SA soccer’s marketers shouldn’t be naive

2013-07-22 10:00

Manchester City have come and gone but they have not thrilled.

This column is not about the quality, or the lack of it, of their football as they were still in preseason, but the lack of marketing nous displayed in their recently concluded tour.

The tour was announced two months ago, yet nothing much was done to promote and market the games.

It was disappointing and embarrassing to see the former English Premiership champions playing in front of near-empty stadiums.

The organisers should have known better: both SuperSport United and AmaZulu do not command the kind of support your Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates do, yet they still did not go out of their way to put more bums in seats.

Unless you are a die-hard Sky Blues fan who can trace their lineage back to the days of Tony Book, it is only recently that Manchester City have acquired a fanbase in South Africa.

On that basis, aggressive marketing was needed to make their tour a success, but there was a conspicuous lack of it.

Played in honour of former statesman Nelson Mandela, the organisers should have gone all out to make sure the two games at Loftus and Moses Mabhida were a memorable spectacle – even if it meant giving away tickets for free after realising the supporters were not going to come in droves.

Nelson Mandela’s name might be a big brand, but you still need to go all out to reach people.

City do not have the big pull that the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool do, which presented the Noisy Neighbours with an opportunity to make a footprint in the South African market.

If the empty stadiums were anything to go by, they were woefully misled.

City might have had the reigning CAF African Player of the Year in Yaya Touré; England internationals Joe Hart, Gareth Berry and James Milner; and France’s Samir Nasri, but the organisers should have been aware of the fact that, even with this galaxy of stars, South Africans are not the football lovers they claim to be.

This was a lost opportunity for the event organisers to make a meaningful mark.

But it should serve as a lesson to other event organisers never to take anything for granted.

In South African football culture, games do not sell themselves and you need to go out there to convince supporters to come to stadiums or you will end up with what we witnessed during City’s tour.

I hope the organisers of the forthcoming Nelson Mandela Sports Day on August 17 have taken note of the slack marketing and will do better. They should not take it for granted that, simply because it will feature rugby and soccer on the same day, supporters of both codes will automatically fill the FNB Stadium.

After all, Burkina Faso and Argentina, who will play Bafana Bafana and the Springboks respectively, are certainly not formidable opponents on the world stage and organisers will have to do their utmost to ensure that Madiba’s legacy is respected on the day.


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