Sponsorship in sports exists to serve a purpose, and for the rights holders, it provides a source of revenue necessary for meeting the expenses of the team/club/federation (The Rights holder).
Sponsors acquire rights in order to exploit the same to further their own agenda, which in many instances would be marketing-related.
This is should not be confused with government funding via the Ministry of Sports and Heritage. This is done purely for the benefits that accrue to the nation at large.
And even then for a country like Kenya, government has limited resources and pressing needs in the health, education and infrastructure sectors.
Hence for the government to allocate a percentage of this resources to sports there must be a return to the taxpayers’ money.
State agencies, such as Brand Kenya, Kenya Tourism, KenInvest, Kenya Ports Authority have specific mandates none of which include sports development.
That mandate belongs to the Ministry of Sports Heritage, and its agencies. Hence when Brand Kenya and the likes engage in sports sponsorship, it is not for the development of sport but for the furtherance of their specific mandate and should be treated in a similar manner to other sponsors such as Nike, or a beer brand when they enter into a sponsorship agreement.
Purely based on the statements issued by the Kenya sevens rugby players and the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), I sympathize with the players who had to go without salaries and allowance for months.
I also but to a lesser extend sympathize with KRU who have had to adjust to life without the SportPesa’s sponsorship which was cancelled at the beginning of the year.
To a lesser extent, as urged then, our federations are not doing enough to attract and keep sponsors happy. KRU should have done the projections better to avoid this scenario.
That said, the actions of the players in Paris, who now say they acted on their own, has exposed various issues that make both existing and potential sponsors nervous:
That KRU does not have control of the team and discipline thereof. I can understand the jerseys being strapped for one game, but the same continued not just for the first game, but throughout the Paris tournament weekend.
Why didn't the KRU arrest this situation before it got out of hand? As a potential sponsor, can I then trust KRU to deliver on the benefits contained in the contract or should the players be party to the contract?
Ideally, sponsors should not be dealing with players or even making payments directly to the players. The federation selects and prepares the team. That's their role.
The federation has or should have contracts with the players. Only the federation should be at the negotiating table with the sponsor.
As for the players, one can easily understand their frustrations. However when one choices to protest, they must choose their actions with a sober mind. Ensuring that:
Their protests are heard by the right persons;
Their protests are directed to right persons;
Their actions do not come back to hurt them (players).
In this case, was the protest heard by the right people? Big YES, the protest got the attention of every Kenyan that matters.
Was the protest directed to the right people, NO. The protest seemed to target one particular sponsor forcing them to make a public statement. The protest should have been directed to the Union.
Finally did this protest hurt the players. Big Yes…. This protest will make future sponsorships difficult. And hence hurts the entire sport.
If you doubt that, ask yourself, which team has a bigger following in Kenya? Harambee Stars or Kenya 7s?
If Harambee Stars was playing against Nigeria at Kasarani and the Kenya 7s is playing Fiji at Nyayo, which Stadium will be overflowing? My guess is the Harambee Stars game, despite their less-than-impressive performance, will be packed to capacity; yet few sponsors would be willing to touch them.
The action in Paris denied Brand Kenya their sponsorship benefit and hence have every right to cancel the contract. Had that been Coca Cola or Nike, the contract would have cancelled the same day and damages sought.
The players, no matter how aggrieved, should have found another way to protest. Just like a wife has a right to protest when husband comes home drunk, such a protest cannot include burning the house down to get the father-in-law’s attention.
#iStandWithKenya7sTeam to get paid, but not to burn the house down.
Peter Gacheru is the chief executive officer, IMG Kenya Limited, and a sports sponsorship consultant