What’s the value of a prize?

BAKE Chairman Kennedy Kachwanya with Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi at the signing ceremony
BAKE Chairman Kennedy Kachwanya and Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi trying to figure the right gift to appease Biko

The Short version

The value of an award is not the value of the prizes that come with it. If Bikozulu decides that the little gifts are the reason folks are attending an award ceremony then he doesn’t get the whole point. You’re better than this Biko. Seriously.

The Long version

I was one of the many folks who attended the Bake Awards that was hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel the other weekend. I went to these awards because I always attend these events; this is the third year of the awards and I am yet to miss one. This year I had an added incentive. This blog NairobiLiving.com had been nominated in the Lifestyle/Entertainment category; this was the first time it was up for an award.

So let’s talk about the Bloggers Awards. It’s now in its third year; in the first year it was in a small room at the Southern Sun in Parklands before last year it made the triumphant entry to the Intercontinental. The awards are evolving before my very eyes from not existing to being a serious awards evening.

So what is the point of the awards anyway? The blog scene in Kenya has blown up in the last few years. Now there are thousands of blogs putting out Kenyan content out there; we are punching above our weight on the continent where this is concerned. With so many blogs we need a system to give a nod to the people doing a great job for our blogosphere; enter the Bake Bloggers Awards. These awards have been good for me for the last three years. It is because of them that I have discovered so many cool new blogs that I would otherwise never have heard of. For the consumers of blogs, the awards are an opportunity for you to find new content.

It’s not only the consumer like myself who benefits from these blogs. The bloggers get to know who are in their category and sometimes meet them for collaborations if needed. They also know that they are on the right track as someone has vetted and shortlisted them.

Then there are the people who in the recent past have cottoned onto the fact that there is something big happening online in recent times and they need to be a part of that narrative; corporations. They won’t necessarily want to work with the Bloggers Association but they will know what is considered to be a great blog when they are planning.

On the award ceremony day I was excited to be at the Intercont meeting folks that I only meet via their social media timelines. These are the folks who you keep planning to meet for coffee/beers/spliffs and as you merrily live your life realise that it’s been a year already since you last met them. So it was a hallos and hugs and all that and more as I met people like Steve Biko, Mr Majani, Mwirigi aka #PoleKwaMwirigi, Magunga, Dear Doris, Potentash… Actually bloggers if you use that sample have very weird names. I’m just saying.

Then there was the nomination for the awards. What was very cool as far as I was concerned was that I was up against Ghalfa.co.ke in my category so I wasn’t too worried about winning it. Ghafla is the big bruiser in the Kenyan entertainment scene when blogging is concerned. These guys came to a scene that was owned by the legacy media and caused a revolution with pithy posts filled with innuendo and girls with big booty. The model has been so successful that it has inspired a string of copycat blogs that have enriched the Kenyan blogosphere with their “ratchetness.” I am quite happy with this state of affairs as for many years the only content that we would get from Kenya was very prim and proper politics, business and sport. We were inundated with what editors in newsrooms thought was important and not what the people might have wanted.

I wasn’t even sure why I was in the category with them but I knew that I would not be winning this it. All I hoped was that I was not beaten so bad that I wouldn’t be able to show my face in public again. Ghalfa.co.ke won; of course. I came a respectable third behind another showbiz site.

At one point as I was drinking copious amounts of Tusker at the event bar, Bake official James Wamathai came by and said to me as I complimented him and the team on another successful event, “thanks. But sorry about the awards in your category, we’ll try and do something better next year.”

That struck me as odd. We are at an award ceremony, why would be concerned about the extras given IF I was to win the big gong when that was not part of the program announced in advance. After the awards a blog post was written by the winner in the creative category Biko Zulu (told you they have weird names) with the title I got the Shirt. In it the usually hilarious Biko gives the middle finger to the people who organized the awards for giving him the following prizes; a cheap phone, a T-shirt (wrong size), a notebook and a pen. You could read from the text that this was a man who was pissed off at being handed such worthless baubles. Many of the people who commented supported his charge that they need to give more. Predictably.

Let’s look at the prize thing. What is the value of some of the most famous prizes in the world? You win the Nobel Prize you go home with over one million US dollars. When you win an Oscar you go home with a gold plated trophy, no cash. When you win a Grammy you go home with a trophy, no cash.

Let’s come closer home. What are the prizes that you are eligible for? The richest one out there is the Mohammed Ibrahim Prize. If you are an African president and you run your country properly without stealing or burning it to the ground you get US$5 million when you retire.

For the literati, if you win the Caine Prize for African literature, a prize for a short story, you win 10,000 UK pounds. When you win the Etisalat Prize for African literature, a prize for a debut novel, you go home with US$15,000.

What is the value of the prize that was given to him and eighteen other categories? The fact that you are winning these prizes today doesn’t mean that you will keep winning them. Sharon Mundia came for a coronation as best Blogger and best fashion Blogger and was upstaged by someone very few who are not blogging had heard about. Bankelele who has won the last two years was upstaged by another newcomer. Winning previously doesn’t guarantee future winning in this game.

You rant about an award ceremony that YOU DIDN’T SEE THE VALUE OF ATTENDING. If it was not worth your time to leave your house and join other bloggers and see what prize you were winning then why would you complain at the prize on offer? Is the value of the award only the prize you get? Should the organisers tell you in future what is accompanying the prize and will they need your approval on what you might possibly get before entering your hallowed name? What if next year they decide that the winner gets vouchers for dinner for two at Nairobi West’s West Mall would you withdraw your blog if shortlisted? I think that the pork there is to die for but maybe you aren’t a fan. Would I as a nominee have to forfeit that tasty pork because you do not approve?

Here is the thing. These awards are a platform. If you feel that the prize is the goodies that you get alongside the recognition then you really don’t get the point. Your blog is happy to post a “Bloggers Award 2015 Winner” image because you know that people who aren’t in your high school gang know that there is value in it.

I am in the High School Gang for a reason; I agree with many of your opinions. I was with you on your blast at the British High Commission at denying you a visa. I was with you on those Mothers Union underthings. On this one I am squarely on the other side.

4 thoughts on “What’s the value of a prize?

  1. I see your point. Nobody should look a gift horse in the mouth. But this was a Trojan horse.

    Thing is this. Airtel posits itself as Gold Sponsors. They lock out other telecom companies from sponsoring the event (read Orange). Then they go ahead and give a lanyard, notebook and Tshirt. These are the very same things that the nominees were given at a meet up with Airtel.

    The point is not in the value that a branded Tshirt has. They could have given something more relevant e.g. a modem with bundles in it – something a blogger needs to do his work.

    Airtel got a lot of publicity from that event. They should have at least reciprocated by asserting themselves more. Imagine the 2-month publicity they got from the voting phase. They ripped us off for real. Last year, Samsung sponsored and winners went home with tablets. Not Tshirts and lanyards.

    When you think about it, from what they gave and what they received, we (bloggers) sponsored Airtel. Not the other way round.

    1. Thanks for commenting Magunga. The thing is that the award shouldn’t be gauged by the baubles accompanying it. Winning it is enough.

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