So far, it has been a successful 21 years of career development, youth empowerment, economic and nation building, via an initiative of Promasidor Nigeria Limited which has consistently organised Cowbellpedia Secondary School Mathematics TV Quiz Show, targetting the development of science and technology in Nigeria.
In this interview with Nosike Moses, the Marketing Manager, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, Abiodun Ayodeji, explains the journey and impact of the competition. Excerpts:
When we mention Promasidor, what comes to your mind?
Promasidor is about providing quality nutrition to the Nigerian people. This has been since inception in 1993 that we pioneered powdered milk in small portions in sachets at affordable prices that made milk a good source of protein accessible to most Nigerian homes and families.
Also, we immersed ourselves in the lives of consumers to understand how milk is consumed and we launched Cowbell Chocolate and Cowbell Coffee. These are convenient 3 in 1 propositions that the only task required of a consumer is to add water and you have a complete beverage.
Our guiding principle is understanding the consumers pain points and helping them to solve it through our products and brands. There are some major nutritional deficiencies in sub- Saharan Africa which are Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Iodine, Folate, Protein and Promasidor products fortification strategy has been along this direction. Loya Milk is fortified with Calcium (Hi-Cal) which helps in building strong bones, tough teeth and healthy heart, Cowbell Milk is fortified with VitaRich plus Vitamin B9 (folate) which helps in building strong body and sharp mind and Cowbell Chocolate has VitaRich plus Iron for that get up and go energy.
Our latest entrant into the market is SunVita cereal, is fortified with Nutri V a unique blend of Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Vitamins that help children grow smarter and stronger so that they can function at their best every day.
How is your latest product, SunVita fairing in the market?
Trade and consumer acceptance is encouraging and doing well in the market. The team’s effort has been on retail availability and trial. We are doing a lot of trade pipeline filling. Recently, we commenced the TV, Radio and online campaign and we envisage the positive response to continue.
One of Promasidor’s major CSR initiatives is the Cowbellpedia Secondary School Mathematics TV Quiz Show. What informed the involvement of the company in this project?
For Cowbell and mathematics, the journey started about 21 years ago as a Lagos-based initiative. Presently, it has become a national affair. In 2016, we brought all Cowbell interventions on Mathematics under an umbrella, Cowbellpedia which is a brand asset of Cowbell Milk to provide a platform to reward excellence in the subject area of mathematics irrespective of where you come and social strata. This is in line with the essence of the brand i.e. providing affordable quality nutrition to every Nigerian child.
No nation can truly develop without a conscious investment and effort in Science and Innovation, and mathematics is the bedrock of these two. Also, you will agree with me that a lot of students have a phobia for this subject area and with the Cowbellpedia platform, we have been able to stimulate the interests of many students in mathematics.
Cowbellpedia has 3 major legs; Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools TV Quiz Show, Cowbellpedia Radio Maths Class which is a 5 minutes class on radio and Cowbellpedia Mobile App that can be downloaded on Google Play store on android devices and App Store on Apple devices.
Why are you so convinced about this approach?
It’s important to demonstrate to students that mathematics is easy and fun to learn; it would help a lot of them who have phobia for mathematics. That is what Cowbell has done to demystify mathematics. We figured out that if we could let our students become more interested in mathematics, our nation Nigeria can truly become the giant of Africa. Even in commerce, if you are doing a “Profit and Loss” statement, you need to be able to add and subtract. And everything is around Mathematics. If an average student has an interest in Mathematics; he would excel in science, commerce and all the spheres of life.
Has the competition been able to meet its objectives?
Yes, it has. The objectives are to awaken the consciousness and interest in mathematics among junior and senior secondary school students in Nigeria, improve students’ performance in mathematics, Pan Nigeria, create a credible platform for identifying outstanding students and encouraging excellence in mathematics, provide a creditable platform that will reward excellence in the subject area of mathematics. Student enrolment has been increasing on a yearly basis and in 2019 we have the highest in the history of the competition at over 56,000 students. Also, the brand’s top and bottom line has moved in sympathy with this direction.
What has been the high-points of sponsoring the competition over the years?
It has been a symbiotic relationship; the brand and the Nigerian child have gained a lot. In terms of high point, an example is master Ayodeji Akinkuowo, the student that won in the senior category of maiden edition of the Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics TV Quiz Show. He got a government scholarship to study aeronautic engineering in Russia. This was possible, because he made his life’s dream of becoming an aeronautic engineer known during the competition.
Another high point is Munachi Ernest-Eze who won the Junior Secondary School category in 2015. Two years later he won the Senior Secondary School category. It shows consistency.
Last year, in celebrating the 20th relationship between Cowbell Our Milk and Mathematics, we added some new dimensions to the Cowbellpedia initiative. We had the Cowbellpedia Academy in partnership with some foreign universities and Professors aimed at driving support and interest in mathematics by exposing selected students and teachers across the country to various teaching and learning techniques in achieving, sustaining and managing academic feats especially in mathematics.
Also, we did a documentary, Milk of Kindness which focused on the lives of Cowbellpedia participants and the impact the brand has had on their lives and families.
What do you think is responsible for the upsurge in the enrolment figure for the competition this year?
I would like to thank our partners, the schools and parents who have encouraged their wards to take part in the competition. The states Ministry of Education has also been of significant help. Again, continual improvement; KAIZEN is in the team’s DNA to identify opportunities to raise the bar every year in terms of call for entry, conduct of examination, TV quiz-show format, etc. Secondary Schools owners now use Cowbellpedia as an important marketing tool for enrolment of new students hence, the interest shown by schools. Also, we have increased significantly the total prize money in the last 5 years, the prize money is now N2m for the winner in each category and there are other cash prize rewards at each stage of the competition for students and teachers.
What has been the impact of Cowbellpedia on the brand?
There are ways we measure impact. Cowbellpedia is a platform that make dreams come into reality, a case in point is Ayodeji Akinkuowo who won the 2015 edition in the Senior Category who is now studying Aeronautic Engineering in Russia. Every year, Cowbell increases her footprint in many households through the Cowbellpedia platform and families have been reciprocating by buying Cowbell fortified with VitaRich at point of buy. This is coming through in our numbers and Brand Health measures. When you promote a good cause, it’s about the long-term value of the consumers
Are you considering support for the Arts and Humanities too? Or, is it only Mathematics and Science?
Cowbellpedia is presently focused on Mathematics and if there are opportunities in future, Promasidor Nigeria Limited may consider but not necessarily under the Cowbell brand.
Are you looking at selling the idea to the government?
We work with the government especially the Ministry of Education at the state level. We use state owned secondary schools for the 200 examination centres that we use, for the stage 1 of the Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics TV Quiz Show.