As we entered his expansive office somewhere off Herbert Macaulay Street in Yaba, it was observed that his television tuned to the SuperSport satellite channel 209 which shows exclusively African football.
It was airing a repeat broadcast of the Oriental derby between Enyimba International and Rangers International and our host sat animatedly watching every move. Intermittently, he cheered as any of the sides made a good move and turning he muttered, ‘and yet they say our league is bad”.
At a time Nigerians find it socially relevant to express passion for European football and clubs, it was pleasantly shocking to come across a company executive who professes undying love for the Globacom Premier League. Obi Nnaobi, the Chief Executive Officer of Arena Signages Limited, a match day branding and activation agency says he will go the extra mile to promote the domestic game.
“It is easier to love and follow the English League and European Champions League but that to me amounts to ‘passion laziness’, remarked Nnobi, a member of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN). To him, a preference for foreign football over the domestic league is akin to organizations needing outdoor services going abroad to invite companies to come and take over what Nigerians have been trained to do.
He claims to have visited a third of the domestic league venues in the course of feeding his passion to promote the league and also make it commercially attractive. “In Arena, we work with the League organizers and their partners to improve the ambiance of the pitch and deliver value to sponsors and fans who buy tickets to watch the match”, declared Nnobi who also insists that the quality of games in the Globacom Premier League is much better than the picture painted by critics.
He attempted to diagnose the issues thus, “The biggest problem of the domestic League is the poor and most time imaginary picture painted of it by people who even do not watch the matches and I know what I am saying because in the last six years, I have seen high quality and explosive games comparable with what you obtain in the so called foreign leagues.
What is still lacking here is appropriate packaging and my conviction is that the newly created League Management Company will resolve some of those problems”.
Arena Signage as a specialist match day branding company undertakes the construction and installation of pitch panels and other hoardings inside the stadium and other game venues such as Marathon, Basketball and Corporate events. He says it is the configuration of the boards that confers aesthetics to match venues to turn them into the beautiful spectacle we see both from the stands and on television at home.
“Game day branding is a huge stand alone industry and in countries such as England and France, you have such conglomerates as Sport Five managing stadium branding for the Premier League and Clubs in both countries.
In Spain, there is U-Media which handles Real Madrid and Barcelona as well as the Spanish La Liga game branding. There are several others and back here in Nigeria, there is Pamodzi which though has restricted its operations to the National teams and NFF activities”.
Nnaobi maintains that Arena Signages is the biggest and exclusively devoted to match day branding agency in the country. “What we tried to do in setting up Arena Signages was transforming our core outdoor practice to the games venues, outdoor and indoor.
It is highly technical and very professional hence we have trained Nigerians in line with FIFA and other international sports regulatory body standards to work for us across the country”.
He pointed out that Match Day Branding is a revenue-generating exercise for clubs but noted that sadly, the clubs are yet to come to grips with the huge opportunities available to them through the platform. “The pitch panels make the stadium look pretty but that is not the prime purpose.
Every message you see on the boards, be it the electronic or analog format is like airtime on television and radio. They are equivalent of advertising spaces in newspapers and out of home boards which the clubs are entitled to sell and make money. We help them prepare the grounds and attract commercial interest”, the Arena CEO explained.
On how clubs can benefit from the business, Nnaobi said his company usually secures marketing rights to manage the pitch for clubs and help to sell the spaces to non-competing brands of the League partners. “In 2010 and 2011, we secured Milo for six clubs namely Enyimba, Sunshine, Rangers, Heartland, Sharks and Gombe United. Because it’s still some kind of virgin trade here, the rates aren’t as huge as those of print and electronic media advertising presently”.
Arena has worked and is still working for other top brands such SKG Pharmaceuticals, Nestle, IGI Insurance, Guinness, PZ, LucozadeSport, LMC and SuperSport.
Beyond the League, Arena Signages has had footprints in events such as the 17th National Sports Festival in Port Harcourt where it worked in partnership with the organizers to prepare the venue for Athletics, Boxing, Basketball, Hockey and Football.
“We gave the Garden City Games the ambience that made the Lagos Games of 2012 look untidy. It was unfortunate that when we approached Lagos, they didn’t appreciate the depth of work required to prepare the grounds hence they used non-professionals to litter the stadium with banners. We only hope Calabar will not make the same mistake”.