hear hip-hop rappers and stand-up comedians salute Kenya’s running capabilities. Today a 2 Kenyans shattered the NYC marathon world record, with the winner having done the same at the Boston marathon earlier this year……where is the big party from the embassy for the athletes?

If I didn’t have school and work commitments early tomorrow I would have put something together to at least thank them for their efforts, nevertheless, with my ‘Kenya’ shirt, I stood around central park for part of the day mingling and selling Kenya’s brand to the few people who congratulated me upon seeing my shirt.

It is unfortunate how much these national heroes are undermined. Unless cameras lie, it was sad to see the Kenyan runners cross the finish line tape with no officials on sight to embrace them. You should’ve seen when the Ethiopian ladies won, their officials were waiting for them with warm hugs.

You might think I’m bugging over this small issue but these small things count and I’m sure some of the millions watching were wondering the same thing too. It’s about time the Kenya government steps up its branding posture as well as feting of national heroes. What hapened today in NYC must NEVER happen again and if the govt cannot step in to cover these responsibilities, we the people will do so ( as we’ve been for a while now).

As an events promoter and Dj in New York City, I would’ve even helped with marketing and branding for FREE if the govt had provided the materials but the local mission here , as well as the one in DC are NOT in touch with the people on the ground.

They have never even sat down to think that if they could connect with the individuals who promote events and DJ, they could pull in the greater diaspora Kenyan community to help brand and market the country. I’ve tried reaching out to the Kenyan mission to the UN on several occassions as well as the Kenya Embassy in DC with ideas and all I’ve ever received is voicemails and no returned calls.

It appears that marketing of the Kenya image does not interest them. And to MagicalKenya ( Kenya Tourist Board), you need to seriously reconsider the ( probably multi-million dollar) contract you gave the random company http://www.myriadmarketing.com/ to market Kenya in the US.

What they are doing in the US is yet to be seen ( if anything is even being done) . I will not even bother trying to raise these concerns to the Kenya Embassy Washington D.C because they are notorious for inaction.

Stepping aside for a bit, I cannot forget to mention ‘Brand Kenya’. The so called ‘Brand Kenya’ is a Kenya govt funded initiative which is supposed to do as its name spells out. Where were they? I just got off the phone with a friend  Wilson Wahome from http://www.runwithkenyans.com/ who has taken it upon himself to start an initiative that honorsour Kenyan runners.

He was in New York city this weekend to welcome the runners and to let them know that someone somewhere cares. Per our conversation, he actually did reach out to the Brand Kenya folks earlier this year specifically talking about the New York City marathon and how Kenya could be branded….they of course brushed it aside.

It irks and annoys me to think that someone is actually paid to go to work and Brand Kenya and are slacking on their job while some of us out here do that everyday for free. The members on that board will probably read this note from their ipads as they ride in their ‘Brand Kenya’ purchased mercedes benz vehicles.

What measure is there in place to make sure that these people are actually doing their job? Where was Brand Kenya when the Lion King movie premiered last month? don’t you think that would’ve been a good time to let Americans know that they are welcome to visit the land where Simba resides? there is a consistent waste of opportunity to market and brand Kenya from a tourism standpoint and there is no telling when this will end.

If you are a Kenyan in the diaspora or even in Kenya reading this note, I would like you to get angry about this. I actually hope you are getting angry about this because that energy can inspire you to act. Should we be drafting an official letter and sending to the highest organs of the Kenyan Government?….and if that is not effective enough, should we rally diasporans to collectively take out whole page ADs in the major Kenyan newspapers to air out these issues? I really hope that the media folks address this NYC marathon shortcoming. We cannot keep burying our heads in the sand.

I would like to end this note with an idea……..that effectively immediately, we diasporans need to form a ‘Diaspora Kenya Ministry of Tourism’, USA……..a somewhat “Brand Kenya USA” movement. We need to make it as formal as can be, register the organization as a non profit, and use our own funds to make sure we market and brand Kenya at every opportunity possible, especially whenever there are major events.

We will not be presenting ourselves as government officials of any sort so we do not need to do anything through the embassies ( who do not want to work with the people anyway). We could touch base directly with hotels, tour companies, and other tourism industry folks back home and work directly with them. Revenue for the org would be generated via sale of Kenya branded merchandise.

We could also put together speaking and performance tours by ambassadors from various fields such as artists, runners, film makers, fashion folk, name it. If there is anyone or anything out there that could help Brand Kenya, we need to be on it.

This is an idea I have, and it could turn into reality with the right minds involved. And this is not a F.U. to the Kenyan govt officials, it’s pretty much taking initiative on our own but if they are down to sit together at the table to chart the way forward as a team, it’s open season.

The target of this branding and tourism would not just be to foreigners but even Kenyan Diaspora. I run a facebook group ( Kenya Bunnies) from which hundreds of members fly to Kenya every December and are ocnstantly looking for ways to enjoy themselves….that is revenue from tourism.

Last year December I received hundreds of requests from ‘Bunnies’ ( Diasporans) looking for info on hotels, rentals, name it…and I had to literally make calls around connecting people to resources. These diasporans bring in millions of Kenyan shillings every December, you would think Kenya Tourism board would want to jump on to such an opportunity right?

Anyway, If you’re down or even at least want to be kept in the loop on where this will go, e-mail me peterkerre@fas.harvard.edu and I will be in touch.

For now, please share this note, be angry, and in turn motivated to create and be that change. If this note gets passed around enough, it will indeed get to people who can effect and be part of this change. Cheers!

Peter Kerre


New York City

Twitter: @djxpect



2011 ‘Spirit Of The Moran Award’ Recipient, African Awards, US

2011 ‘Peace Initiative Award’ Recipient, Jamhuri Awards


2 Responses to “Where was Branding of Kenya during the New York Marathon?”

  1. Hannah said

    There’s no guarantee that even anger to the point of taking action will get things moving but it is a good starting point. This is a widespread issue within most countries in Africa. Within my neighborhood and community, I got tired of attending meetings with no implementations and follow ups. Now when I find myself in such situations I look at one issue I can tackle and embark on it from start to finish. If I’m in a committee I refuse to work with habitually tardy members with no respect for my time.
    All the best!

  2. Riako said

    This is an observation made by many. What I didnt know is that some people even went to an extent of ‘reminding’ brand kenya of the work we are paying them to do but to no avail. Then soon we’ll see may be another round of shuttle diplomacy, politicians spending millions with no apparent results. it’s sad.

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