By Takemore Mazuruse
Brand endorsement deals have become a common phenomenon in recent years with most public personalities enjoying the perks and pomp that comes with such engagements.
However, some have little to show for these much-publicised endorsements which are sometimes accepted for show and a “feel good experience” on the part of the contracted personality while the contracting companies reap enormous rewards.
Local celebrities that have been bestowed with such honour range from artistes, sports personalities, media practitioners and in some rare cases political activists.
One such public personality who has had countless endorsement deals is sungura kingpin Alick Macheso whose past and present endorsement deals range from retail giants, mobile network service providers as well as global humanitarian players to name a few.
Macheso, while acknowledging that endorsement deals sometimes come with good perks said it was the Humanitarian Ambassador status he got from the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society in February 2013 which has been more fulfilling.
“Most of the endorsement deals I have signed over the years were more about growing brands while I in turn get some financial or material returns,” Macheso said.
The sungura maestro who had been involved in a lot of charity work before the Red Cross signed him up in February 2013 reckons there is no better fulfilling endorsement than the work he is doing with the organisation.
“I never had it easy growing up. I don’t know my father and my only pillar of strength was my mother who had to do menial jobs for us to survive,” Macheso revealed.
“Growing up under difficult circumstances made me appreciate that there is more to life than money. Even when the heavens smiled on me, I remained in touch with my roots and continued to assist many who struggle to put a meal on the table,” he said.
Macheso is one of the few artistes who started the Chitungwiza Hospital fund-raising concerts to buy equipment and materials for the referral hospital.
He has paid school fees for orphaned children and assisted many destitute and needy people.
That heart to assist others has spread to the music field where he has helped upcoming and ailing fellow musicians to get by.
The multi-award-winning sungura star said it was these seemingly minor good deeds that made the Red Cross choose him, an assertion confirmed by Zimbabwe Red Cross Society secretary-general Maxwell Phiri.
“The ‘working with celebrities’ campaign was mooted at a Regional Communications Forum organised by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in South Africa and for us Alick was shoe-in given his philanthropic record, his selflessness and the ability to work with everyone regardless of social status,” Phiri said.
Five years on, the Red Cross-Macheso humanitarian marriage still remains intact and the singer is happy where he is.
“Working with the Red Cross has broadened my appreciation of humanitarian challenges and the roles we can play in reducing risk and effectively respond to emergencies and disasters as they arise,” Macheso said.
“While I was only able to assist those I directly came in contact with during musical shows or community engagement, the Red Cross has taken me to every corner of Zimbabwe on purely humanitarian missions and I now understand the diverse challenges communities face,” he revealed.
True to Walter Reuther’s assertion that there is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men, there is no greater contribution than to serve the weak and there is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well, Macheso says humanitarian work has added meaning to his life.
“Being an accomplished person and in my case a celebrated musician has its pitfalls.
“There is a tendency to lose yourself and become too endorsed with vanity but I am happy that working with the Red Cross has given me stability and better appreciation of society,” Macheso said.
The sungura star said it was interesting to note that what we call challenges in the much more privileged communities is actually a luxury in the disadvantaged communities.
“I have travelled to areas where communities struggle to get a basic meal and I am not even talking about ‘luxuries’ like relish but just getting the maize meal and in some instances they go for weeks on wild vegetables only, no starch,” he said.
“Working with the Red Cross has made me realise the value of meaningful humanitarian work.
“The Red Cross goes to homeless people and leaves then sheltered, it goes where people are hungry and leaves them fed and it goes where people have no hope and leaves them hopeful and confident of the future. Indeed there is no greater satisfaction than this,” Macheso said.
Affirming Macheso’s commitment to serving humanity, Phiri said they had recorded value and witnessed great dedication working with Macheso.
“Macheso is not a superstar when it comes to humanitarian work. He comes down to the ordinary man’s level and he has in many cases left beneficiaries in tears moved by his selflessness,” Phiri said.
Macheso’s work with the Red Cross includes local resource mobilisation where he amplifies the voice of the marginalised and disadvantaged through calling for local and international support.
Macheso is also instrumental in advocacy work and public education given his influence and international acclaim.
“Macheso has become a part of our various campaigns, preparedness work as well as response efforts like community education on cholera as well as health and hygiene promotion through road shows,” Phiri said.
Macheso who has been part of various campaigns around food insecurity and floods disasters, the Chitungwiza blast houses reconstruction, Tokwe Mukosi Floods, first aid education and community education on health and hygiene says he could not have asked for a better home.
“The relationship I have with the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society is that of a father or mother and their child. They have given impetus to my work through wise counsel and technical support while I also support the work of the organisation through various campaigns.
“That aside, I am finding fulfilment from reaching out to those in need. I can sleep peacefully at home knowing I have put a smile on someone’s face,” Macheso said.
Indeed Macheso has risen above an ordinary musician’s status through his humanitarian work and it is hoped many derive inspiration from his work and attitude towards the less privileged. DailyNews