The unexploited frontier of Kenya’s rich sports heritage

Sportspesa unveiling the KPL partnership deal

 Kenya has not fully exploited its full potential in sports marketing. There is enormous opportunity for brands to market itself through sporting activities.
QUOTE: “They (major brands) could not be investing in sports marketing if there is no money to be made. This is simply big business that we have not understood locally,” Prof. Bitange Ndemo.
By COSMAS MOTANGI
Harambee Stars, Kenya’s national football team, was preparing to face Togo’s national football team, Les Eperviers (The Sparrow Hawks), in the Orange Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Nairobi in early 2012.
The spirit was high among the Harambee Stars players who were assured of their bonuses and other incentives following the team’s signing of a three-year KSh 10 million sponsorship deal with East African Breweries Limited (EABL).
Yet, all was not well between the Stars and EABL, the team’s sponsor and the country’s largest brewer. This is because three key players – then France-based striker Dennis Oliech, his then Italy-based counterpart, MacDonald Mariga, and Kenya Premier League striker Bob Mugalia -were threatening to sue the brewer for using their images on a billboard without their consent.
The company, however, disputed their account saying it had a contract with the national team containing clauses that allowed it, as a sponsor, to use images of the team’s players in promotions. The matter was, however, later amicably resolved.
Sports marketing
Welcome to the world of sports marketing, which Dr. Russell Hoye, an associate professor in the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia, says is the application of marketing concepts to sports products and services, and the marketing of non-sport products through an association to sport.
Prof. Hoye says it has two key features, first, the application of general marketing practices to sport-related products and services, and secondly, the marketing of other consumer and industrial products or services through sports.
“Like any form of marketing, sport marketing seeks to fulfil the needs and wants of consumers. It achieves this by providing sport services and sport-related products to consumers,” he says.
It is not surprising the sports personalities, including Kenyans, have been bagging lucrative sponsorship deals with different companies.
Prof. Bitange Ndemo, an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business, says that from the advertising point of view, there is no better way of marketing sports products other than leveraging on the image of the athletes who are sometimes icons across the world.
“They (major brands) could not be investing in sports marketing if there is no money to be made. This is simply big business that we have not understood locally,” says Prof. Ndemo.
Brand ambassadors
It is a view shared by Dr. X.N. Iraki, a senior lecturer, University of Nairobi, who says major brands sponsor prominent sports personalities because it is very profitable. “They use sportsmen and women because they are well known, hence attract customers. Think of how many golf enthusiasts would want to be associated with any product being marketed by Tiger Woods or in tennis by the Serena sisters,” he says.
This holds true in Kenya where, for instance, Paul Tergat, Kenya’s former world marathon record holder, stared in the Johnnie Walker whisky’s global ‘Walk With Giants’ campaign.
Also, former Olympic and world 3000m Steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, has been the Tusker ambassador while the world champion, the African and Commonwealth record javelin holder, Julius Yego, is the Telkom Orange internet ambassador.
According to the second edition of PwC outlook for the global sports market, while the commercial dynamics of sport and entertainment have always overlapped, the two are now closer than ever before.
“In many cases, sporting entertainment and commercial success are now seen as two sides of the same coin,” says the PWC report titled ‘Changing the game: Outlook for the global sports market to 2015.’
The report’s findings show that sports’ marketing is now big business. “We project that global revenues from sports sponsorships will increase from USD35 billion (KSh 3.5 trillion) in 2010 to USD45.3 billion (KSh 4.53 trillion) in 2015, a 5.3 per cent compound annual increase,” it notes.
Enormous opportunities
Industry watchers, however, note that Kenya has not fully exploited its full potential in sports marketing. Dr Iraki attributes this to a presence of very few big brands to effectively compete to sponsor the athletes and other sports personalities. “We have also do not understand the potential (of sports marketing). To exploit this potential, we must invest in sportsmen who can make global marks in the league of golf great Tiger Woods and ride on them,” says Dr. Iraki.
Prof. Ndemo concurs that there is an enormous opportunity for Kenya to market herself through her sportsmen and women. “We have not, however, fully exploited that because we always look to the government for any form of funding. We need to change that and start using corporates to sponsor our sports activities and personalities.”
Prof. Ndemo, the former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, adds that Kenyan firms like East Africa’s most profitable company mobile phone service provider, Safaricom, and banks like KCB and Equity should be the official sponsors of the Kenyan team to Olympics. “This would lessen corruption as we can attest from the last Olympics.”
Indeed Kenya firms are slowly warming up to sports sponsorship with betting firm, SportPesa, sponsoring the English Premier League (EPL) football club, Hull City, and Kenya Premier League (KPL) football clubs AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia.
Safaricom is sponsoring a number of athletics activities and rugby, Kenya Airways sponsoring the Kenya’s Safari 7s team while EABL has sponsored KPL club, Tusker, Mathare United is sponsored by Britam and Thika United by Brookside Dairy.
Email: motangic@gmail.com

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