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  • Writer's pictureEdem Kojo Spio

The Sponsorship Potential Of African Women's Football - Part 2

Attracting potential sponsors


More and more sponsors are investing in women's football given the commercial incentives at play as women’s football becomes more professional. The 5 key areas of commercial opportunity are:

  • Increased brand awareness.

  • Positive return on investment.

  • Ability to reach target audience.

  • Low price points.

  • Access to digital intellectual property rights.


African women’s football teams must find innovative ways to prove to potential sponsors that they (sponsors) can obtain the aforementioned areas of commercial opportunity should they decide to invest in them (African women’s football teams). “How might the African women’s football teams do this?” one may ask. 80% of the interviewees admitted to knowing the relevance of a comprehensive brand sponsorship strategy. They eluded to the fact that such a strategy will show the direct and indirect areas of alignment of both brands – African women’s football teams and potential sponsors. It was widely suggested that a brand sponsorship strategy will:


  • Show the common grounds for entering into a partnership – this can be the business focus, vision, mission, values etc.

  • Highlight the potential areas for investment in the women’s football as per the focus area of the potential sponsor.

  • Create a blueprint – action points - for the types of activations to be explored and the percentage level of success.

  • Develop the right metrics and tools for monitoring the key elements of a partnership.


African football suffers from the ‘word of mouth syndrome”. Yes, many teams in Africa – both male and female – tend to have excellent ideas on how to grow the game for their respective game. These may be shared with potential investors to drive sponsorship and partnership revenue. The sad truth is that it seems to end at the point where there’s a verbal discussion about ideas. Truth be told, business strategy development isn’t commonplace in Africa. Thus, many may not be properly equipped in developing effective business strategies. This culture needs to seize if we say we’re looking to secure innovative sponsorship in African women’s football. CAF has set the pace via the CAF Women’s Football Strategy. This made it possible to bring TikTok on board at the right time. Women’s football teams on the continent must endeavour to learn from CAF


Qualitative valuation of women's football


African women’s football should ideally be growing at par with European, American and Oceanian women’s football. However, this isn’t so as women’s football on the continent is still struggling to “break the bias” on many societal misconceptions targeted towards women as compared to other continents. Stereotypes such as “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”, “a woman is supposed to marry early and serve her husband” and “a girl cannot and should not play sports because it’s for boys” contribute to the low talent pool across the continent. Many families still do not believe in the power of women’s sports after all the strides and achievements that have been made thus far.


Growing up in the outskirt of Accra, I was the only girl in my community and class at school that played football with the boys. Everyone called me a tomboy. The opposition to me playing football was that bad. My aunties, uncles, teachers and even some of my male friends will complain bitterly to my parents. My mum always said that my place was with her in the kitchen and not playing with the boys. My father will always discipline me anytime I came home from school with injuries from playing football. I couldn’t help, I love the beautiful game. Sadly there were not role models at my time to look up to and for them to prove to everyone that women too deserve to play football. Now, the reality is changing but at a slow pace. We need more and more female stars from the continent who are brave and willing to lead social change and create pathways for young girls to play the beautiful game.


Female athletes in Europe, America and Oceania are actively being used as brand ambassadors, gender quality and equity activists and role models for young girls. Alexis Putellas, Alex Morgan, Sam Kerr and Lucy Bronze actively engage in activations with sponsors where particular messages are sent through to the target audience to raise awareness on a topic. All the interviewees agreed that women’s football is the biggest women’s sport in Africa and that when structured well, it can become a platform for attracting numerous brands for many on-pitch and off- pitch. Over the years, global women’s football has become one of the best – if not the best - platforms for fighting for women’s empowerment, gender equality, diversity and inclusion, mental health, player well-being, sustainability and social justice.


Yes, I’m well aware that some societal norms of the western world are still not upheld in Africa. Nonetheless, there are others like mental health, social justice and women empowerment that transcend all regions. I think that instead of ‘re-investing the social-activism-in-sports wheel’, our African women’s football teams should reach out to their counterparts on other continents for ideas and help regarding social activism in women’s sport. Really and truly, what stops the decision makes from Banyana Banyana or the Super Falcons from reaching out to the decision makers of the Lionesses or the USWNT to ask how they have pushed social campaigns over the years? We need to start being intentional about these things or else it’s going to take a further long way for our up and coming young girls.”


50% of the interviewees outlined two main reasons why African women’s football has the ability to tackle many social vices in Africa and promote social value cohesion. These are:


  • Women have been relegated to the social background for generations. We’re increasingly experiencing shifts in stereotypes towards women as the number of organisation working in social responsibility initiatives for women as well as the initiative themselves are increasing. Although some of them are in sports, we need more sports based initiatives as a woman’s participation in sports embodies social responsibility.

  • The success stories of African female footballers such as Asisat Oshoala tend to be more impactful and transformative for society given the fact that the chances of becoming a top female player from Africa have been very slim, almost impossible, for the most part. Thus, when they rise to stardom, fans and supporters alike tend to gravitate more to them as their stories are emotionally captivating.


Risk analysis: Challenges and solutions


The table below highlights the current challenges present in African women’s football.


Category

Challenges

Organisational

  • ​Lack of professional structure.

  • Lack of competition due to the number of teams present.

  • Lack of strategy needed for

  • developing the appropriate policies and play structure.

Data & analysis

  • Lack of extensive data from audiences and consumers.

  • Lack of metrics used for collecting and analysing fan sentiment data.

African women's teams

  • Lack of playing infrastructure.

  • Lack of operational and playing culture.

  • Lack of marketing and branding strategies.

  • Lack of systems operations infrastructure.

Sponsors

  • Bad habit of comparing the quality of men’s football to women’s football.

  • Lack of conclusive fan demographic for African women’s football.

  • Lip servicing.

  • Bundling of men’s and women’s football right – the former always tramps the latter.

The interviewees highlighted several growth areas that can be exploited. These are:


  • Female players are gradually being seen as heroines, role models and social ambassadors in society. Sponsors can develop unique campaigns to support and promote social causes better.

  • Since African women’s football is somewhat in its early stages of development, there are no intricate commercial structures to hinder innovative sponsorship.

  • Premium women’s football properties should have a low price point to incentivise potential sponsors.

  • Broadcasters must make women’s football free and accessible to all to raise the perception of the game in the mind’s eye of consumers of football. This will certainly increase the women’s football fanbase.

  • Content creators should be given access to create exciting and interesting on-pitch and off-pitch content that can be readily accessed by fans – especially Gen Z fans – as this is proven to attract and increase women’s football fanbase. Brands such as Nike, EA Sports, DAZN the Boots, Balls & Bras Podcast by Fara Williams do justice to content creation in women’s football.

The interviewees subsequently predicted that in 5 to 10 years:

  • The current assets in African women’s football will increase in value as more people invest in and consume women’s football.

  • There will be greater innovation in the types of partnerships that potential sponsors and African women’s football teams enter into.

  • Brands which focus primarily on females will be drawn to African women’s football as more younger aged women and the youth engage with football either as players or as consumers.

  • There will be a greater investment into African women’s football as brands will want to create the impression that they support and believe in women’s football – the result of peer pressure from existing sponsors.

Despite the fact that the current challenges are quite daunting, with the right mindset and approach to business, all the existing hurdles can be dealt with effectively. Look at what is happening in Europe and America. Yes, it has not been easy for them since there are still problems that women’s football abroad face. Yet, they have made impressive progress over the years due to one thing: being intentional. It’s one thing to develop all the strategies and even attract sponsors. It’s another thing to execute activations successfully with them. Unless African women’s football teams are intentional about their tactics for growth, nothing really can be done. The ball is literally in their court.”


Conclusion

The table below contains the proposed solutions made by the interviewees on what must be done by both African women’s football teams and potential sponsors to grow the women’s game on the continent.


African women's football teams

Potential sponsors

Develop relevant sponsorship strategies for different brand sponsors.

Research into the existing sports properties that can be used in sponsorship activations and agreements.

Invest in systems and metrics that enable the collection of fan sentiments, viewership, social media fan engagement etc.

Develop sponsorship strategies for different African women’s football teams. Focus on innovation at all times.

Develop a digital intellectual property right – an asset that derives value for both sponsors and rightsholders.

Focus on sponsorship activations that seek to tackle some societal problems via the uplifting of African female footballers.

Promote the stories, struggles and motivations of female players via the creation of content on the lives of female players.

Be intentional about wanting to sponsor African women’s football properties.

The participants of this study and the researcher strongly believe that both African women’s football teams and potential sponsors can implement the proposed solutions.

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