One thing that all Sponsors will always want is how to advertise their products and services cheaply. Cheap advertising ensures that the Sponsors and their companies save money which translates into more profit. There is also no reason why a sponsor should advertise at 10 million shillings when they can do this at 2 million shillings.
A Sports federation offers some advantages in terms of advertising. First and foremost sports are fun activities because so many people engage in sports for fun. Even those who engage in it for health and fitness reasons will tell you that while doing sports, they also get to enjoy, have fun and relax their minds. Pushing an advert via a fun filled avenue can be more effective than pushing it through an avenue where people have to nearly be forced to see the advert.
Secondly as things stand in Uganda today, Sports can get News Paper coverage for free or at very low costs. As Sports Federations, we can get a half page News Paper story for free in any News Paper, not to forget free airing on the TVs and Radios. Sponsors can take advantage of this by naming Sports Competitions using their names. e.g. the CNOOC Table Tennis League, Pepsi Shooting league, DSTV Hockey League, etc. By naming a Sports Federation League, the sponsor gets regular, free or cheap publicity in the Press whenever that league is talked about.
Thirdly when people fall in love with a sport, they will keep coming back to it regularly, passionately and naturally. It is not difficult to find people who enjoy and support a certain sport or club just because they fell in love with it over 5 years ago. Even when it is performing poorly, they will keep supporting it dedicatedly for many years. It is actually true that Sports can get people to exhibit a certain degree of loyalty and passion that other advertisement avenues cannot achieve. This is why you will find people supporting certain clubs even when their performance is so bad over a long period of time. Only Sports can create this kind of passion. The passion for a sport can definitely be easily combined with passion for the products or services of a company sponsoring that Sport.
Fourthly and in a commercial way, a sponsor can take up a Sports Federation for income generation purposes both for that Federation and for the Sponsor. This is actually quite interesting and very workable. For instance if the Chinese company called CNOOC took up Table Tennis for sponsorship purposes, we can partner with it to groom world class players for export and hence income purposes. We can train very talented players and export them, legally, to the more financially rewarding countries which can buy our players at a good fee. We can even go a step further by taking 10% of the players’ monthly salaries to come and help the federation growth back here at home.
We may not even look outside Uganda because locally here, we can still do many income generating activities. e.g. we can agree to build a Table Tennis Play Ground that also doubles as a good hang out place with say a nice restaurant, nice Sauna, cinema, etc. We could even build a Table Tennis hall that is big and beautiful enough to hold wedding and other ceremonies every weekend, Saturday and Sunday. As the Uganda Table Tennis Association (UTTA) we can comfortably sacrifice playing for two days a week if that means we get to earn good money to run the Association. We can even partner with CNOOC to build a Table Tennis Play ground that also has a very good Conference facility which various organisations can always hire, Monday to Sunday, 08:00am to 01:00pm, for conferences. We have no problem playing only after 1pm every day provided those morning hours help us generate money to run the Table Tennis Sport in the country. After all, games are usually played in the afternoons anyway.
So the question then becomes; how can we get the above promising income generating avenues in the offing? This question goes hand in hand with how well Sports Federations can package and present ideas like the above in a convincing way. The ideas should be centred on how each Federation can partner with a Sponsor in such a way that the partnership becomes income generating for both the Federation and the sponsor. This also calls for each Federation to identify a Sponsor who is closest to their game. For instance, in the above example, I chose to use CNOOC because this is a Chinese Company (drilling oil here in Uganda) and it is well known that China is the best in Table Tennis worldwide.
This kind of strategy would also need some government help. For example, government can give us a very big boost by committing to always put its conferences and seminars in Conference Halls belonging to Sports Federations. This, in fact, can even encourage local investors to partner with Sports Federations because with such a government assurance, building a Conference Hall for a Sports Federation becomes a sure deal profitable business. Government can also help us by initiating talks with potential sponsors. For example, if I sat in a meeting with the Minister for Sports and the Managing Director (MD) of CNOOC and in that meeting I presented my proposal for the above project, I think the MD would not turn it down easily.
No investor or company wants to say a quick “NO” to government especially if the minister is right at the centre of such a negotiation. If I interface with the MD of CNOOC alone, such a nice proposal can be turned down and indeed many sports leaders have been turned down already by several companies. If the Minister is part of that meeting, then it can be difficult to turn it down because, again, with the Minister’s presence, CNOOC will not worry much about questions like “Where will the land come from?” The Minister’s presence means the project has government backing so the availability of the Land may not be a huge problem.
The government would also need to provide the needed capital to hire investment experts who can help the sports federations to fine tune such wonderful proposals so that they are more practical, profitable and professionally presented. Actually to make things easier and to make such help more long term, government can simply put in place a well-staffed and facilitated marketing department to help the Sports Federations with this issue and even other ideas after such projects have kicked off.
In a nut shell therefore, as Federation leaders and our counter parts in government, we need to start thinking critically in directions such as the above. We need to collectively pitch such ideas to the government. I strongly believe that an idea that is as good as this will always get government backing especially when it also looks clearly practical and profitable. Indeed, if ideas such as the above are executed well then Financing for Sports Federations from government coffers may no longer be necessary as these Federations become more financially self-sustaining, which nearly all Federations badly need at the moment.
The Writer is the President of the Uganda Table Tennis Association (UTTA)