Can we bank on the Sables?

BY MIKE MADODA

Save for perhaps the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one, no other human activity puts people through the full spectrum of emotion as much as sport does.

The elation of a miraculous comeback, that sinking feeling that accompanies every crushing defeat, the anxiety as you wait for the final seconds to tick off the clock — you find yourself completely caught up in the moment, and nothing can distract you from your team as you watch the game unfold.

Sport provides a medium that allows you to get lost in the passion of the game. It is a sensation and experience unlike anything else in this entire world — bringing people together in a way that no other entity can.

As the passion and appetite for sport continues to grow, so does the ever-growing sports sponsorship industry.

In many mature markets, sponsorship has become recognised as an effective marketing mechanism that can promote positive brand affinity, build brand awareness, drive overall traffic, promote new products and service lines, and reach target consumers on a more unique and meaningful level.

In a time where traditional forms of advertising are no longer generating the same return as they once did, many brands from a variety of industries are beginning to shift their marketing and advertising budgets to sports sponsorships.

Simply defined, “sports sponsorship” is the financial support for a sport (whether this is an event, organisation or athlete) by an outside body (be it a person or organisation) for the mutual benefit of both parties.

Sport is no longer just about participation. It has become an integral part of the commercial world, managed and marketed to make money. It is in this regard that sponsorship is now a significant influence on sport — pumping in resources that often are the difference between success and failure, glamour and garbage.

Since 2012, American multinational finance and insurance corporation AIG, has been the major global sponsor of New Zealand Rugby and the legendary All Blacks.

The All Blacks, one of the most iconic sports teams in the world and certainly the most successful international rugby team, live and breathe a philosophy of selflessness and having a responsibility to others.

One of their core guiding principles is to “leave the jersey in a better place” and AIG found resonance in this creed believing that life insurance is just as selfless – you’re leaving a legacy to protect the ones you love. It’s a partnership that, over the last decade, has yielded Rugby World Cup glory and an unparalleled domination of the sport.

Similarly, Nedbank seems to have found a kindred spirit in Zimbabwe Rugby through the shared value of growth through continuous improvement. The commercial bank’s foray into sports sponsorship with a US$120 000 package for the Sables, Zimbabwe’s national rugby team, deserves commendation as they have stepped out boldly into a territory that very few corporates over the last decade have dared enter.

Zimbabwe’s economic downturn, a dearth of competent sports administrators and the ensuing malaise on the field of play have all served to make sports sponsorship unattractive and fraught with risk.

The Sables should be grateful that in Nedbank they have found a corporate that truly understands sport — which should be no surprise as their record south of the Limpopo speaks for itself.

Nedbank Zimbabwe executive, Heresy Herry, captured it best: “One of the ways that we want to see a payback is firstly seeing what the guys put in-between the try lines. Secondly, in terms of the qualifiers, it is our aspiration that you’re going to go full throttle and meet your objectives. Ultimately, we also aspire to see rugby growing . . . we need to see more in the formerly marginalised communities.”

Too many Zimbabwean brands want to tie sponsorship too tightly to sales, yet it is a brand-building initiative that yields its benefits in the medium-to-long term. This clearly betrays their short-termism and the lack of a clear strategy.

Nedbank’s thinking is to assist the Sables and create brand value — value that they clearly understand is derived from on-field success. People follow a winning team, and if they follow a winning team they will see the Nedbank brand, and when they see the brand, that builds brand equity and brand equity in the medium-to-long term ultimately translates into a buying decision!

Success means different things to different groups. And while for the All Blacks it is meant winning three world cups, Zimbabwe is not asking the Sables for that.

We are simply asking for a third World Cup appearance and the Nedbank sponsorship is the perfect tonic they need at the onset of what many hope will be a successful journey to France 2023. As a team, the Sables need to draw inspiration from New Zealand who are a potential opponent should they successfully navigate qualification.

“This is for Them” is a television commercial that was produced by AIG for the All Blacks and captures the thinking that the best things we do in life, we do for others. It is a message that also serves as a reminder to the Sables that the corporate endorsements they have earned come with responsibility and expectation . . .

“Alright . . . this is it. Time to show what you’re made of. You’ve earnt this. You deserve to be here. But don’t take it for granted. And remember . . . This is about so much more than you. This is for the guys you’re sitting next to — your brothers. And the
50 000 screaming out there in the rain. This is for your ancestors. This is for your country. And this is for kids in need of role models. This is for the greats . . . and the ones yet to come. This is for your family, the ones you hold so dear. The people that will carry your values forward. And those that will be here when you’re gone. So what you do now, and the decisions you make, matter.”

Sables, Zimbabwe is banking on you.

 Follow Mike Madoda on Twitter: @mikemadoda