Nigerian sports need better marketing
Every day for the last three weeks or more, I have seen huge posters of music stars from all over Africa on the median strip of major roads around the Lagos metropolis. The boards run throughout the Ikorodu Road axis as well as on the Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way in Ikeja and several other places in the city. The boards have helped to put into the consciousness of many in Lagos the impending All African Music Awards on November 12 in our city. The beautiful familiar faces of big Nigerian singers like 2Baba, Olamide, Wizkid, Flavour, Runtown and their continental colleagues like Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and Vanessa Mdee, Angola’s Anselmo Ralph, Morocco’s Ahmed Soultan, and many others make one want to buy a ticket to attend the awards show.
Even if one does not make the move to purchase a ticket, not many people can ignore the message and the top of mind awareness of the AFRIMA. Such is the power of marketing. This is what Nigerian sport has lacked in reaching beyond its core adherents, the inability to adequately market sports events and properties to reach far and wide and get the buy-in of more people.
A day after the Super Eagles qualified for the World Cup in Uyo, the semi-final of the Aiteo Cup was held in the same stadium between home team Akwa United and Sunshine Stars. The gate was free yet not more than 3000 people showed up.
A week later, the final of the Aiteo Cup was held at the Agege Stadium in Lagos. The choice of the 4,500-capacity stadium was to make it look good for television in contrast with the scanty crowd that is usually witnessed at the bigger Teslim Balogun Stadium in past years. The rush to finish the tournament meant that not much thinking out of the box took place to ensure that more Lagosians were made aware through marketing.
For the past two weeks, the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship has been taking place at the members-only Lagos Lawn Tennis Club in Onikan. The 17-year-old ITF Pro-Circuit tournament is one of the longest-running sports franchises in Nigeria. Its $100,000 prize money draws young tennis players from all over the world with more than 35 countries represented this year. Yet, the 2,500-seat centre court had not up to 20 percent occupation last Saturday, when the first leg finals were played. Not many Lagosians who enjoy the tennis grand slams are aware that a major tournament is taking place in their city. By now the tournament should be top on the calendar of locals every October if adequate publicity is created around it. And by the way, the second leg final will take place tomorrow, Saturday, October 21. I hope more people would come around this time.
One of the other major issues why many people find it difficult to attend sports events in our clime is the state of facilities on offer. I have spoken to people who say it is difficult to find clean toilets at football venues so they would never take along their wives and daughters to stadiums. Many men who still attend football matches have steeled themselves against the inconveniences. Another major issue is the inability to find food stands that are clean and can cater to more upper scale clientele. While sports venues are potentially meeting points for business people in countries that have grasped the value, one can hardly invite business partners to Nigerian football matches.
A major talking point at the Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja last week as sports made a debut, was the need for government to invest in modern sports infrastructure across the country that will encourage participation and lead to the discovery of more talents. One of the ways sports can be better marketed is when sports grounds have facilities that make it comfortable for everyone to visit and have a good time – restrooms, restaurants, shops, conference rooms, concert venues, etc.
With more sports venues we will see an increase in sports business activity as there would be more participants and events. Private individuals can then sponsor competitions and teams and ensure that sports grow across the country.
Governments need not build massive stadia but efficient ones. The Lagos State government’s decision to reconstruct the old Onikan Stadium into a 5000-seater arena is one of these ventures that could turn out to be very good. What Lagos needs is a multi-purpose venue that can offer a great atmosphere for everyone – athletes/players, media, hospitality areas, proper parking, good restrooms, food court, meeting rooms, concert venue, etc.
Last week I was a guest speaker at the Business of Education conference in Ikeja where more than 500 school leaders gathered to share knowledge on making schools work for parents and pupils in this era. My speech was centred on the need for school leaders to give more focus to sports participation in order to help develop talent and help the business of sports. Increased sports participation would help to bolster the industry and help our children build social and leadership skills.
The sports industry has a lot of potential in Nigeria but we must start by paying greater attention to marketing. Perception is important for success, which is one of the things I noticed in the AFRIMA marketing, that sports can learn from.
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