I have been puzzled at times when I read some of the activities that firms in this part of the world engage in. Most firms as a friend of mine said sometime back, will always make their money -come what may, so for them to start investing in sports among other activities that are not core to their business is usually like annoyance.
When for instance, a company says it has granted a cheque of KShs. 500,000 to support the World Cross Country training camp? Does that qualify as CRS or is it sponsorship?
My belief is that most firms do not have long-term measures which they can apply to the interest of sports especially in Kenya. I mean why should a company report profits of over KShs. 1.5 billion yet they can't commit even a 1/20 of that money to sports every year ? Ambitious it might sound but take this example;
AIG Global one of the largest insurance firms in the world decided to support the Manchester United team in the English Premier League by committing $98.88 million (over Kshs6 billion ) for 4 years to have the jerseys worn by the players display 'AIG'.This was more than 50% what previous jersey sponsors Vodafone had committed to the English club. It was touted as the biggest deal of its kind when signed in 2006.
When asked why he had decided to focus on the English team and fans by extension, the CEO Mratin Sullivan replied,
"I am not buying the UK. I am buying Asia".
You see Manchester United is the world's most visible football (or soccer if you like ) team. It has been the richest club since the survey started early in the 1990s. The club has continued to have huge fan attractions especially in Asia where the fans there number around 54 % of all Manchester fans. An interesting addition to this is the recruitment of a Korean player which increased the fan base in Korea ( more than 65000 South Koreans have signed for a club-branded debit/credit card.
That tells you AIG is not in this just for show, they are in there for the long haul !
Back to the Kenyan scene, this characteristic has been displayed albeit subtly by firms like Barclays Bank investment in high school football, Standard Chartered's Nairobi Marathon and also Safaricom's Lewa Marathon & SOY Awards not forgetting Kenya Commercial Bank's rally sponsorship, to name the few companies taking the right direction.
As it is becoming evident, companies cannot afford to hide under the veil of CRS and still say they are committing to the growth of sports in Kenya. A more aggressive and deeper involvement in the industry is needed. It is also important that these firms seek involvment from the bodies governing the sport as well as existing professionals to assist with proper blueprints. That way even the sportsmen will spare no thoughts when playing as they will go for the crown. (Look at what is happening to the Kenya Rugby 7s team).
Let me say, the desire is there and the fire needs be stoked even more with this fuel. Sports without money is like a F1 car without the turbo, you'll ride the race but never be a winner !