Dear Sport Federations, Money isn’t Your Primary Problem
The opportunity to make a difference is staring us right in the face. But do the federations recognize it?
In the company of team members, we had a sit-down with the vice-president of a national sport federation at his office in Lagos.
The purpose of our meeting was like the interest of every other company: to explore mutually beneficial business relationship and opportunities for growth. We left the meeting bearing mixed feelings. Why?
There are over 40 national and paralympic sports federations in Nigeria. Of the lot, less than half of that number are active in the organization, or in few cases, franchising of sporting events annually. Fortunately, his is one of the active (over) 28 per cent.
As much as he (veepee) was honest about the intentions of the executives of the federation on growing the sport, he was rather shortsighted - as is the case with his counterparts across other boards - on the approach required to achieve their set objectives.
Most (in)active federations in Nigeria will always argue that the key challenge they are confronted with annually in the execution of their plans is the non-availability of funds. If you also think so, there’s a boat of 10 attempting to take onboard a hundred passengers. The consequence? It will sink, if that isn’t obvious.
While funding can lubricate the wheels to success, there are equally - if not greater - other inhibitors to the growth of sports in Nigeria. Nonetheless, if non-availability of funds is a perceived obstacle, then we can provide solutions to this singular need. Here are three (3) variables:
Know the Fan: it has become convenient to claim that Nigerians are ‘a sport-loving people’. Truly convenient. But our experience informs us to the contrary especially if the right corporate partners are sought and engaged for sponsorship. What we know?
- Not all Nigerians are sports fans.
- Not all Nigerians are aware that sports such as rugby, fencing etc. are played in Nigeria.
- There are Nigerians who have interest in tennis more than football.
- The Nigerian sport fan is willing and ready to pay good value for a well presented sport event (case study: Continental Basketball League “CBL” and Copa Lagos Beach Soccer).
If there is absolutely no insight about who the fan is, where, how and in what ways to connect and engage with fans, it is extremely - to put it lightly - difficult to secure monetary value through sponsorship deals, broadcast, merchandise or ticket sales when the most important partner - fans - is not taken into consideration.
Data is looking for something big: the global sports industry has become one of the fastest evolving industries; but it seems Nigeria is yet to receive the memo. The use of data in its different and unique forms, is helping to shape how we understand the world around us, and even our own bodies (sports science).
Dependence on subjective (or emotional) judgments no longer suffices for the growth of any particular sport let alone an entire industry. With accurate data, sports executives and administrators can make informed decisions that will impact positively on their bottom line and aid to predict the future based on patterns, trends, shift in behaviours and perception.
The availability of data constitutes a market strategy for any sport federation, and the basis for initiating participation through public-private partnership. The numbers, however, must translate to action on the field-of-play if there has to be visible as well as appreciable outcomes off the field-of-play.
If federations and their respective agencies can look beyond the ‘cash syndrome’ and grow some “Moneyball”, chances are they will not only optimize revenues, but improve strategy and governance, and make informed investment decisions for the collective interest of sports in Nigeria.
Quality delivery for optimal engagement: you sometimes get the impression that some federation boards lack an appreciation of what can be achieved with the sports they are elected to administer. Developing events as a minimum viable product for federations can increase participation of fans with their favourite sports, connect more with teams and athletes, and with brand sponsors.
The success of Copa Lagos Beach Soccer, an international premium sport competition and in its sixth year, is testament of an MVP that excels on notable values: consistency, continuity, innovation, sustainable planning, financial and commercial accountability, and good governance.
Though not primarily a product of the Nigeria Football Federation, the nation’s football governing body, Copa Lagos has benefitted from its partnership with the federation under conducive working conditions for the growth of beach soccer in Nigeria. The event ticks all the right boxes for event presentation, attendance, entertainment, venue, and TV audience.
Presentation of such events can influence investment decisions for sponsors and broadcast as it will also appeal to fans to spend for the right value. Federations that seize this opportunity for engagement are more likely to generate and increase their revenue stream and offer more for brand sponsorship across their sports.