- Kudzi Mathabire is flexing her muscle as the first female brand director for Castle Lager in more than 100 years.
- She believes brands need to start supporting female sports teams as they deserve attention too.
- It’s a tough industry especially since the ban of alcohol due to Covid-19 regulations.
There are hundreds of adverts that show men at the end of a hard workday letting off steam with their favourite beer. Sweaty guys would gather around the bar or backyard and toast to a day well lived.
But women drink beer too, which is why Kudzi Mathabire (35), the first female brand director in 125 years at Castle Lager, has loved being part of the transformation of the beer industry.She’s been at the forefront of key beer brands for eight years.
“It means so much to me to have this opportunity. Castle Lager has traditionally been a male brand and in the past few years we have been actively working to be more inclusive and make sure women know they can drink this beer too,” she says.
Born in Port Elizabeth but raised in Zimbabwe, Kudzi graduated with a BCom honours in finance from Rhodes University in Grahamstown.Working in a male-dominated industry has taught her patience and tolerance.
“I have had an incredible marketing career and I can attribute this to hard work and passion and building a really strong foundation that is now paying off,” she says.
“I had to do some roles I didn’t like along the way, but I viewed each role as a learning opportunity and a chance to build more competencies. That really helped me extract value from each role, and the brand builder I am now is because of all those learnings. And even now I’m learning new things all the time and continue to strive to be a better marketer.”
She’s made some strides since she started working in the industry. Kudzi introduced new sponsorship to women in sports – Castle Free for the Springbok Women's Sevens team, Imbokodo, and the inclusion of a women's division to the Africa 5s soccer tournament.
“It was necessary. There is a serious need to uplift female sport in general,” she says.“It is undersupported, undervalued and underfunded and this adversely affects the compensation and recognition of female athletes, and that’s not fair,” Kudzi says. She also believes this is a universal issue.
“The US women’s soccer team won a whole World Cup and still only earn a fraction of what the men’s team earns. Excellence is not gender specific and should be rewarded fairly. It is important for any brand or business that is in a position to support female sport to do so,” she says.
Women empowerment issues are close to her heart.“The prevalence of gender-based violence is something that we all have to tackle. The statistics are devastating and show there is a lot of work to be done to get rid of this scourge,” Kudzi says.
“We all need to play our parts and do whatever we can to fight this problem and to build communities of support for women who are going through it. Access to education for young women is another issue that requires focus,” she adds.
This year has been challenging for many businesses, including the beer industry.
“As we speak, there are restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Our business is at a standstill now and we are not generating any revenue,” Kudzi says.“The biggest issue is the impact of that on the people that work in the industry – their livehoods are at risk,” she adds.
“SAB [South African Breweries] has been a huge part of the South African economy for more than 100 years and currently we support more than 250 000 livelihoods across our value chain, all those livelihoods are at risk at the moment. And let us not forget the psychological impact of that, living through a global pandemic with the added anxiety that comes with an uncertain future is a lot and I pray that we will all recover from this,” she adds.