By Paul Bassey
Saturday morning I watched the Algerian coach Rabah Saadane addressing a press conference. Behind him was this sponsors panel that had Hyundai, Coca Cola, Puma among other domestic sponsors and this set me thinking.

Few days after qualifying for the World Cup, the Nigeria Football Federation through its head of marketing said “it simply does not make economic sense for us to have all our national teams valued at just N150 million.

“Globacom’s contract runs out on December 8, but they have the right of first refusal, so we have written to them to offer the Eagles and other national teams at individual values.

If that was just it, fine. But the issue took an ugly dimension when the NFF went further to say that Globacom has not fulfilled their obligations in the current contract.

“They have written to us indicating that they would like to take up the offer but they have not fulfilled their obligations in respect of the current contract.
“They are still owing us N150 million that was due in January this year.”

This declaration angered the telecommunications giants who insisted they were not owing and threatened to go to court if the “NFF does not withdraw the statement.” The NFF leadership stuck to its guns and Globacom is yet to go to court!

While that fight remained unresolved, I woke up to another shock recently, and this time, it had to do with the same Globacom, this time, against the Premier League, NPL. The story has it that Globacom is complaining about the quality of the domestic league. That they are not getting value for money and are threatening to withdraw.

It was also alleged that Globacom made an offer of an initial quarter payment which the NPL leadership declined.
Before now, there had been issues raised by other sponsors, some of whom had to withdraw, the latest being Coca Cola.

After seeing the Algerian press conference, I called up two colleagues, Mitchell Obi and Ehi Braimah.
“Mitchell, is there something wrong with us. How come sponsorship here is not enduring?”

The acclaimed broadcaster then took me through a lesson in sponsorship and marketing.

“Etubom, the major problem here is that the products are badly packaged and not well sold. Contractual engagements are not transparently spelt out and people do not know what is at stake.

“If an organisation spends say N500 million to acquire a property, the same organisation should be ready to spend as much as that if not more, to leverage and exploit that property.”

Mitchell argued that sponsorship fees are just gates into a property. The moment you get in, you start to develop a corporate marketing strategy that will enhance equity and profitability advantage your goods and services.

In doing so, Mitchell cited the case of the environment that must boast elements capable of enhancing such sponsorship goals, especially the media.

Mitchell again. “I want to believe that the manner Glo came into sponsorship did not allow them a strategy as to how to leverage on its ideals.” He gave the example of the CAF Footballer of the Year Award which Glo does not celebrate until late. “That property should be an all year round event with regional awards brought in to spice and count down to the real thing.”

The NFF? “The leadership of the NFF should comprise men and women who are business oriented, not the present scenario where money is stolen and nobody bothers. For now, what we have within the football spectrum are people who do not understand what is at stake, who do not show any measure of transparency, commitment and organisational savvy…..”

The control of football at club level by government has also not helped matters because those at the helm of affairs have been “corrupted overtime by the spirit of philantrophy that sees them spoon fed by government by way of subvention.

“Even when you approach them with sponsorship opportunities the response is lackadaisical.”
Mitchel’s final word is for Globacom. He advises them to cling on to the league as it is the most viable property they will ever get for that amount, one that gives them value all year round, weekly.

Ehi Braimah is the CEO, Neo Media, who only recently was nearly burnt by the sponsorship war when Glo and the NFF sought to short circuit an awards project he ran for AIT with the support of MTN.
“Paul, get a copy of the current issue of M2 he advised and I heeded.

The current issue of the marketing and business paper has as lead, “ NFF AND FOOTBALL SPONSORSHIP: SETTING BRANDS AT LOGGERHEADS” in it the author Joseph Ekeng tried to go well back in history to trace the rivalry that has existed between brands no thanks to the NFF.

I QUOTE : You can – imagine how one will feel after agreeing on a sponsorship with an organisation, depositing the cheques and all of a sudden the deal is cancelled because someone else came into the picture.  That happened at the highest level of MTN leadership, so we don’t want to go through that again,” MTN’s General Manager, Consumer Marketing, Kola Oyeyemi says.

“We were once involved in  the sponsorship of the league, cheques exchanged hands and documents were signed.  But suddenly the tide changes, and since MTN is not in the habit of involving in messy deals, we opted out, “he adds.

But analysts reason that the real mess is in the nature of contract the Nigerian football authorities sign with sponsoring organisations which effectively shut all rival organisations from all other sponsorship windows and grossly undermines the marketing and revenue potentials of the product.

For instance, NFL’s title sponsorship contract with Glo, which the league body has refused to make public, is said to clearly forbid clubs from taking up shirt sponsorship, venue branding or score board advert from MTN, Zain or any other telecoms companies to augment the meagre N130 or 150 million they get for Glo’s titles sponsorship.

“Clubs should be at liberty to source for their own sponsors including any other telecommunication firm.  I have a case study in Ghana Premier League, where Globacom recently became the title sponsor.  There, there are some clubs that have TIGO (another telecommunication firm) as their shirt sponsor and also MTN too,” James Okafor, an Enyimba FC supporter  says.

In South Africa PSL, Telkom is a telecommunication company; so also is MTN.  Aside being a partner with the PSL, South African premier league body, MTN and other telecoms also do shirt sponsorship.  Ajax Cape Town has MTN as official Sponsor; Golden Arrows has MTN as Official Sponsor; Bloemfontein Celtic has Vodacom as Official Sponsor; Kaizer Chiefs has Vodacom asOfficial Sponsor; while Orlando Pirates also has Vodacom as Official Sponsor.
“There are so many things involved in football sponsorship.  There is title sponsorship, supportership, partnership, activation, media, production.  NFF has not exploited any of that……..

The question now is: if multiple sponsorships are working in Ghana, South Africa and elsewhere, why can’t they work in Nigeria? Sport analysts have blamed it on the inefficiency of the football house.  They argue that the inability of the football house in Nigeria to run football professionally and transparently, without political bottleneck, greatly undermines the prospects of the game in Nigeria.  “What the private sector craves for is a measure of excellence, a measure of transparency.

To put it in simple terms, when an organisation is run professionally and they can create value, in as much as that organisation can add value to a partner who wants to associate with that particular association, then they will find their benefits because this is a question of equity”, says sports analyst Sabinus Ikewuaku.

I conclude by saying it will be a pity if Globacom that has so far made a lot of in roads into sports partnership in Nigeria allows emotional factors to derail its objectives one in which it did not properly capture in the first place.
We are in the football era. Those who are in are advised to stay in, but with a lot of business sense in tow. Bye bye sponsorship for sponsorship sake.

Until we come your way again, here is wishing our Christian brothers and sisters the best of Christmas. Don’t forget Christ is the reason for the season.
See you next week.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.