By Bonny Kant
On January 08, 2019, the second edition of the Aiteo-CAF Awards, was held in Dakar, Senegal. Liverpool forward, Mohammed Salah and South African playmaker, Thembi Kgatlana emerged African male and female players respectively at the event, sponsored by Aiteo, Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil and gas company.
Few things arouse interest and passion more than the round leather game in Africa. Besides the excitement it generates, football presents an alternative reality for Africans. In a continent broken into bits by colonial masters, the people have managed to find a shared identity in the love of football.
A critical look at football sponsorship in Africa shows that Aiteo, MTN, and Globacom are some of the few African companies that have invested heavily in football on the continental.
Aiteo is taking care of the payment of salaries of the National team coach and other football officials under a deal worth about $7million with the local football authority, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) in May 2017. Aiteo also paid special bonuses to players of the National team, the Super Eagles, during their world cup qualifiers. This has led to a remarkable improvement in the Nigerian National team, which qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2018 and the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019 after a string of failures.
Furthermore, Aiteo has invested into local football in Nigeria by taking over the sponsorship of the local FA cup, the oldest football tournament in the country, which was rebranded Aiteo Cup in another monumental deal with the NFF.
Before Aiteo, the CAF awards ceremony was sponsored by Nigerian Telecoms giant, Globacom from 2005 to 2016. Globacom is also the official sponsor of the Ghana National team and the Ghanaian Football League. In 2006, the company also sponsored the African Women Championship.
Another Telecoms company with a large presence in Nigeria that is investing in African football is MTN. The South African Telecom giant was the title sponsor for the AFCON from 2004 to 2008. According to African Business Review, MTN’s $12.5mil was the biggest sponsorship deal in African sporting history. MTN also sponsored the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, making history as the first African sponsor of a FIFA World Cup.
Some African companies have also invested heavily in the local leagues of their home countries. In South Africa, state-owned telecoms company, Telkom sponsors one of the most important tournaments in the country. The Telkom Knockout is a yearly football competition organized by the Premier Soccer League (PSL). The South-African bank, ABSA has also been heavily involved in the country’s premier league as title sponsors.
There is a lot that other African companies can learn from these brands in football financing. How do we hope to develop local leagues without some heavy monetary investments? Perhaps, the reluctance to sponsor football may have risen from the erroneous belief that companies stand little or nothing to gain in terms of returns.
However, Aiteo, Globacom and other football sponsors in Africa have proven that investment in football generates significant brand recognition, translating into improved perception and increased market share. These are companies that were relatively new entrants in their industries but have now risen to the top. Football financing is not a zero-sum game where one side gains and the other loses; it is a mutually-beneficial activity where the contributors, the receiver and the public all benefit.