Mullin, Hardy and Sutton in their book, Sports Marketing, Volume 13 have defined sports marketing as consisting of all activities designed to meet the needs and want s of consumers through the exchange process. Sports marketing, they add has developed two major thrusts: the marketing of sports products and services directly to consumers of sports and the marketing of other consumer and industrial products and services through the use of sports promotions.
There are success stories coming from the continent with regards to sports marketing. Sports betting brands are like Sportpesa have taken the industry by the storm, leaving critics to discuss where they came from and where they are headed. Locally, the brand has been visible by taking up sponsorship of Sportpesa Premier League and the flagship teams Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, Kenya Rugby Union. The brand got raving reviews globally when it partnered with Hull City and Southampton FC. That was a game changer. They went where no African brand has gone before.
Questions have been asked as to why Sportpesa had to go to England to sponsor English teams to the tune of billions and not invest the same amount locally? Apart from the fact that Sportpesa’s strategy is to go global, this question needs to be thrown back to our administrators in the local sporting fraternity. What is the value of the local sporting leagues? Can they deliver the same or more amount of publicity and value that the EPL delivered and will continue to deliver to the supporting brand? Looking at the structure of the leagues, it can be said that the Sportpesa Premier League and the Kenya Rugby Union are the only structurally visible “team leagues” in Kenya. They have done well to build their own brands. Even then, they do have a great opportunity to reinvest the amount they receive on brand building.
Leagues must invest in structures that support marketing as one of their strategies without which, brands find it difficult to invest their resources to sponsor or partner. Currently the Super 8 Soccer Tournament (also sponsored by Sportpesa) is ongoing. The grassroots league has created a buzz from the way it is packaged. See below
It has grown over the years due to its engagement with fans on digital platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter. It is said that sports is like a Mexican soap opera. You need consistency in telling the story, there must be stars in the story and there must be something that those who are watching are looking for in the long run.
Going back to brands and how they engage in sports, it’s important for marketing managers in corporations to understand that their brands must never take over from the sport. The example of Arsenal and the Emirates comes to mind, or any other major sporting team and its key sponsors. It is clear from this relationship that Arsenal is the key brand, but every fan or soccer enthusiast that you ask will tell you that they associate Emirates with Arsenal. In Kenya, brands that are approached to support sports events or leagues almost always want to hog all the limelight.
A lot needs to be done to get sports fully appreciated in the country, focus needs to shift into solutions that generate return on investment for the sporting brands and the partnering brands alike.