Question: It bleeds my heart to notice the huge amount of accolade, excitement, and euphoria exhibited by Nigerians towards international football tournaments these days, while local equivalents (e.g. the Nigeria Premier League or NPL) are fast dwindling in insignificance. I know some marketing tips, from a guru like you, will help throw light on what could be done to rekindle public interest in the NPL, as this will aid football in Nigeria. Your view in this regard will be highly appreciated – L. Mbachu
In continuation of my stand about problems which have made for waned public interest towards league football matches, as organised by the Nigeria Premier League (NPL), in Part 1 of this piece, the issue of bad officiating raised therein has thrown up a crucial question – Why shouldn’t Nigerian football lovers prefer to stay at home for an European Premier League (EPL) match, when the poor performance of local referees has indeed taken the shine off local matches? Other problem areas are as follows:
- Frequent attacks on players, even in the dressing rooms, clearly portend lack of adequate security arrangements for football matches here. It is no longer news that the police often provide less than 20 of its personnel at local football matches. Inadequate security arrangement at any such events is sufficient reason for intending match spectators to steer clear of match venues.
Local players should be properly remunerated as a spur on. A situation where clubs owe players salaries and other entitlements make for low morale, disloyalty, and even the inclination to ‘dumb club’ at the slightest opportunity. Players’ encouragement can also come through adequate exposure to international matches. The present couch of the national side (“Super Eagles”), Stephen Keshi, has taken to this slant, as such exposure no doubt sharpens the skills of local players, thus raising the standard of play to arouse public interest. Moreover there has been the resounding allegation that club managers are still no where near being able to cater for the welfare of players effectively. I still remember reading somewhere of a coach’s allegation that club managers were enriching themselves at the expense of the ‘real actors’ – Coaches and players.
- Low culture of maintenance of public facilities is well known within this environment. This has so contributed to the declining state of match venues that a recent call by a prominent sports personality, on the declined state of the National Stadium, Abuja (especially in the area of public conveniences) comes to mind. This edifice was built less than ten years ago, and its effective maintenance now constitutes a problem. How attractive will an ill-maintained match venue be to a fan desirous of being a local spectator at a match slated for such a place?
As there is need to identify where the NPL missed it, in order to work towards the return to what now seems lost glory of football at the local scene, NPL must “drive into the future, using the rear-view mirror of the past”.
Hoping that the following vital tips, from a marketing perspective, would be taken seriously at certain essential quarters (and not end up as mere reaction to Mr. L. Mbachu’s demand), NPL should refrain from the old order and change the situation through ‘out-of-the-box’ methods of uplifting the league – Not like a man with alcohol poisoning treating himself with a new brand of “Ogogoro” (local gin). NPL can reach me for more on modalities of related promotion strategy, as I assure this body of a glaring positive change within 12 to 18 months.
As regards tips on what could be done about returning the crowd to football matches organised by NPL, the following should be given consideration, with efforts at rectification of above-stated problem areas being in place:
Organisers of local league matches should drastically reduce gate-takings for such events. This will obviously encourage all to come see the players, who would likely become celebrities before these football fans later – “Let the people come first”. Attracting people in this form will create a ‘pull’ which the crowd would find difficult to resist later, when gate fees are gradually raised (maybe in stages). This depicts a marketing concept tagged “Penetration pricing”. Large crowd in matches would clearly attract sponsors. The ripple effects of this are glaring.
There should be intensification of promotion of matches, locally. While researching this piece, a friend told me of how the public (in the good old days) got aroused through posters, fliers, and even mobile advertisement sources (vans with mounted loud-speakers; and even riders of then popular ‘Honda 175’ motorcycles with hand held loud-speakers), informing the locals about “…the great football encounter, at the Abakaliki stadium, featuring Rangers’ clashing against Vasco…”. Many looked forward to such well publicized local events, as occasions which made weekends memorable.
Who says the same local approach to promotion can not be applied presently, to be complemented by announcements, hype, news items, in any of the numerous local frequency modulation (FM) radio stations, around match environments? The same holds for announcements (not necessarily spot commercials) of local television stations. What should remain paramount is attaching football matches anywhere to promotion, using promotion media relevant or ‘pegged’ to the vicinity where the event is taking place.
Without contravening rules of Fédération Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA), the government should try to protect this ‘industry’ from the impact of globalization, as it obtains in countries of North Africa, and even South Africa. The effect of this is well mirrored on the immense number of spectators to football matches in these climes. The bit about encouraging local investors, stated earlier, should be brought to the fore. I need not dwell here on the nitty-gritty of what to do in order to lure local investment to the NPL, what remain essential is the need to embark on ‘crowd stimulation’ which brings in paying spectators and subsequently more money to the kitty, and ‘magnet’ to local investors.
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