Vodafone to Pull Rhythm and Vines Branding During Dizzee Rascal Performance Following Pushback

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Dizzee Rascal performing live in 2021. Photo Credit: Raph_PH

Newbury-headquartered telecommunications company Vodafone has announced that it will remove its stage branding from New Zealand music festival Rhythm and Vines – but only during the performance of London-based rapper Dizzee Rascal, without nixing the overarching sponsorship deal.

Vodafone’s partial pullback from Gisborne’s Rhythm and Vines, which kicked off today and features performances from acts including Sure Boy, No Cigar, and Kaylee Bell, just recently came to light in reports from multiple New Zealand-based outlets.

And these reports, complete with carefully worded statements from Vodafone execs, arrived after criticism was directed towards the decision to book Dizzee Rascal (real name Dylan Mills). The 38-year-old rapper, who is scheduled to perform at Rhythm and Vines tomorrow, was in April of this year sentenced after being “found guilty of attacking” his former fiancée, according to the BBC.

Said attack saw Dizzee Rascal harm the victim “by pressing his forehead against hers and pushing her to the ground during a ‘chaotic’ row,” per the same source’s description of the trial. The “Dance Wiv Me” artist “was given a community order with a 24-week curfew and told he must wear an electronic tag,” the BBC relayed, with the presiding judge having described his behavior as “‘abusive and aggressive.’”

(Needless to say, Dizzee didn’t help himself or his media image when he allegedly smashed a reporter’s camera after being found guilty.)

Predictably, certain fans and advocacy organizations promptly protested the decision to keep Dizzee Rascal (who boasts 3.04 million monthly Spotify listeners) on the Rhythm and Vines billing, and some questioned the decision to let him enter New Zealand at all.

Though organizers didn’t cave to the public pressure and pull the controversial creator, Vodafone opted to remove its branding from the 19-year-old festival only during Dizzee Rascal’s set.

Despite being “extremely disappointed” by Dizzee Rascal’s Rhythm and Vines participation, Vodafone emphasized in public remarks its ongoing support for the festival and the other involved artists. Of course, members of the music community have grappled with unprecedented difficulties due to COVID-19 lockdown measures and related restrictions, and touring challenges haven’t abated in 2022.

“We remain supportive of Rhythm & Vines and will continue our sponsorship of the many great musicians and acts that are appearing,” communicated Conor Roberts, who signed on as Vodafone’s New Zealand head of corporate affairs three months back.

“We’re committed to supporting the industry and local artists who have done it tough these past few years,” proceeded Roberts, whose employer has long sponsored the Aotearoa Music Awards and is expected to rebrand its New Zealand operations as One NZ in 2023.