April Culture Report

Welcome to the April Culture Report, a 400-metre branded sprint round the human race-track. Editorial team: Kaeshelle RianneAlice CrossleyCaris DollardFrancesca BriginshawFrank BroughtonIsaac McMorrow.

DRUMMING UP THE OLYMPICS

The Olympics is a unique branding exercise, not only for the companies that pay for affiliation (or cleverly sneak into the conversation), but also for the host nation itself. Delayed by a year, constrained by covid, and tainted by sexist gaffes from its octogenarian boss – The Games has a lot to overcome. But the Olympics is also unique because its spirit is largely intact, and with the world in dire need of a lift, is quite capable of delivering. Just think back to 2012 when pending disaster over G4S’s no-show security guards became a distant memory after Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony.

So we’re rooting for Tokyo 2021, not least because – full disclosure – we have skin in the Games. For over a year Pitch and Sync has been coordinating a programme of collaborations with the iconic Kodo drumming troupe. Touring since 1971, Kodo revived the taiko style and showcased it to the world, becoming a Japanese cultural treasure in the process. We’ve connected them with musicians as varied as Skream, Sarathy Korwar, Equiknoxx and Tokio Myers, and we’re making this music available as themes, anthems and performances for Olympic coverage. But aside from any commercial interest, we’re hoping the epic Kodo spectacle can be a healing moment for us all – there’s nothing like some big drums to blow out the cobwebs.

Kodo performer and lead composer Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga, who led the project, puts it more eloquently: “Kodo has toured under the banner ‘One Earth’ for 40 years; a theme that embodies our desire to transcend language and cultural boundaries, and to also remind the audience of the common bonds we share as human beings. We truly believe in the power of our drums, and this chance to collaborate with artists all over the globe has further bolstered our belief that music and arts have the power to change the world.“

CULTURE CAMPAIGNS 

Outgrossing Weetabix to get young men talking
WAGAMAMA – KATSU CURRY SMOOTHIE

What would make you turn off your wifi?
PIZZA HUT – EARTH DAY

Robots on a date are as tongue-tied as the rest of us
JOSE CUERVO – CHATBOTS

DUDE, WHERE'S MY MEDAL?

Summer 2021 welcomes a host of youth- and brand-friendly new sports to the games. As well as a debut for karate and a baseball comeback, expect to see athletes scale walls in sport climbing, and take on waves and ramps in surfing and skateboarding. Nike teamed with skater-designer Piet Parra to design the official skateboarders’ uniform for France, Brazil and the US. Brands will no doubt take Olympic fashion up another notch when breakdancing enters the Paris programme in 2024. And thanks to a fresh lick of paint even the Eiffel Tower will be going gold. KAESHELLE RIANNE

GAMING WITH THE STARS 

Is recruiting celebs the best way to coax non-gamers into esports? EA Sports certainly thinks so. In their new live game show, FIFA Face-Off, singers Nicky Jam, Becky G and comedian Trevor Noah team up with pro players and lucky fans seeking to win $25,000. Elsewhere Celebrity Esports (CES) is launching a superstar league, pitting branded teams of celebs against each other. “It’s opening up esports to a market that hasn’t been tapped before,” says CES founder, Richard Farleigh, formerly of Dragons Den. With nutrition brand Grenade backing a team of Diversity dancers Banjo and Perri Kiely; and Primark enlisting Love Island star Kem Cetinay and pro footballer Chelcee Grimes, it’s any brand’s game. KAESHELLE RIANNE

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

No cheering allowed. No hugs, high-fives, singing or celebrating. The rules for the Tokyo Olympics are bleak. The extra-special measures are, of course, in place to limit coronavirus, but as Usain Bolt-backed sprinter Noah Lyles says, “I’ve competed in a stadium where the audience was silent and it was extremely weird; I think I would rather have nobody there.” The reigning 200m World Champion says he’ll compete anyway, but he’ll have to do so for a Japanese home crowd – as overseas fans are banned too. KAESHELLE RIANNE

NO FUNGIBLE WAY

Are headline-grabbing blockchain-based NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), just a gamblers’ craze, or do they offer creative opportunities as well? With moments like the burning of a Bansky turned into tradeable objects (it sold as an NFT for £274,000) their popularity among cryptocurrency speculators is assured. But NFTs also allow new ways for creators to monetise their work and allow artists more creativity when releasing new projects or mobilising their fan base, even if it’s largely the big names who are getting in first. Disclosure let fans bid on their first NFT releaseGrimes sold a collection of digital artwork including film clips for $6 million in 20 minutes, and Kings of Leon’s new NFT album release on YellowHeart comes with owners’ perks that could include a lifetime “golden concert ticket”. NFTs can also help artists reclaim the ownership and release of music, allowing them to control licensing and royalties without the need for a record label, using streaming services like Audius which let musicians gatekeep their content themselves. Similar moves are afoot in esports. ExeedMe is a blockchain-powered tournament platform that allows gamers to monetise their skill by competing against each other to win cryptocurrencies or NFTs. Its vision is to ‘build a fair and trusted “Play2Earn” platform where, “all gamers can make a living doing what they love the most.” All the excitement masks a darker fact, however: NFTs are terrible for the planet, eating vast amounts of computing-power every time they’re created or traded. One artist calculated that selling six video pieces used 9 megawatts of energy – the same as heating his studio for two years. Horrified, he set up http://cryptoart.wtf/ in response. CARIS DOLLARD