…or… Sponsorship is a Two Way Street
As some of you have surely read, Gulnara Karimova’s GULI jewelry company was a sponsor of Nights in Monaco, a gala benefiting the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and President Clinton’s Clinton Foundation. The gala was scheduled to coincide with the Cannes Film Festival and managed to attract a small handful of well-known celebrities.
In the grand scheme of things, Gulnara showing up at an event like this is has almost no directly measurable material consequence. On the other hand, official media trumpets everything that Gulnara’s various tentacles touch, and the aggregate provides the state with fodder for reinforcing its message that Uzbekistan is a very important country doing very important things and being taken very seriously by important foreigners (thanks to the government’s wise policies). Internationally, Gulnara, particularly via the Fund Forum, seems to be trying to soften Uzbekistan’s image, though it’s impossible to tell whether or not this is intentional. Regardless, it probably is not changing minds about Uzbekistan’s government.
So, should anyone care about Guli sponsoring Nights in Monaco? At EurasiaNet’s Choihona blog, Ashley Cleeksays the relationship between Gulnara and the big names at the event are all in Gulnara’s mind.
Anyways, Karimova didn’t secure a photo with Bill Clinton. And neither his website nor the website of Prince Albert’s foundation makes any mention of her, her foundation, or her jewelry brand. So it seems all she got was some PR back home in daddy’s kingdom.
Some might want to ask Clinton and Albert why they have linked themselves to Uzbekistan’s brutal ruling family. But the more appropriate question might be: Are they linked in anybody’s mind but Karimova’s?
While Gulnara’s various websites and the Uzbek press are overstating the importance of Guli to the event, Cleek is really glossing over this and giving a total pass to the organizers of the event (who should not be confused with Prince Albert II or President Clinton). Guli is “buried” in the sponsor rotation at the Nights in Monaco sponsor rotation banner in the first position, it gets a full page in the auction brochure with the small handful of other items up for auction, the logo is all over red carpet photos, and Gulnara got her picture taken with a couple celebrities (Billy Zane lives!). Sure, we might not fall for it, but this is a small victory in Gulnara’s campaign to con other vapid, wealthy, jet-setters into legitimizing her self-proclaimed status as a bona fide fashion icon/pop singer/businesswoman/ambassador/PhD/philanthropist.
Cleek is right to say that Gulnara is making herself seem the center of attention (when it was this or this). But sponsorship requires consent of a sponsee as well as a sponsor. By taking her sponsorship payment, the organizers of the event gave Gulnara the opportunity to buy a place with the fabulous people in the area for Cannes while avoiding past controversies.