By Adetunji Faleye

One still wonders why many brands in Nigeria shy away from sponsoring sporting activities despite many advantages they stand to gain. Is it because they fail to fathom the benefits that sponsorship of sporting events will create for their brands? Or they failed to get any return on investments in their previous sports sponsorship involvements?


These and other questions come to mind when pondering over low level of sports sponsorship in the country over the years.


Sports sponsorship, according to Menagan is a physical or non-physical investment in sporting activities and events in order to exploit the business opportunities available through this activity. Also, the International Event Group said sports sponsorship is seen as money or other expenses paid to an agency or enterprise or a particular individual (in a sports field, entertainment, organization or event for-profit or non-for-profit) in order to achieve the aspired business goals from this relationship.


Essentially these two definitions of sports sponsorship are the very reasons brands and agencies must be ready to take sports sponsorship as part of their marketing strategies in order to further create awareness for their brands/products and services.


While the field of sports sponsorship are various and can be divided into six areas, brands and their agencies only need to understand the area(s) that suit their purposes.


The six segments of sports sponsorships include; sponsoring sporting commissions and federations, sponsoring athletes, sponsoring sporting facilities, sponsoring teams or sporting clubs, sponsoring media, and sponsoring sporting events.


With the clear understanding of all these categories, brands should be able to identify the particular areas they can fit in where their impact will be felt. Whether it’s sponsoring sporting clubs, athletes or sporting events, certainly, there are benefits brands stand to gains in the short and long terms.


Global sports sponsorships

Interestingly, many foreign brands which are into sports sponsorships are reaping the benefits of participating in such initiatives. For instance, months before the first game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was played, Adidas, one of the world’s leading sports sponsors opened a Twitter account for its ball “Brazuca,” and the ball twitted everything about the technology behind the creation, content surrounding Adidas ball and all the results of matches throughout the tournament.


The reason for this was intentional. Adidas wanted to connect with football fans once again, coming from the background that the Adidas ball (Jabulani) created for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was highly criticized, and the creation of “Brazuca” helped Adidas to show that the company will not rest on it oars to satisfy football lovers. To a large extent, the creation of ‘Brazuca’ in 2014 elicited more fun from fans the world over.


Also, Pepsi, the global household name in the Carbonated Soft Drinks (CDS) market, and the number one sports sponsor in North America with an estimated over $1 billion every year on sports sponsorships cutting across NBA, NHL, NFL in North America, and cricket globally engages in ports sponsorship yearly. Recalled outside North America, PepsiCo also reached an agreement with UEFA in 2018 to extend its limited partnership with UEFA to sponsor Champions League and Europa League for the next three years.



Also, Coca-Cola is another global brand that has been doing great exploits in sports sponsorship. For instance, the Pepsi arch rival has been sponsoring Olympic Games for more than 90 years. The world’s leading beverage giant, also sponsored the 1996 ICC Cricket World Cup, and beyond that year. The brand also has a long-term relationship with many football, basketball teams and many other sporting teams globally.




Sadly, while global brands have contributed and are still spending massive amount of funds in sponsorship of sporting events across the world, boosting their brand coverage and promotional strategies, the Nigerian indigenous brands are lagging behind in this aspect. Though one may argue that some brands have been participating in sports sponsorships in Nigeria, the truth is that, the big spenders in sports sponsorship in the country are the global brands whose policies must be global irrespective of where their offices are.


Though some Nigerian indigenous brands are also sponsoring sporting events in their own little ways, other must understand that in today’s marketing mix, sports sponsorship arguably is capable of bringing together brands and fans, creating unexplainable love between the two (brands and fans) by converting a great number of fans to the brand side simply because they see the brand as a partner in progress.


What brands need do is to engage in best-practices which can create positive experiences, through an interactive, memorable and natural exchange with a like-minded community.


Experts believe that brands must put into consideration their target audience. They should also consider aligning their sponsorship initiatives with their target audience in order to reach their core audience.  This can only be achieved by relying on data. Football, for instance, is a male-dominated sport, millions of women are also not left behind especially now that women football is beginning to gain ground around the world. Therefore, a decision to sponsor men or women football will not be a wasted resource if the handlers of the brands can only identify their target audience in the sport.


While considering appropriate target audience, what brands still need to take note is brand image alignment. Brand custodians must understand the brand equity of potential partner which will enable them to determine the one that is capable of elevating their brands. This will work perfectly with brands that suffer one form of setback or the other.  For instance, First City Monument Bank in recent past trended on social media when their managing director and chief executive officer, Adam Nuru was alleged to be responsible for the demise of a staffer, Tunde Thomas. In a petition written by the friends of Thomas, he (Thomas) was said to have died of depression on December 16, 2020 as a result of the alleged two children his wife had for the MD of the bank. While this was trending, it will be a good idea, few weeks later, if the bank decides to sponsor any sporting events in alignment with their brand image to win bank some of their customers who might have been pained by the action of the managing director of the bank and the way the bank’s management initially handled it.


After brands aligning with the target audience, strategic activation is also needed. Brands need to really tap into the spirit of the sport they are sponsoring and leverage the enthusiasm and loyalty of the sports fans. They must consider which sport is popular in the North, East, West, South/South and other parts of the country before embarking on any sponsorship. They must also study the demographics of the fans of the sport they target to sponsor before signing sponsorship agreement with any sports administrators.




Essentially, the importance of sports sponsorship to the growth of any brand is huge and the earlier the brand custodians understand this the better. They must realise that with the right information at their disposal, the right partner and a clear strategy, their brands are on their ways to build brand equity and customer advocacy that can last beyond the season.



Amazingly, the importance of sport sponsorship in today’s marketing cannot be over-emphasised, as it wields transformative power that can help build brands beyond game day. It’s also capable of driving exponential growth in brand awareness and affinity, and can also build brand equity and customer advocacy that will last longer.

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