Friday, September 30, 2016

Sports Sponsorship should be made more impactful, sustainable

In the past five years, hundreds of millions of shillings have been pumped into various sponsorship initiatives in this country.
In addition to soccer and rugby, which have received immense support from betting companies, telcos and beverage manufacturers, athletics has also been at the funnel-end of a lucrative web of organisations keen on contributing to Kenya’s economic growth through sports.
A decade ago, the sponsorship conversations revolved around specific initiatives like stadia development and specified tournaments or partnerships with sports governing bodies. The board leaders then were Safaricom and EABL, yet little did we know that those would not be long term flicks. The betting companies moved in and changed the sponsorship game not only on the numbers front but also in regards to the objectives of sponsorship.
Considering the huge amounts involved, you would imagine that sports and event sponsors would have clear answers when asked about their expected return on investment (ROI). You would be wrong to assume that.
A simple dipstick survey among key stakeholders reveals that about a third to half of sponsor companies do not have a system in place to measure sponsorship ROI comprehensively, which potentially costs these organizations in many ways. Failure to comprehend the impact of sponsorship on our economy through sports might just be one of the key reasons for our poor performance in various sports. .
To manage sponsorship spending effectively, stakeholders must first develop a clear sponsorship strategy—the overall objective of the sponsorship, the target demographic, and which area the sponsorships can support. For instance, a lot of funding has been pumped into the soccer arena in this country; the national league plus the top five league teams command a staggering one billion in terms of sponsorship.
While this figure looks appealing, the general growth of the sport is wanting. All we have been doing is adopting short term measures of branding team apparel and stadia, which has contributed zilch to the growth of the sport.
In an ideal situation, potential sponsors should be jostling for strategic opportunities to put up or revamp stadiums in the outskirts of Nairobi which would serve as feeders to the league groups. Granted, we have Wanyama at Tottenham in the English Premier League, Mariga in Serie B, Italy. But what we require to drive the sports agenda as a nation is a strategic plan that is supported by a talent identification mechanism at the grassroots level as well as development of sports infrastructure that is driven by government in collaboration with sponsors.
Without a doubt, sponsorships have the potential to reach beyond short-term sales to building a brand’s identity. Brand strength contributes between 60 and 80 per cent to overall sales, making this benefit critical for sustained, long-term sales growth.  
While in the beginning it might make sense planting all your logos on Yego’s apparel for visibility and brand identity, as a brand you are likely to reap more value if you took the bold step of establishing where Yego and his javelin prowess originated from and set up a world class Javelin training facility that is open to locals. In five years, your brand could be hosting its colours on 10 athletes flying high in the junior championships and by the time you are done with the medal marathon in junior championships, half of that team will have joined the national team. At this level you could get nothing short of Olympics glory for your brand!

On soccer, the journey to the EPL might not be just through the apparel. It should be be a journey for many local stars who in return will deliver national glory for the country and your brand too.

This article was also published in the Business Daily 

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