Business

Cashing in on Brand Jamaica

By Julian Richardson Assistant Business Co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 03, 2012    

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Creative industries fuelled by 'Brand Jamaica' offer among the highest returns on investment yet remain widely untapped and neglected by locals, say industry insiders.

Howard McIntosh, a long-time investor in the local sports and entertainment sectors, said there's a misguided notion that one cannot make adequate returns on investment in the creative industries, notably, music, fashion and sports. In fact, he said, it is the those sectors that have made Jamaica into the strong brand name that it is today.

Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, the bobsled team and films such as The Harder They Come are popular examples of the financial power of Brand Jamaica and the creative industry, said McIntosh. But he turned to lesser-known figures, 'Reggae Boyz' football players Ricardo Gardner and Rudolph Austin, to provide hard evidence of the industries' potential. Local football club Harbour View sold Gardner to English outfit Bolton in 1998 for £1 million, while Austin was sold by Portmore United to English team Stoke for around the same amount in 2008.

"The typical investment period for a club in a player is about 12 years. Let's assume (the local clubs) spent J$1million a year for 12 years on each player," said McIntosh, who is an investor in Portmore United.

"When Harbour View sold Ricardo Gardner in 1998 for £1 million, back then that was about J$61 million on a J$12 million investment. Austin was sold in 2008 for £1,000,050, around J$116 million on a J$12 million investment," he continued. "These are examples that show that there are real economic returns in Brand Jamaica-type industries."

McIntosh made the remarks at a recent Walden University conference at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, under the theme "Leveraging Brand Jamaica, through Entrepreneurial Leadership: Post London 2012".

Arguing that the country's focus on more traditional industries have failed to achieve serious levels of economic development since Independence, McIntosh called for a paradigm shift towards the creative industries.

"We have done the same things over and over and in 50 years our economy has grown 0.2 per cent. We must now give the opportunity to industries that really make up Brand Jamaica and give them an opportunity to develop," said McIntosh, who has also invested in a sound system and cable sports network Sportsmax.

While Jamaicans fail to take advantage, foreigners have aggressively been trying to exploit the country's brand name, said Carol Simpson, executive director at Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO).

For instance, a French rock band named itself Jamaica to the displeasure of JIPO, which had no power to intervene.

What's more, immediately after the Jamaican Olympic team's historic performance in Beijing in 2008, foreigners looked to profit from the island's name on the international market. A Croatian company, for example, began marketing and selling a product called Jamaica Energy Drink.

"Here is an entrepreneurial opportunity that we haven't seen any business persons here taking advantage of," said Simpson, who noted that the Croatian company withdrew the product after protest from JIPO.

Simpson urged Jamaicans to explore opportunities associated with the nation's strong brand name against the background of the country's success in the recent London Olympics,

"Certainly after London 2012 we should think about how we market more aggressively products that identify with Jamaica," she said.

But McIntosh acknowledged that more institutional support is needed for Jamaica to maximise on the true earning potential of its creative industries and Brand Jamaica.

One of the first things that needs to be done to create that facilitating environment is the setting up of a venture capital fund, he said.

"We need a venture capital fund that gives young people the opportunity to access the capital markets," said McIntosh, who also urged Government to pass the Entertainment Encouragement Act which he argued has been languishing in parliament for more than a decade.

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