Boosting corporate sponsorship: The importance of involvement in sports

  • 12 Jun 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Brian Otieno

April 17, 2016, is a day that remains etched in the memory of Kenyans. The Kenya Rugby Sevens team had broken the ceiling and lifted the country’s first major trophy in the World Rugby Series Circuit. At that point in time, the future did look bright for the country’s core rugby outfit. Corporate sponsors such as Kenya Airways and Pevans East Africa trading as Sportpesa, had greatly invested in the sport and the country was reaping benefits.

Fast forward to 2023, the mood is sombre and pensive as the very same world-beating team in 2016 is no longer doing well and has been eventually relegated from the series. While there may be other systemic failures that precipitated this downfall, financing deficiencies greatly contributed to this.

Sports, globally, has grown into a thriving activity with increased exploits due to sponsorship and this sad and unfortunate fate that befell the Kenya rugby team explains why more Kenyan corporates need to venture into sports sponsorship. Leading entities like Safaricom, EABL and KCB have trailblazed this path and set the best example for Kenyan corporates to imitate. Our very own GOAT, Kipchoge Keino’s success is a culmination of corporate sponsorship. Suffice it to say, corporate sponsorship, talent and hard work are an unbeatable combo.

Perhaps corporate entities would pose the question and ask: What is in it for us? How do we stand to gain from venturing into this space? From the very onset, the universal appeal that sports have is unmatched. Sports and its various types are appreciated in almost all if not all, parts of the world. Kenya for instance, areas like Western Kenya are enthusiastic about football, Rift Valley adores athletics, cricket and racquet games are adored by Kenyans of Indian descent and across the board, and these present enormous opportunities not only for awareness but also for brand activations.

Nielsen Sports, a US-based company that does sports analytics, released a report in 2022 detailing the immeasurable value of sports sponsorship to corporates. In the 2022 Global Sports Marketing Report, Nielsen Sports affirmed that corporates involved in sports sponsorship do not only benefit from increased brand activations and brand awareness, but they also enjoy client loyalty as clients develop trust in their brands which are synonymous with their favourite teams or sports.

The return on investment for corporates because of involvement in sports is indeed an attractive package. From increased interactions, a perfect platform for building brand awareness and enhancing reputation to customer engagement and interaction, corporates are bound to enjoy a holistic return for their involvement with sports. Moreover, customers are bound to be attracted to brands they regularly see and sports provide a platform for awareness and perception as customers enjoy their daily spectacle.

Even from a patriotic point of reference, every person (both juridical and natural) desires to identify with a leading sportsperson or team. That clamour also provides room for synergy between corporates and sports franchises. The case study of Red Bull perhaps paints how sports sponsorship can awaken a sleeping brand. Red Bull, despite having been around since its incorporation in 1984, has become the ‘go-to’ for energy drinks. It picked a sport that speaks to its brand, got involved in it, and is greatly reaping the benefits of that gamble.

The potential in Kenya’s sports spectrum is massive. According to Statista, revenue in Kenya’s sports event market is projected to reach US$27.81 million in 2023. Moreover, the revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 4.24 percent, resulting in a projected market volume of US$32.83 million by 2027. This potential needs to be fully realised, and corporates can tap into this for their own returns.

Added to the fact that sports are a unifying factor, and for a country that has had its fair share of divisive moments, we will be better off with increased investment in sports. Corporates can take the lead, and draw inferences set by trailblazing entities like Safaricom and KCB.