Thursday, 09 October 2014 22:00

Brands looking to score with soccer sponsorships

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The investment is large and the potential returns can’t be easily quantified when brands throw their weight behind soccer teams and tournaments. Yet companies are increasingly looking to leverage off Africa’s passion for soccer to grow their brands.

In June, the African Marketing Confederation (AMC) website unpacked new research out of the US by the global McKinsey consultancy, which noted that about one-third to half of companies don’t have a system in place to comprehensively measure sponsorship ROI, whether for sporting or other events (‘Is sponsorship really worth it?’ 16 June 2014). Nevertheless, it seems brands continue to give credence to sponsorship’s impact.

 

Auto giant Nissan for example, recently threw its weight behind next year’s African Nations Cup soccer tournament taking place in Morocco between 17 January and 8 February. Already a sponsor of Europe’s Uefa Champions League and British Premiership club Manchester City, the company is looking to boost its market share in Africa by using the sport to target consumers to whom it may otherwise not have access, reported South African newspaper ‘Business Day’ when the announcement was made in mid-September.

“If we want to raise our presence here, what better way? Soccer has always been the number one sport in Africa,” said Mike Whitfield, Nissan South Africa MD, at the time of the announcement.

With an estimated population of 1,2-billion, Africa’s comparatively low level of vehicle ownership offers massive untapped potential for the car brand, according to Jim Dando, Nissan SA’s export sales GM. With a long-standing vehicle assembly plant in South Africa and the company already supplying parts to markets like Nigeria and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the company is committed to leveraging its sponsorship and associated continent-wide campaigns to further its interests in Africa.

Throughout the continent, numerous brands have steered their sponsorship budgets towards national soccer leagues and knock-out tournaments. In South Africa, banking group Absa continues to target the country’s considerable fan base with its long-running sponsorship of the Premier Soccer League (PSL). For the 2014-15 season, the bank has upped the ante by offering its customers additional rewards with discounts on Absa Premiership jerseys and access to the Rekaofela Fan Bus, which takes fans to matches, allows them to mingle with football legends, and enjoy free Wi-Fi and exclusive merchandise.

Speaking to soccer publication ‘Kick Off’, Roscoe Bowman, Absa Group Sponsorship Manager, said: “Football allows us to connect with fans through their greatest passion and the Absa Premiership is a perfect vehicle to engage with millions of die-hard football supporters.” As a result, the bank is fostering loyalty to the league as well as support of their brand by offering discounts and experiential marketing.

However, not everyone is convinced. While South Africa’s PSL is the richest soccer league in Africa, numerous clubs have yet to secure sponsorship, according to ‘The New Age’ newspaper. Companies are evidently increasingly wary of the financial outlays demanded by these deals. For example, upon signing a sponsorship deal with local Johannesburg club Moroka Swallows recently, South Korean car brand Hyundai expressed its desire to extend its global involvement in the game by supporting a South African team. However, while it appears to be considerably lucrative, the two-year agreement is “the shortest sponsorship deal ever signed in the PSL professional era”, the newspaper said.

Speaking about the need for more sponsorship deals and the benefits they offer, PSL official Ronnie Schloss said: “We are televising more football matches than any other league in the world and we expect companies to come on board.”

Aside from the corporate marketing potential offered by these sponsorships, in Africa they are also integral to the development of players and the soccer industry as a whole. For example, in Botswana the recent three-year extension of the sponsorship deal between the Botswana Premier League (BPL) and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) continues to advance the sport. Having sponsored the league since 2008, the company sees itself as empowering young talents to further their skills on a national level.

“Football is the number one sport and the passion that the people of Botswana have for the game is inspiring to us,” Kaelo Radira, BTCL’s Company Secretary told UK publication ‘SportsPro’. “We want to reward that passion and continue to help the BPL grow into one of the premier leagues on the African continent.”

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