Safaricom Safari 7s 2011 – Hit or Miss?

This year’s Safari 7s in its second year under Safaricom’s sponsorship stable marked one of another’s Kenya major milestones on the sporting calendar (notice how Safari 7s and Safaricom 7s sound synonymous…?). We managed to spend at least a better part of the weekend following the action live and seeing the activity on both social and other media. Here’s our take;
Hit: Venue
Most of the controversy plaguing the event was the shift of the venue from its traditional home at RFUEA Grounds on Ngong Road to the more spacious ground at Nyayo National Stadium. The beauty of it was the space available for fans; service providers who included caterers, entertainment and parking lot. This was evident from the concert held on tail-ends of all days as they engaged the discerning younger-at-heart crowd. For security purposes too, the stadium was an easier venue for the security apparatus though at times the security personnel got over-zealous in their searches.
The pitch was a little bumpy of course due to the fact that it hosts most of the Kenya Premier League games but it was well-maintained and the markings and extensions done in good time to save rugby players adjusting. The warm-up areas were also a welcome relief for all teams before and after each game.

Miss: VIP, Canopy please?
For those who paid a little extra for VIP, except for the plastic seats and some partial cover from stadium setting, there really wasn’t much else to write home about. In fact some of those who were at the ‘Russian stands’ seemed to enjoy more of the happenings on the grounds. Also when it came to the elements, majority of the crowd was exposed especially when the rains descended on the grounds on Sunday. For future events, event organisers can source some form of canopies which can be drawn and retracted as and when necessary.

Hit: Ticketing
For sometime now the ticketing for the event had been on an upward movement but somehow the crowds still managed to make way to the former venue. Maybe it was the mystic of the game or the euphoria related to the Kenya Sevens team. This year, the ticketing was well-tiered, affordable and also offered various points of purchase. Some are of the opinion that the prices should go down further but economies of scale and recouping for organisers and KRU suggest otherwise.

Miss: Top Teams, Main Guest
While we saw the likes of Samoa in town to the Samurais and Auckland Vikings (who make up much of the Fijian and New Zealand national 7s teams), it would have been better to have more IRB circuit teams on board. We have also seen the likes of Chester Williams, Gordon Tietjens to name but a few who have proved to be star attractions for those who follow the international game. It had been rumoured that there would be a big name coming but alas.

Hit: Media Centre
For those who got lucky to access the media centre, it had a great working environment. Equipped with handy laptops with fairly good Internet speeds, the place was always a buzz with activity. Save for a few big egos who hogged workstations for hours on end, those who were in it for their professional jobs found a quick way to upload information, images and keep those not at the venue abreast with the developments. Also compared to last year’s one, this one didn’t suffer from the elements when the weather suddenly pulled suprises on all. Kudos too to the catering teams for keeping the media peoples well-fed & watered!

Miss: Kenyan Team not making the Finals
Well, this was not entirely suprising for any follower of the national team. This was the first outing for the technical team marshalled by one Mitch Ocholla (Twitter handle @mokojolo) deputised by Charles Cardovillis. Both individuals have their work cut out now from this showing. Also the boys in the team were slow off the blocks due to minimal play since the team reassembled. There were individual touches and plays but as a team, there is lots of work to be done. The Gold Coast Sevens fixtures are real baptism of fire, but if that’s not what you need I don’t know what else you will.

Hit: Time Management
Most tournaments and events of such magnitude usually fail largely to lack of time management. Many who came thinking that fixtures and games would be delayed due to one reason or the other were shocked. Except for the last day when the downpour almost made it impossible for the pitch, the games went on and finished on time. Day 2 and Day 3 being the main attraction were well-managed and ended in good time. The Final was held and done by 6p.m.( even the trophy presentation too). Kudos to KRU on this one!

Miss: Corporate Sponsors Lost?
Some of the corporate sponsors had some great banners and logos on the communication both on print and other media. But most did not utilise it to the best of their abilities. This is a question posed to marketing and brand managers, when you seek to sponsor a major event of such magnitude surely you don’t expect the event organisers to also ‘sell your communication’ and/or ‘promote your products’. Still on corporate sponsors, where were the Brand Kenya and other bodies promoting Kenya as a destination ?

Hit: Live Coverage:
For some who had thought the ball had gone from SuperSport, how wrong you were! They not only brought in some of their best hands in broadcasting but also had the games live on SS9 throughout the tournament. And for those who managed to catch it, it was a beautiful sight to behold. We had our own gents and ladies handling the pre and post-game interviews (including one Herbert Mwachiro @herbotawa & a lady who’s name eludes me, but has a great voice and looks to match…)

Some Hope:
– Hoping to stage a circuit leg in the IRB Sevens Series , this is a step in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done. Majorly attracting bigger teams, attracting more fans and also more investment by corporate sponsors. This will make it easier to attract and pay for premium services and promises to give a boost to event organisers.
– Still on the venue, some die-hard fans felt that the game’s been taken away from them, since the playing area was slightly further from the fans stands. The same comment too came from some of the players. But this being a first, we shall hope to see more fans streaming in next year to give it that electric aura. And as one Mr. Jack Ojiambo ( he of Capital FM 98.4 Jazz Club) said, each one of the participants took something with them and shall be ambassadors of the event wherever they go across the globe. 
– Also there were some unconfirmed reports that rugby authorities might consider taking the Safari 7s to Kasarani which is almost complete from renovations. We hope it is just that because another change of venue will surely see fans down to a trickle and display apathy to new settings.
All in all ,we enjoyed ourselves and hope the Kenyan rugby 7s team now embarks on some serious rebuilding to get their act together by 25th November to start the challenge for 2011-2012 IRB Sevens Series. Over to you Mitch and the Co!

For some interesting images from the weekend action check this link , http://japho1.blogspot.com/

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