Lessons from AFCON 2023 success: Kenyan brands should embrace sports sponsorship for customer engagement and exposure.

  • 16 Feb 2024
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Donald Kogai

The curtain came down on the 34th edition of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday, February 11th, in a tournament that featured some of the current best players in world football, including Sébastien Haller (Côte d’Ivoire), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Victor Osimhen (Nigeria), and Mohamed Salah (Egypt). 


Hosts Côte d’Ivoire beat favourites Nigeria 2-1 in the final at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan to lift their third Africa Cup of Nations trophy. AFCON, as it’s fondly called, is the continent’s most prestigious and widely anticipated football tournament.


Further afield, millions of Americans tuned in for the National Football League (NFL), as the 58th Super Bowl in history saw the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the San Francisco 49ers just one day after the AFCON finals.


Beyond the spectacle of athletic displays on the field, AFCON provided impressive brand exposure for the event sponsors. The tournament garnered a record TV viewership and, most likely, record revenue, too. 


The matches were broadcast in around 180 countries through deals with partner broadcasters, including Sky, Canal+, beIN Sport, BBC and MultiChoice, as well as 45 Free to Air broadcasters. In Kenya, the national broadcaster, KBC Channel 1, aired all the matches.


According to Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Patrick Motsepe, nearly two billion people watched AFCON 2023 over the one-month duration of the tournament.


“We have had close to two billion people watching AFCON globally. We should be proud as Africans, and the next one will be even better,” Mr Motsepe told reporters ahead of the grand finale while citing the massive social media attention and wide viewership the tournament has garnered.


This represents a massive gain compared to the last time the tournament was held in 2022, where its primary broadcaster, Afrosport TV, celebrated over 65 million viewers across the month, according to AfroSport TV Principal Consultant Rotimi Pedro.


In the realm of football, this tournament will be remembered as one of the best-staged football tournaments in the continent, only second to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It offers lessons for other African countries and brands on leveraging the value of sports sponsorships and events. 


UK-based market research firm GlobalData estimates that CAF earned around $75 million in sponsorship revenue from this year’s 17 AFCON commercial partners. 


These partners, including title sponsor TotalEnergies, official sponsors Puma, 1xBet, Visa, Orange, Unilever, official competition sponsors Tecno, Razzl, Apsonic, and Air Côte d’Ivoire, Ecobank, and official national supporters Céleste, Porteo, Smart Technology, and Lonaci, official supplier Africa Global Logistics (AGL), and Global Sponsorship Agency IMG. 


“These organisations enjoyed a strong branding presence across the physical and digital assets of the tournament,” Zuhuru Ogada, Marketing Society of Kenya Board chairperson, said. 


As East Africa gears to host the 2027 AFCON, fear about preparedness, not just in terms of infrastructure but also in leveraging the opportunities that come with hosting a major tourney. 


Kenya alongside its East African co-hosts— Tanzania and Uganda— appears confident in their capabilities to successfully host the event with plans to revamp regional stadiums already underway. 


“AFCON is the continent’s foremost premium sporting event. It derives immense value for the sponsors and partners across media visibility, brand affinity and the ripple effect on Return on Investment on their businesses,” Koome Kazungu, Global Dimension Communications CEO, said.


Despite past successes in hosting major sporting events, including the WRC Safari Rally, Kenya Magical Open, and Kipkeino Classic, concerns still linger regarding the country’s experience in marketing global-level tournaments.


Investments to advertise during these tournaments can be expensive, but the potential returns are significant. KCB, the most significant indigenous sponsor of the WRC Safari Rally, has injected over Kshs. 193 million to this year’s event. The brand has since become synonymous with this annual event. 


“Sporting events, whether televised or attended in person, attract a massive audience from diverse backgrounds. By associating their brand with a sports event, companies gain valuable exposure to a wide group of potential customers,” says Amy Wahome, General Manager, Oxygène Marketing Communications. 


“The repeated exposure throughout the event creates a lasting impression on the audience, generating positive brand associations. Sponsorship is an investment in social enterprise with a ripple effect on the economy,” she said.


Corporate sponsorship opportunities for tournaments encompass a variety of benefits and exposure for companies. There are opportunities for brands to advertise to a new audience while maintaining awareness among existing customers and clients.


“In today’s increasingly competitive landscape, companies are constantly on the hunt for cutting-edge ways to promote their brands and connect with their target audience,” Ogada said. She added: “One approach that has seen a surge in popularity is sponsoring sporting events. Kenyan companies that invest in sports sponsorships unlock a treasure trove of positive benefits that go far beyond just advertising. We are talking heightened brand exposure, increased customer engagement, emotional brand associations and a whole lot more – sponsoring sporting events truly gives businesses a winning edge and opportunity to become part of a value chain.”