Income target set by SFI ‘forced’ marketing arm to choose SMFI

COMMITTEES in charge of organizing the Sinulog 2020 are targeting to surpass the income from last year’s festival by at least 12 percent, an official said on Thursday, January 17, 2020.

In 2019, the SFI said it earned P35 million, although it failed to provide supporting documents to the Sinulog Governing Board (SGB) regarding its financial report.

However, sponsorships and contracts entered into by the marketing team hired by the SFI were questioned on issues of “exclusivity.”

The latest involved the concern raised by Virginia Foods Inc. (VFI), a Cebu-based food manufacturing company and a long-time sponsor of the Sinulog, after the SFI awarded exclusive sponsorship to San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI), a Manila-based firm.

In a letter to Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella on Jan. 9, the firm appealed to Labella to allow homegrown food manufacturers to participate in the celebration by lifting the exclusivity arrangement, which bars players like them to sell their products at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC), the Plaza Independencia and the Fuente Circle, where City-led Sinulog activities are being held.

“We were informed that the reason we were not allowed to be a partner/sponsor this year was that SFI opts to engage in an exclusive sponsorship with San Miguel Foods Inc.,” said VFI president Felix Tiukinhoy.

VFI has sponsored the festival for over a decade.

“We are appealing in behalf of the local food manufacturers in Cebu to review and reconsider us small players to showcase and feature our products during the event,” said Tiukinhoy. “This is the most anticipated festival for all of us. We also believe that Sinulog is the best window for Cebuano companies to showcase and feature their products.”

Stanley Go, vice president for marketing at VFI, said they were saddened and disappointed by SFI’s move, noting that it denied local food manufacturers the opportunity to participate in the celebration in their own backyard.

“It’s like you are not invited to your own party,” he said. “We have distributors, retailers and wet food vendors during that time and we can’t sell.”

Go said that in the past, there wasn’t any exclusive food sponsorship arrangement. All homegrown players were able to participate in the big festival, an occasion where micro and small entrepreneurs made money selling hotdogs, barbecues and other food items along the grand parade route.

Other Cebu-based food manufacturers are Belcris Foods Inc., Sunpride Foods Inc. and King’s Quality Foods.

SMFI’s sponsorship agreement with SFI amounts to P2 million. VFI had offered P300,000 worth of exchange deals and in marketing.

SunStar Cebu tried to reach SFI executive director Elmer “Jojo” Labella for more details on the matter, but he had not replied by newspaper deadline.

SGB communications officer Angela Emphasis said they chose SMFI over VFI because the former offered higher revenues.

In the agreement, SMFI wants a competition lockout, which means there are areas only SMFI can sell and display its products, which include the CCSC grand stand and Plaza Independencia.

Emphasis said that firms and individuals that wanted to sponsor this year’s Sinulog activities were referred to the Nocturnal Creative Technologies (NCT), the private marketing arm hired by both SFI and SGB.

SMFI transacted with the NCT, while VFI submitted its offer to the SFI.

When marketing head Renault Lao learned about SFI’s proposal, he consulted SFI president Pericles Dakay.

“Marketing is about yielding strategy and you always choose who can give you more revenues,” said Emphasis. “Given the little amount of time, Nocturnal has resorted to enter into an agreement with entities that can give bigger offers and revenues.”

The SFI and SGB hired a marketing arm this year so they could both focus on organizing activities for the Fiesta Señor.

Emphasis said “nothing personal is going on here” since the marketing team was only doing its job, which was to earn money to fund Sinulog activities.

In an earlier interview, Labella refused to comment on the matter, saying he did not know about SMFI’s contract.

He said all sponsorship matters went straight to the marketing arm.

Dakay told SunStar Cebu in a text message that the marketing group will clarify the matter with VFI.

SunStar Cebu also tried to get the comment of Lao and marketing team director Jerome Calatrava, to no avail. (JJL, KOC)