The memorable Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup ends on Sunday and despite the absence of national football team Harambee Stars, entrepreneurial Kenyans cashed in on the month-long extravaganza.
With fans gathered at social places – pubs, restaurants and even churches – to watch the spectacle unfold as 32 nations battled for the ultimate honour of being crowned world champions, established and satellite businesses took advantage to make gains in the prevailing harsh economic environment.
Entertainment joints across the country organised special World Cup viewing packages for their patrons, with wide screen television sets mounted at strategic places to attract football-hungry fans.
While this is not a new concept, establishments, especially those in Nairobi, upped the game for Russia 2018 by engaging the services of popular sports personalities with huge following to woo patrons to their outlets.
The Saape Lounge chain of restaurants, for instance, tapped into popular local radio sports celebrity, Carol Radull, to front their World Cup viewing experience at their Kimathi Street, Thika Road Mall and Lavington Mall outlets and the turnout throughout the duration of the tournament was impressive.
They are also aware that during the World Cup month, competition is very high and consumers want an atmosphere where other people are watching. There is no way you can sit back and think your regular clients will come. They need to be enticed.
“Luckily, Radull has a few fans, there are people who want to sit and argue with me for 90 minutes and I guessed they leveraged on that to get their clientele. So far, when we did an event, it ended up so well,” said Radull.
By using the draw of her social media and on-air popularity, the flagging business managed to use the World Cup as a tool to reboot its fortunes.
In an age where consumer trends are dictated by social media, the 2018 World Cup has surpassed Brazil 2014 Mundial in terms of engagement – with 1.65 million references in the UK and 1.53 million in France alone on Twitter.
Away from entertainment joints, the biggest conference facility in the country, Kenya International Convection Centre (KICC), set up free viewing tents where companies set up stalls to push their products with a VIP section for those willing to pay.
Five giant screens were placed strategically to give the fans a 360-degrees experience. Among the firms that pitched tent at KICC were Homeboyz Entertainment, Techno Mobile, Telkom Kenya, Brew Bistro Restaurant, Carlsberg, Coca-Cola and gaming firm, SportPesa.
Russia 2018 also witnessed the SportPesa viewing and display truck, which has two giant screens mounted on its side, make stops at various parts of the Kenyan capital – En Market (Waiyaki Way), Em Bul Bul, Ngong, Tom Mboya Street, Ambassadeur and Eastlands – attracting sizeable crowds. Small-scale businesspeople capitalised on the free market to hawk their wares ranging from snacks, drinks, airtime and mobile phone accessories.
“I debated whether to leave my work and go into the pub across the road to watch the game but today, I’m killing two birds with one stone,” said Jimmy Maragi, a mobile phone dealer.
“I can still serve my customers and enjoy the match on such a clear and loud screen, it almost feels as though I’m in the stadium,” he said when the equipment screen showed the round of 16 clash between hosts Russia and Spain.
In many supermarkets and electronic goods shops, LCD and Smart flat-screen TV sets flew off the shelves as customers took advantage of World Cup offers.
“On the eve of the start of the World Cup (June 13), we sold 3,500 units, with the most popular buys being 32 inch to 43 inch sets, retailing between Sh32,000 to Sh43,000 since they were on offer,” said Abdi Shill, a salesman at Anisuma Traders on Luthuli Avenue.