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How sustainable sports marketing can lift Africa up

Opinion

 

 Sudan's Salah Ibrahim, left, and Joseph Okumu of Kenya during a friendly match at Kasarani Stadium on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. [File, Standard] 

A recent news headline highlighted the impending demise of one of Kenya’s once renowned rugby clubs. As woeful and morbid as this sounds, it is nothing new.

In Kenya, sports development is still a relegated or optional activity at best, characterised by little policy advancements, player support or industry engagement over the years. Closely related to that, sports marketing is barely existent let alone thriving, as would be expected in a sports crazed nation such as Kenya.

That we love and appreciate sports is an understatement. Little however has been done to harness this latent potential in die-hard fans and enthusiasts alike, and which can be the key to turning around the fortunes of sports clubs, players and athletes not just in Kenya but Africa too.

Separate from corporate social responsibility initiatives few organisations can boast an independent investment strategy in sports through a sports marketing strategy or a sustainable partnership agenda that can propel both national and club sports in the country.

That is why efforts by sports betting firms in pushing the sustainability needle and bridging the capital and resources gap in Africa’s sports sector is to be commended and championed. Corporate partnerships, such as those with the Kenyan Premier League and the Kenya Rugby Union’s 7s circuit have not only helped to raise the profile of the leagues but continues to attract more fans to the games.

Granted, there are those who may feel that the betting industry does more social harm than good, we cannot overlook the role sports betting can play in promoting sports in Africa. For starters Kenya much like other African states has an emerging youth bulge. Faced with unemployment, peer influence and multiple other vices, a thriving and well-funded sports sector can offer successful career paths through exploitation of their sporting talents.

As important as financial benefactors may be to the game, perhaps the immediate problem in African sport is not a capital one but that of management and player welfare. This is the honey pot that if addressed will eventually attract the blue eyed corporate bear towards investing sustainably in professional sports in Africa. Truth is that sports betting is a rapidly growing industry in Africa, with more and more people choosing to play on-the-go. As technology changes the way people engage with the sector, institutions behind sports development cannot be left behind in harnessing potential for providing much better experiences for fans.

Marketing and sponsorship related partnerships offer the best opportunities for long-term and sustainable impact in transforming the quality and growth of sports in Kenya. Sports sector stakeholders must therefore come out strongly to be part of this important conversation.

The writer is Assistant Marketing Manager at SportPesa

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