Heritage does not lay solely in the sites that can be visited and seen, but also in the people, their words, music, and dance; also known as folklore. For Saudi Arabia, the revival of its heritage and its documentation for future generations is of utmost importance. So much so, that the kingdom has made it one of the most prevalent aspects of its Vision 2030.
It is assumed that the country’s first inhabitants arrived around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, and from that moment on the Saudi heritage just kept on expanding beyond what we may even be able to comprehend today. Folklore comes in so many forms that it can sometimes be easy to lose track of what is real and what is made up.
To keep that confusion at bay the kingdom’s Ministry of Culture (MOC) devised a plan to digitize as much of it as it possibly could and share it all with the local and international public.
Folklore with a dash of competitive spirit
Sometimes an initiative’s gain is not financial nor futuristic but rather something simpler, something closer to community bonding. That is what the MOC set out to accomplish when it launched its Folklore Competition in 2019. It’s true, there may have been a prize for the final 26 winners, but that was not at all the main goal.
Folklore is merely the act of passing down past knowledge, customs, stories, and beliefs through the generations with words, music, and even dances. What better way to bring people together than through entertainment and culture? So, TAM looked to its engagement experts to put together a pragmatic competition that would please the audiences and the Saudi folklore community alike.
The competition was designed to encourage individuals and establishments to participate to keep the competitive spirit alive for nothing but pure enjoyment and keeping the local heritage alive in the process would not hurt. It was also a good excuse to create a digital database of all the documented folklore, just in case it winds up fading over time. TAM could not allow for thousands of years’ worth of history to simply wither away, and so it got to conducting the necessary operations, beginning with the competition’s website and submission platform.
TAM marched on over to social media to spread the word using infographics, promotional videos, polls, and static posts (including informational, motivational, and promotional) across the MOC’s Twitter accounts and YouTube channel. Even the online audio distribution and music sharing website SoundCloud was utilized for Folklore.
TAM’s digital marketing efforts resulted in a reach of 15.7 million - which was good, but not good enough to satisfy the team. Now was the time to forge ahead with direct marketing tools, such as telephone calls, emails, text messages, influencer marketing, and Folklore ambassadors. This garnered another few hundred thousand in reach, pushing the total website visits to 315,000.
The competition saw over 1,300 participants across its three categories: folktales and legends, folk dancing, and folk music. These contestants would initially need to go through a filtration process to determine their eligibility according to the necessary standards. To cut down on time wasted, TAM utilized a filtration system dedicated to the competition. Once that was completed, the remaining would be evaluated using a question-based rating system which resulted in the acceptance of 400 participants.
Finally, was the judging process, conducted by a panel of eight field specialists using a designated digital sorting system. After much consideration, the judges decided on the 26 winners: 10 for the tales, 8 for the dance, and 8 for the music. Finally, the winners were announced over social media through their personal, ambassador, and influencer accounts.
“Through years, I have a lot about folklore and its importance. And today I am very happy as we see the Ministry of Culture making great strides to support and document folklore and that is due to its great importance, and because our region is full of the most exceptional arts. Thank you MOC Saudi and Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud.” - Content creator and influencer, Naid Hadi. (Translated Twitter Post)
The celebrations were conducted digitally, but that did not deter people from having a good time, even if it was through recorded video and social media posts. There was of course the added bonus of a prize for the winners, but again that was not the point of the competition. It was just one way for the public to engage with each other and participate in some lighthearted competition while keeping the kingdom’s culture in circulation.