Build athletes brands

Tuesday May 19 2020

Rookie pro golfer Herman ‘Deco’ Mu

Rookie pro golfer Herman ‘Deco’ Mutebi (L) and Cranes star Farouk Miya are lucky to be playing disciplines and teams that are favoured by many corporate sponsors. PHOTO BY EDDIE CHICCO & JOHN BATANUDDE 


Kampala-One sure way for sports federations to tap into the resources in the corporate world is by building the personal brands of their athletes.

These would in turn become brand ambassadors for the various corporate bodies hence attracting revenue to the sector in form of sponsorship.

“People buy people not necessarily teams,” Airtel’s head of branding and communications Remmy Kisakye, said during last Friday’s Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC)-led debate on whether local sport was ready to make the giant leap from an amateur to professional setting in the post Covid-19 era. “One individual can sell a group depending on how the public perceives that person. But there should also be succession plans for the hard times,” she said after emphasizing that currently sponsorships are given out of goodwill and trust companies may have in individuals heading sports associations.

“Airtel was supposed to be in Namboole for Cranes engagements this month but what would happens if one of the stars used for branding is locked down in quarantine? You would have to use one of the players from home but is there anyone forging a way forward?” she pondered. Her counterpart from Betway Zakia Maseruka warned that sport out to track and grow it’s own numbers before courting sponsors.

“Let me play devil’s advocate and ask what numbers are we giving to sponsors? Let us step away from pointing fingers and provide value,” she said after discussants deemed it unfair for corporate entities not to give back to society through sponsorships.

The amateur nature of Uganda’s sports sector has largely insulated it from a financial crisis in these hard times. But with the sector bleeding from a lack of funding, it is only a matter of time before the switch to commoditification is made.


Forging forward
“Resources are not coming the way we want and that has been the story for over 20 years so we need to find our funds by fully commercialising our sector,” Uganda Table Tennis Association president Robert Jagwe, said.

Fufa president Moses Magogo added his voice to this view saying that “there is over a trillion of shillings as advertising spend” among potential sponsors but there is a need to change the law, from the outdated 1964 Sports Act to one that encourages commercialization, so that both the interests of athletes and sponsors among others are protected.

“It is up to us to nurture our brands and position ourselves like media houses are to get part of it. They provide space for advertisers and there is no reason why we cannot do the same with our platforms.”

As a way to position themselves, boxing head Moses Muhangi proposed “ the urgent need for a symposium, where sport can state it’s claim to the corporate world.”