When oil company AITEO Group agreed an $8.2million five years deal with the Nigeria Football Federation in April, it was hailed as the biggest sponsorship intervention in the country’s football in years. The deal that saw the indigenous company become the Official Optimum Partner of the NFF was meant to help offset the salaries of national team coaches.
The otherwise quiet player in Nigeria’s oil sector suddenly became a household name in a football-mad country that has seen its image battered by a shortage of funds in recent years. Many of Nigeria’s coaches had been owed several months of salary arrears and this deal was supposed to bring an end to the incessant stories that found their way into the press tainting the NFF’s image.
The deal was expanded in June when both entities reached an agreement that saw AITEO become naming rights sponsor for the country’s oldest football competition, the Federation Cup in a five-year $850,000 deal. The competition that has struggled to sustain the attention of clubs suddenly became a lot more attractive with an increase in prize money that would hand winners more than $70,000, up from around $5700 a year ago, a 1,128 percent increase.
AITEO has also put up bonuses into encouraging the Nigerian men’s senior national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a crucial match against Zambia in Uyo next month standing between them and Russia 2018. The impact of the oil company’s football sponsorship has been highly evident in such a short time since its first foray into sports. Despite being a B2B that does not sell directly to consumers, its brand name recognition has grown enormously in less than six months.
However, there is a clamour among local media that the company should do more in terms of activating its sponsorship. Despite the mileage it is receiving, there is increased agitation that it is not spending on local advertising. This is one way that the company can give back to the sports media that are regularly pushing content around the AITEO Cup and the Super Eagles.
The sponsorship is still in its early days even though the company looks like it is not prepared for the kind of exposure it is receiving from sponsoring the country’s football. Some newspapers published articles this week quoting an unnamed company official who stated that the Group was not receiving enough leverage for its sponsorship of the Cup and was reconsidering its relationship with the NFF. However, the company moved to swiftly quash the reports less than 24 hours later by indicating that there were no issues with the deal. Insinuations are that it was a planted story overseen by individuals who feel they should be getting more from the deal but are not.
“AITEO’s relationship with NFF is unfettered in any way, and the organisation will continue to ensure that NFF gets the required financial support it needs to perform optimally,” said a statement from the company.
Sports sponsorships are a way for companies to gain brand name recognition and increased sales. But when a company does not sell directly to consumers, brand recognition is the best thing they can get as well as tax incentives.
With a World Cup year coming up really fast and Nigeria’s imminent qualification, one looks forward to seeing AITEO do a lot of media spending in 2018. They have an opportunity to grab the public space and put their name in front of more newspaper readers, TV audiences and radio listeners across Africa as the Super Eagles look set to represent the continent in Russia. That is one way they can give back to the media that has been a key stakeholder in their new found fame.
However, the agitation from media must be channelled properly in order to get the best from the sponsors. There is no need trying to blackmail the company into spending when it is not yet ready. Media must be careful in how they manage these kinds of relationships otherwise they will alienate sponsors and endanger future sponsorships.