By Nana Yaw Frempong
Ever since football turned truly commercial and became a big business –and it has not been that long - the game’s finest footballers have had much more to thrive on than just their talent.
While their clubs continue to rake in huge profits from multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals, some of the best players have cashed in on their popularity, good looks, physique among others, just to supplement their five- or six-figure wages with income from their individual endorsement deals.
Indeed, so important have such deals become, that they are often factored into contracts to maximise their bountiful rewards for the clubs and the players themselves. In this regard, there have been some who have attained global prominence acting as icons for some of the world’s famous brands, from Gillette razors, through bottles of Pepsi, to Armani underwear. The likes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi, and Ronaldinho readily spring to mind.
FACE OF FANMILK | Andre Ayew is the face of Fan Milk in Ghana
In Africa, however, it took quite a while before the concept really caught on, especially here in Ghana. For instance, this writer does recall watching, while growing up, a commercial advertisement of Parlays Biscuits, which featured then Ghana playmaker and Olympique Marseille star Abedi Ayew [Pele] munching on the crispy stuff, and somehow managing to establish a connection of sorts between that and the player’s own legendary prowess. It came with one brilliant catchphrase – ‘Abedi Pele loves Parlays’, I think it was - which so captivated my infantile mind, that for a while the little boy in me refused to accept from anyone any biscuit besides that which one of my earliest footballing heroes seemed to endorse and enjoy with relish.
As it turned out, however, those adverts merely proved a one-off indeed, as I’d reach a long way into adolescence before seeing any of its kind.
The turning point came sometime around the mid-90s when Ghanaian football, specifically the senior national side, the Black Stars, hit the ‘jackpot’, as it were, with the team being projected by sponsorship deals that came in from all sides, primarily to propel the country’s 2006 World Cup qualification dream. With that came increased prominence for the team’s bigger players, who suddenly began appearing in media ads all over the place, and in the half-decade or so that has elapsed since, many of them have gone on to represent some of the nation’s foremost brands.
Michael Essien and Andre Ayew have been employed as the faces of ‘FanYogo’ and ‘FanMilk’ (two leading flavored dairy drinkables in the land) respectively; Samuel Inkoom is a well-known symbol for Voltic Mineral Water (as well as, on a bigger level, for the Casio ‘G-Shock’ range of watches); striker Asamoah Gyan has been seen on screen ads for detergent and herbal products and more famously, for telecommunications giant GLO and Melcom; while there still are billboards to be seen around the country with images of Essien alongside erstwhile captain of Ghana, Stephen Appiah, grinning and posing in their white kits for MTN, another of Ghana’s major network players.
|It came with one brilliant catchphrase – ‘Abedi Pele loves Parlays’, I think it was - which so captivated my infantile mind, that for a while the little boy in me refused to accept from anyone any biscuit besides that which one of my earliest footballing heroes seemed to endorse and enjoy with relish.
- Nana Yaw Frempong
Having their favorite footballers adorn or linked to their personal/household items does much to create stronger affinity between Ghanaians and the national team’s stars. It is this fact, coupled with a consciousness of where their hefty endorsement fees come from – the pockets of the ordinary Ghanaian consumer/fan - - that would move the more level-headed of these players to give back to society in the form of philanthropic deeds. No wonder nearly all of the afore-mentioned players have established some form of charity organizations through which they formally channel most of their positive efforts to improve the communities that have invested so much in them, directly or otherwise, to get them to the heights they now occupy.
In the long run, it is a win-win situation for all involved, and thus hopefully, the trend would continue as long as everyone – the companies, the players, and the people - feel content.