Thursday, 22 January 2015

What Nigerians stand to loss during African Cup of Nations

What Nigerians stand to loss during African Cup of Nations

From January 17 through February 8,  soccer aficionados across the world will turn their attention on Equatorial Guinea, a country on the West Coast of African where the continent’s biggest sporting event – the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), popularly known as the Nations Cup will take centre stage.  

The 15 qualifying teams in addition to the hosts, who got automatic qualification, have since begun preparations to ensure a successful outing at the tournament.  The qualifying countries include, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Zambia,  D. R. Congo, Tunisia, Cape Verde, Ghana and Senegal, others are Algeria, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali and Cameroon.

A country’s participation in a major sport tournament usually transcends the sporting activity itself in most cases.  It is accompanied by several business opportunities which go a long way in boosting the economy of the qualifying country.  

During events like this, corporations and brands in Nigeria, like their counterparts in other African countries, spend millions of dollars on sports marketing and advertising, leveraging on the emotional connection between sport talents and their fans to bond with millions of consumers.  Indeed, creative marketing communication experts have increasingly become  adept at using this emotional bond as a platform to build patronage and loyalty from consumers when they are able to convince owners of brands or services to commit their funds in support if sporting activities.

Unfortunately, this year’s AFCON tournament will not feature the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the defending champions, having failed to qualify to defend their title in Equatorial Guinea.  The Super Eagles failure to be at the tournament is not only agonising for the soccer – loving fans in the country but also for the economy which seems to be in dire straits currently.  Businesses and brands that would have leveraging the opportunities provided by the Nation’s Cup to boost economic activities are certainly unhappy about Nigeria’s non-participation.

Beyond the pain of Nigerian soccer fans not enjoying the African soccer fiesta, all the stakeholders in Nigerian football – officials, players, corporate bodies, communication agencies, sponsors, sportswear manufacturers, market women, airlines, travel and tourism industry, viewing centres operators, are all busy counting their financial losses. All the corporate bodies that have signed deals with Nigerian Football Association (NFF) as officials were planning to get involved via ambush marketing have lost out as the Nations’ Cup would have been an avenue to get good mileage and return on investment.

The marketing communications sector is one of the hardest hit industries by the Super Eagles failure to qualify for the AFCON.  It would be recalled that during the lost AFCON tournament in South Africa, where the Nigeria Super Eagles won the Nations cup, many brands and others reaped huge regards from Nigeria’s participation and success at the tournament.  Similarly, at the World Cup in Brazil where Nigeria qualified, there was heightened activity in the advertising industry, which resulted in huge revenues for IMC agencies as well as media houses. Brands spent billions on creative and buying of media space across several media platforms.  For the upcoming AFCON in Equatorial Guinea, the story would be entirely different as there would be no motivations for brands to expand huge sums of money on marketing activities.  For those who are strictly sports experts, the positive way to look at this is to celebrate the diversity, and see it as a sign that football in Africa is growing, such that it is not only the traditional powers like Nigeria who can compete.  Very few marketers would share this view, as no brand in Nigeria would want to gamble too much with an event most Nigerians are not connected to emotionally.

No wonder the President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Alhaji (Dr.) Issa Hayatou has affirmed that failure to qualify for the 30th African Cup of Nations has not diminished the importance of Nigeria to the entire structure of African football.  The whole of Africa will miss Nigeria in Equatorial Guinea.  It would have been good to have the defending champions in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.  Nigeria brings so much value to the African Cup of Nations.  However, we know that you will come back much stronger, as you did in winning the cup in South Africa last year after missing out of the 2012 championship.”

Surely, Nigerian Super Eagles will rise again, and as we go back to the drawing board, we must not fail to pray for them and wish their female counterpart, the Super Falcons’ success in the Women’s World Cup come June 6, 2015.

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