Sports has always been a part of humankind, with the earliest engagements dating back to 3000BC.
Back then, sports was practised for recreational purposes. In Greece, where the present-day Olympic Games were born, sports took place during festivals and offered a pleasant platform for the inhabitants to get together.
Sports is now a way of life. People are choosing sports as a career. Sports offers numerous business opportunities. Governments and private entities are investing in the industry and the results are promising. In the developed nations, the corporate sector invests in sports and recreation more than governments.
In Europe, according to the Deloitte UK Annual Review of Football Finance 2018, the continent's football market is now worth more than Sh3.237 trillion, equivalent to 28.4 billion Euros.
The 2017 European Commission highlights on sports financing in Europe states that, the sports sector accounted for 2 per cent of the European Union global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) whereas the total direct employment generated was above 7.3 million. This clearly indicates that, if well tapped into, the sports industry can contribute tremendously to economic growth and job creation.
In Kenya, we have witnessed a steady growth of sports. Apart from our gallant world-beating athletes in middle and long distance running, we have seen the country make a name for itself in rugby sevens, volleyball and most recently basketball.
Our country has the potential to, not only become a global sporting giant on the field, but also off it. Kenya in 2017 hosted the IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi, considered the most successful staged ever. The Kenya Open Golf Championship, Safari Rally (now back as part of the World Rally Championships series), Safari Sevens and the IAAF World Under-20 Championships will be hosted by Kenya this year.
The growth of sports in developed nations has been majorly facilitated by corporates through their sponsorship and partnerships. Corporates around the world through various arrangements are helping grow the sports industry due to its dynamism.
The various types of sporting activities available and preferences of the spectator offers industry players a huge opportunity to invest. In return, these partnerships allow massive visibility for brands worldwide.
Events like the Chicago, Berlin and London marathons, all part of the World Marathon Majors, contribute significantly to the respective local economies.
In fact, marathons have helped to change cities and people alike. In 2015 for instance, the Bank of America reported that the Chicago Marathon provided significant growth to the city's economy, delivering an estimated Sh28 billion in total business impact. This clearly shows that if we were to fully tap into this great “export”, Kenya would have an opportunity to exponentially grow economically and provide many opportunities for people and organisations.
The Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL), through its various brands, has been at the forefront of contributing to sports development in the country. Through Tusker FC, which has grown to become the third most successful football club in the country, KBL has offered economic opportunities to many talented footballers in the country and at the same time helped to put Kenya on the international football map when players from the club are called for international duty.
The recent partnership with Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) through our Tusker flagship will help in the further growth of the game of rugby, which has been one of the most successful team sports in the country. The partnership is geared towards supporting KRU programmes, including the men’s and women’s national sevens and fifteens teams. It will also assist in growing and nurturing rugby talent and rugby clubs including varsity sides across the country.
KBL, through its Johnnie Walker brand, will support the upcoming 2020 Magical Kenya Open golf tournament. This is a major global golfing competition that is part of the European Tour series attracting top foreign and local professional golfers. Last year's Tour was a great success with international coverage putting Kenya on the global map as an event host.
Our commitment is consistent because our brands and community activities have been interwoven with Kenya’s culture since our birth here in 1922.
KBL was the Kenya Open title sponsor between 1998 to 2001 and again from 2005 to 2009. Since 2010, we have been the championship’s official alcoholic beverages partner through Tusker Malt; and then Johnnie Walker from 2017.
A 2018 United Nations Children Funds and Institute of Economic Affairs report titled Talent Development in Sports and Arts states that corporate support in the sports sector has made it one of the most promising sectors in job creation and poverty reduction.
For Kenya’s sports industry to grow, there is need for a paradigm shift on how sports is viewed. Through combined efforts the sports sector can become an economic driver.
Corporates have a big role to play in growing sports in the country and making Kenya a sporting powerhouse.
Jane Karuku is Managing Director, Kenya Breweries Ltd