Sports & Social Media:- Whys & Wherefores Part I

This week we start publishing some articles from one of the moderators and contributors to this blog. It has been a long time coming and a bit of arm-twisting here and there. Richard is currently one of the writers for Marketing Africa magazine where he contributes for the sports marketing column. Here’s an article on Sports, Social Media and Digital Platforms;

Champions League
The UEFA Champions League 2011 and the whole world is glued to their screens; flat, HD, projector or otherwise. Its kick-off and the hallowed pitch that is Wembley Stadium is buzzing as is the streams of news coming through major channels be they sports or cable news ones.
Even ‘louder’ is the buzz created in the social media circles of Twitter, Facebook and among others. The first goal is scored by Pedro, the whole game now went into overdrive and the social networks were red-hot.

(Image courtesy of www.linkbuilding.net)

For anyone not watching the game live, a second-by-second update was running on Twitter and this came through in positive comments about the favoured team, barbs and jibes thrown at the losing team and faltering players along with histories around players and teams.
Gone are the days that we had to wait for the television and radio updates to know the highlights and scores of a game.

Shaq Attack
A few days later, one of sports easily recognisable figures, Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal nicknamed ‘Shaq’, ‘The Big Daddy’, ‘Diesel’, to use but a few of the many names announced his retirement via YouTube and instantly the news was trending in Twitter and other social media platforms. Perfect way to leave the basketball world!

(Image from www.uksportsnetwork.com)

Yes, sport has slowly and is now synonymous with social media. We have seen many spoofs or what you might call product endorsements done using short clip videos posted on YouTube and Facebook and these links tweeted and retweeted by brand followers, ambassadors and admirers.
Even at a local level, sports disciplines such as football and rugby have started appreciating the use of this platform. Talk of the Kenya Premier League and the various club fans and sports media enthusiasts will tell you which club is playing where and the fans in attendance, their cheer songs and other enticing offers.
These technological developments are slowly helping us maintain and establish new connections and reconnect with those we know or knew from previous engagements. The connections too are not restricted to individuals but include companies, brands, and for the sake of our discussion, clubs, players and relating sources.

Converse not Command
Social media tools are becoming integral tools of communication and this is favoured channel for most if not all sports participants. The demographics show us the numbers of those using the platforms are the ages between 18-30 years. The platforms had initially swung in favour of the PC but are slowly tilting towards the mobile telephony thanks again to this age group.
The main bane though as is usually the case for new technology, how successful it is in implementation will be from understanding it. Be it an individual or team start by developing a proper strategy that forms part of a larger marketing strategy.
Remember social media is about creating conversation, not one-way or one-sided communication from the brand, individual or team. It should not be a simple posting of updates and news but a long-term and continuous process that could enable you to get feedback from your fans and the wider sporting and non-sporting audience.

One Millionth Man
NBA – the US professional basketball league teams have been able to utilise these social media platforms to make for very interesting interactions with their fan base. For example, one of its biggest players (quite literally too and the new gentle ‘Superman’) Dwight Howard playing for the franchise Orlando Magic has perfected this.

(Image courtesy of www.mediafunnel.com)
From communicating about his daily engagements, he also pushes for the brands he endorses and acknowledged his 1 millionth follower with an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando for a game and hang-time with the rest of the team stars. (As of the time of going to Press, he had over 2 million followers on this @DwightHoward, one million more than his team @Orlando_Magic)
One must remember that sporting events, sports personalities and teams as well as news around sports has made the growth of social media platforms explode in the last 3-5 years. Major events from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa all made use of social media and were able to keep vibrant conversation going about the events.
Sample this, the nuisance and widely controversial vuvuzela had an iPhone App which became the number 1 app on iTunes in 50 countries in June 2010. Nike with its ‘Write the Future’ World Cup advert had over 19 million views on YouTube.
As sports enthusiasts hunger for fodder for more and more about their favoured teams or individuals there is definitely a need and demand created and these teams and individuals have to oblige albeit trying to maintain as much professionalism and true personality as they would in real life.

{Part II coming soon…}

India v/s South Africa : Hosting Major Games – Part 1

While it maybe too early to make any comparisons, it has not escaped us that there are some lessons and conclusions that can be derived from the two countries. One represents the emergence from obscene levels of poverty while the other seeks to redress distribution of wealth. Let’s take a deeper look here;
South Africa – 2010 World Cup:

2010 World Cup montage by Shellinfosight.com 


  • This is a single discipline sport but one with the largest follower-ship and audience across the world. 
  • South Africa had just about 6 years to work on its infrastructure – building new roads, airports and stadia as well.
  • Doubts were expressed about the security but these were sorted out in good time and no major incident occurred worth raising concerns.
  • Support is given to the host country by FIFA which governs the sport but this is often re-couped back by the federation making the host incur the larger bill.
  • Massive support was given by the Government – which has lately incurred the wrath of its citizens for not have the same commitment to social and other national issues.
  • Elaborate marketing campaigns are carried out not only from the host nation but also from the Federation

India – 2010 Commonwealth Games:

  • The Games rank 3rd or 4th depending on which continent you come from and has seen dropping audiences – it draws its audience mainly from member states most of which were colonies or administered by the British
  • India had slightly over 6 years to work on the infrastructure and much of the work has been hampered by delays, inflated costs and corruption charges. The so-called ‘Friendly Games’ might not be that friendly after all!
  • Just like the World Cup, security has become a major issue and is bound to cause organisers a headache with the populace of the sub-continent and the hostile nature of the country’s neighbours.
  • The Games are run by the Commonwealth Games Federation which as they state in their mandate ‘ directs and controls’ the Games. No major support is given to the host nation with the bill covered largely by the host nation and minimal awareness raised by participating countries ( commercial sustainability is lacking and maybe its undoing)
  • 2010 Commonwealth Games logo – courtesy of songsrealtime.com
  • The host nation undertakes the marketing campaign and all other campaigns to get potential countries to participate (though fairly supported by the Commonwealth Games Federation to a smaller extent). The major players here include former ‘masters’ Britain’, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa (to some extent).

We shall cover the second part of this in the coming weeks (as and if the Games do take place…)

Our Take-Out : 2010 World Cup in South Africa

(Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
The party’s over, vuvuzelas quiet and for the next few days all else football (or soccer)’s relegated to the transfer market ( though the Kenyan Premier League has resumed…). There were highs and lows, in & outs and whys & wherefores relating to the tournament. Off from some naysayers ( including our own team here at SportsKenya) and critics we managed to scheme out some of the 8 major stand-outs;

1)Big v/s Small : (Image courtesy of afreeimages.com)
 seasoned versus freshmen, top seeds v/s lower ranked nations, whichever way you look at it, there was not much of that once the tournament started. For experienced sides such as France and former champs Italy to be bundled out in the first round and for Uruguay to finish fourth ahead of other countries such as England, Portugal, Brazil,Argentina and Africa’s own top seeds, this tournament proved too unpredictable for any bookmaker. But when push came to shove, the top two nations who had played some superior games Netherlands and Spain faced off in a not-so-entertaining Final.

2)FIFA’s ‘Profitability v/s Host Nation’s own investment: This is a question that hosting nations need to start asking themselves. Who makes the biggest catch in terms of profitability and invested properties, naming rights and other revenue streams? While FIFA’s reported to have made around US$ 3.2 billion in revenue, South Africa’s economy is expected to expand by only 0.5% in GDP terms – that’s counting all other factors constant. So there is something called legacy and the ensuing infrastructural costs? And someone has been asking if Zuma & Co would want to bid for Olympics? Well they just did!


(Image Courtesy of Abisa.co.za)

3)Vuvuzela & Jabulani or is it Jobulani?: The noise-maker and the runaway ball were the main talking points in the pitch and around the stadiums. What other heritage could we have given the World Cup after our own African teams disappointed us massively? The more they criticized the fan-horn, the more sales it reported. Here’s 10 of the best about it. As for the Adidas Jabulani ball, some of the very critics such as England’s Fabio Capello had been given the chance to play the ball earlier but thanks to the hype from the media about their abilities they didn’t give it a try.
Iker Casillas had started on it too but after keeping clean slates, I guess there were other excuses to give besides the ball to blame.

4)FIFA’s ‘Partners’ v/s Ambush Marketers:
FIFA has been trying to make major corporate firms to give long term commitments to the sport through the rather complicated (but often over-valued) sponsorship arrangement. This has seen some major companies avoid this arrangement and instead engage in developing ads which are drawn towards ‘sowing where FIFA says they have not reaped’. From the ‘Oranje beauties, to Nike’s Writing the Future and Pepsi-Cola’s African rendezvous, top companies which have previously been associated with the game have looked for cheaper ways to create their own buzz around FIFA’s tournaments. Back to the drawing boards Mr. Blatter?

5)’Real’Football versus Boring:
From a wide range of views, this was a rather technical game rather than attacking game. Given the statistics of having the 2nd lowest goal average since the World Cup begun at 2.3 goals per game, there is need for footballing nations to stop wasting our valuable viewership. For the Final, we had to wait for a miserable 116 minutes before spiking our rather low spirits, no wonder Americans rue this game for its lack of ‘exciting’ moments!

6)Social media: As we had noted earlier, social media was bound to play a huge part in this tournament and this shows the extent to which this will affect future sporting and landmark events. From Twitter, Facebook, Blogger (like yours truly who chose to watch this from the terrace), REAL TIME reportage and coverage just got better!

7) FIFA’s History books redrafted :
A few footnotes for FIFA on its history books; South Africa’s first round exit made it the first host nation to exit that early; new order in winning nations meant that Spain joins the rare privilege accorded to 9 other nations across the world. Europe pulled a fast one on South America making it 10 out of 19 (the rest obviously going to South American countries)

8) Africa’s Future:
While most critics maybe quick to dismiss the effect the tournament had on the continent, it is fair to say that Africa shall be proud of South Africa for putting together this event. Measured we shall be in our praise since very few countries had any economic or commercial impact from the tournament. What was even worse was the fact that the party came in late for African teams with only Ghana making an effort to the quarters but again showing the inexperience that cripples most of the continent’s teams. But learning, we sure did learn a thing or two from Africa’s ‘first-world’ state.

As Brazil start blazing the world as they look to host the first of its major tournaments in the next 4 years, let’s hope African countries soak in more lessons from this as they hope for the windfall sometime maybe from ….2030? We can ask Paul the Octopus, well over to you FIFA!

2010 World Cup – Should Africa Be Really Celebrating?

Over the last few days, with the world coming to the African continent, albeit on what is arguably the world’s biggest extravaganza ( and longest too considering that we ‘suffer’ for the next 30 days), we have been mulling over what maybe a huge oversight for the continent’s nations to consider now and future contests. There have been quite a number of issues that we need to observe and see what is REALLY in it ( pessimistic some may call it…) ;

 Image courtesy of UnitedStatesofAfrica.com
1) Publicity – While the media is obviously at a frenzy with every media house saying it’s number one in this or that reportage, the last few years since South Africa was confirmed as the host of the tournament has seen some trying times for the continent. From the constant negativity on whether the country would be able to prepare the venues in time, to the intended ban of the vuvuzela, and over-exaggeration of security (shall cover it in a separate point below…read this example). Surely if you look at it, this is the time the world needs to come to relax and absorb in some peaceful moments and what better place than what maybe the least unexploited and compromised continent thus far.


2) Security – as indicated above, the Western media has exaggerated some of the concerns that have risen over security arrangements for the visitors. While we cannot overlook this issue, it maybe of interest to see that some of the conditions that we are currently operating in were created by the very powers-that-be. Terrorism was not Africa’s concern and SHOULD NOT have visited us if the US and other Western countries had not meddled in Middle East and parts of Asia. If what Kenyans endured in the last few days is anything to go by, there is surely not much to celebrate – making us feel like 2nd-class citizens in our own countries – BARBS!!!

3) Commercialisation ( Overdrive) – delving into some of the nitty-gritties of the tournament and the FIFA’s marketing strategies make’s one wonder whether its good for sports or are we approaching another crisis of sorts? From a tight monopoly in issuing sponsorship places to a huge booty that comes with the territory -calling the shots from a tight leadership structure- blocking out many a company that may have a stake or more in the game. While it is good for companies to commit to sport some money, some of the officials look more for greed ( to help finance their fancy lifestyles) than investing in the long-term growth of the game. We know about the hospitality issue here.We have also seen more autocracy than ‘democracy’ especially here in Africa where Confederation of African Football CAF’s made to look like the whipped kid and federations forced to put up – if Kenya’s case is anything to consider. There is the issue of bribery and match-fixing which rears its head every once in awhile
The financial crisis in some of the European leagues shows us that it may not be as rosy as FIFA leads companies to believe, putting too much money on hot air. Read the book – The Global Politics of Sport: The Role of Global Institutions in Sport by Lincoln Allison for more interesting perspectives.

4) Infrastructure development and other capital-intensive works – While the discerning football fan maybe excited for finding top notch facilities and infrastructure, why do Governments in Africa need to have such tournaments to start making this happen? Why can’t we just develop the infrastructure for our own citizenry and sake instead of trying to ‘cover our nakedness’ and ‘sweeping the dirt ‘ for our visitors who are only here for some few days or months? It shocks and makes me sick how African states treat foreign dignitories especially from the West – it’s as if all they will see is the fanciness of our buildings and all that.
More concerns need to be raised if recent countries hosting major tournaments are to considered. Greece currently tottering on huge public debt can trace back some of the problems to 2004 Olympic Games which though beautiful and historic ended up leaving the public paying through their noses for under-utilised facilities.
Image Courtesy of Adidas

5)Sports – are we enjoying the sport for what it is? When players and managers alike start giving excuses such as they are with the vuvuzela and ball – Jabulani dynamics, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. If they don’t like it, then we can leave the stadiums empty and have them carry their own balls and see if they can play at all. If anything, the reason fans flock the stadium is to see goals scored, the more the better.
On the other hand, we have seen Africa’s place not get enough support with more window dressing in our opinion. With the contintent having more than 45 active federations, 6 places from the continent are not sufficient and representative enough for such a passionate lot. Suffice it to say, that if there were at least 8 -10 teams, we could have a fair chance of winning the tournament and a truly global event if FIFA’s word is to be believed.

6) Overdrive and over-exposure – this covers two aspects; the players and FIFA’s calendar of events. The growing list of injuries shows that quite a number of them are suffering from overdrive and exposure from playing too many games within one season. This leads us to the next point where FIFA has quite a number of tournaments and events within a year. Isn’t this a bit of over-exposure which might lead to saturation or destruction at some point?Africa has its share of stars who will be missing from the roster thanks to this

Image courtesy of AP

7) Future of Sports in the continent – if the South African World Cup achieves the intended success ( don’t know how it shall be quantified…), the continent may have a chance of hosting future major events. Consideration ought to be given to dual hosts to ease the burden on one state and give a wider spread of the game. But if the tournament does not live to the standards or the hype that some have put it in, Africa shall be for a long time be banished as ‘3rd-world’ that much of the rest of the world likes branding us. Can we prove them wrong?  Relive past World Cups in brief and see if we shall hack it..You can also read some interesting books here on football and all the politics around it as well here

Watch the games & may your favourite team win and see you in 30 days…

World Cup 2010 : The lure is too good…

The lure of the World Cup has drawn even some of the most unlikely of characters with the most educated President in the world one Bob Gabriel Mugabe reportedly forking out US $ 1.8 million (KShs. 144 million) to host the Brazilian team in Harare for their friendly yesterday. The rare occasion even made the Pres, give half-day off to civil servants for them to make it for the game. 60,000 strong fans showed up and the excitement must have seen him score one with his own citizens already disillusioned by his failure to step down after more than his fair share of troubles and mismanaging the country.

The National Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam – Venue of the 7th June Brazil v/s Tanzania friendly

Next week Tanzania’s Football Federation TFF hosts the Samba Boys in Dar-es-Salaam with the lowest ticket going for US$ 25 (KShs for the game to be played at the coastal city’s National Stadium. The cost of hosting the team has been estimated at US$ 2.5 million to lure Brazil into the country. The Federation which has had the country’s mobile phone operator, Vodacom sponsor the league is said to be planning ahead and targeting to qualify for the 2014 World Cup which shall be hosted by no other than Brazil.
It is a real coup that Tanzania has managed to upstage its East African counter-parts who will need to work harder to try and encourage its players and football fans. It maybe hefty but if they do manage a goal or two (of course we don’t expect Brazil to lose this one), the game’s heroes shall be clearly motivated to playing in the qualifiers to see them in Rio de Janeiro in 4 years.
Are there any other African countries willing to take such a risk or is the lure not good enough for most States?

World Cup 2010 Ads: Nike ‘Writes the Future’

This is one of my favourite ads of the World Cup 2010 tournament so far. This particular one has some interesting snap-shots of the African tournament and features among others, Kenya’s own sportscaster, Torome Tirike ( albeit in very cameo role) and also a famous crowd cheer we have been renowned for especially in the rugby circles. You can here it as Drogba’s about to score, anyway let me not spoil your fun…enjoy it.

Kenya’s only semblance of a Sports FM Station falters

Maybe it’s me or has the media scene in Kenya been reduced to a duopoly? What’s even more depressing is the fact that what was almost an exclusive sports FM radio station, Radio Jambo 97.5 has changed editorial policy. They say, it’s in line with the ‘market needs and advertisers interests’.
Although much of the editorial stuff was foreign-based with the most coming from the European football scene, I’d think the station would have done better if they decided to focus on more local sports news and live coverage.
Talking about live coverage, could the partnership with DStv, Radio Africa (Jambo FM’s parent company) & KBC have informed the decision to reduce their content? Right now Jambo FM sounds like it’s trying to replicate what other stations such as Q FM ( Nation’s Swahili station), Milele FM and Radio Citizen are doing. Anyone trying to maintain standards or is it free-fall there? Their presenters needed a class or two on professional coverage and reporting.
For any future investors in media and especially sports-related in Kenya or indeed in Africa, please do your legwork and background checks REALLY well. It’s sad that when the 2010 World Cup is setting foot in Africa, we are turning things for the worst. Or can SuperSport make it’s way into radio? Maybe, just maybe someone is listening…
For a full list of Kenyan FM radio stations check here.

2010 Africa Cup of Nations – Are we ready for the World Cup?

With the tournament coming to a close last night with the Egyptians winning the trophy a third time in as many times crowning a sterling performance from much of the homegrown talent.
Having been threatened by the initial attacks on the Togolese team (which has since been banned from CAF tournaments, absurd if you ask me…), the tournament had a hot-cold feel to it which meant there were spectacular moments but also the usual drawl that such tournaments have. These are our take-outs worth noting;

1. Security – this has becoming of paramount importance since the 1972 Olympics when Israel lost some of its members to a fundamentalist group. This should have been avoided at the start if the Angolan authorities had not overlooked the fact of Cabinda being a potential trouble-spot. Future tournament organisers will also need to notify the countries available means of entry into their countries to avoid such travesties as endured by the Togolese team.

2. Sponsors – for once most the companies who sponsored the tournament made an effort to localise even their communication using largely African players and people too. This is a boon to the fledging industries in sports, advertising and marketing which couple together to make it possible to enjoy the tournaments.
A mention too for the SuperSport sportscasters for adding the African flair to their wardrobe. Though some people looked awkward in the flowing designs, it was refreshing to see the change from the more formal polo shirts to the truly African wear.

3. Timing – not seemingly supporting the European team managers, the tournament needs to have a longer period between one and the next tournament. Though CAF’s Issa Hayatou , thinks otherwise, the level of competition would be heightened if there is a wider period and also allow for the players to give their best as compared to what they currently have to endure. Some of the main contenders had to contend with 4-6 players of the first team injured.
Again the pressures on the host country have all been there to see, like Burkina Faso in 1998 and Mali in 2002. Though FIFA has made the changes into an odd year,so as to see the possibility of not clashing with the European and World Cups, the work is cut out for the CAF officials.

4. Trophy Design – Now that Egypt has won the trophy 3 consecutive times, does the old tradition of keeping the trophy stand? If it does, it’s about time CAF developed a more representative and iconic trophy. The current World Cup is a good starting point.

5. Stadium Management – It was clear that most of the stadia were being used for the first time and the toll on some of them made it hard to train and play at the same time. Taking us back to the 3rd point, the organisers ought to give the host country ample time to develop the stadia and also test them with local or international fixtures. That way no excuses of not training at the same grounds will be heard like what we had in the Angolan tournament.

6. Africa Cup of Nations cum World Cup qualifiers – judging from the performance of most countries that qualified for the World Cup, it shows the need to have it held every 3-4 years. Though 3 of the countries qualified for the semi-finals, the lacklustre performances in the group stages and the quarter & semi-finals depict a worrying picture. Unless the countries pick themselves up and play with serious passion and technical approach, I don’t see anywhere more than 2 countries going into the second round of the World Cup.

7. Local vs international tacticians – Once again, we argue the case for local coaches taking the national teams. Look at Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria, though the latter two didn’t win anything substantial, the use of local coaches showed why we need to do away with the notion that expatriates will make our game. What’s even more interesting is the fact that much of the Egyptian team had players from their local league. I wonder how they lost the WC qualifiers again…
(Don’t you just love it?)
I’m sure the South African LOC for the World Cup has been camping at the Angola cities taking notes. I don’t foresee the two tournaments ever coming into such close proximity as it has this year. Thus South Africans, you’ve the work cut out for you !

Africa Cup of Nations 2010 – Boys to Men

Starting on the wrong footing, Africa’s first major sporting milestone this year has seen some interest from football enthusiasts across the continent. Of course we can’t rule out the critics such as Hull City’s Phil Brown who even started criticizing the 2010 World Cup while he can’t place where some countries are at on the African map.
True the tournament’s seen its share of mis-steps again due to the fragile nature of Angola’s infrastructure and security arrangements. But as they say, this is Africa ! (my fairy tale one though!)
Getting into the games proper, we were treated to a goal fest in the opening match and though the underdogs seemed to have stepped up their game, the usual suspects are quickly getting back the order of things. Thursday’s games shall see the final 2 teams qualify for the quarter-finals.
The main concern though has been the poor show by the continent’s World Cup representatives with 1 nation on the verge of elimination – Cameroon unless they win against Tunisia today. Another concern, is there seems to be less talent coming from the other country’s – maybe they are getting warmed up for the quarters & semis but from what we’ve seen, we don’t have as much world-beaters as we portend.
Crowds watching the games- South Africa should be taking notes. During the Angola – Algeria game, there were parts of the upper stadium that were almost empty. Serious concerns if you are to make any revenues from the ticketing.
Ad campaigns and sponsorships – some of the major apparel companies seem to have shunned the continent leaving Puma to hold forte in almost all the top teams. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence in the teams’ abilities or Puma has offered lucrative deals. Only Nigeria’s wearing another company’s outfit. Still on this, the media campaigns have the usual African colourful works but don’t quite inspire (me) into thinking Pan-African.
All in all, the next one week will see out the finals of this tournament which FIFA & CAF ought to seriously think about. The 2-year cycle’s too monotonous and maybe that’s why it can’t attract major sponsors. It also destabilises clubs not just in the African leagues but also the European ones -where some of the managers have made quite a critique as well. It will also help host nation’s prepare and avoid fiascos of building fancy stadiums only for these to remain empty and decrepit on the tournaments’ ending.
Keep watching your favourite team though and may the best Kings of Africa win !
For your reading pleasure, check this too, soccer wars !

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Don’t you like the way this year just rolls out the tongue? Methinks we are upto something good (unless of course we keep seeing headlines like what the funny Kenyan MPs may receive if the recommendations go through).
Sporting activities and opportunities are already in the pipeline and of course have the big one in June-July. Kenya shall also host a few events and though we might not reap as much boon from the World Cup and its crumbs, we shall feature prominently as is the case in the rugby 7s, swimming, continental club football (that’s if we can move beyond the 1st & 2nd round to Africa Club Champions League proper) among others.
We shall hope to give you the best of our insights and keep you posted on the whys and wherefores of some of the happenings. Watch out too for live coverage (unless technical issues challenge us like it happened last year during the SOYA Awards at KICC).

Great year , shouldn’t it be ?