Club merchandise is generally dependent on the popularity and on-pitch success of the clubs themselves as it is a key factor in the sustainability of the club.
Clubs also make money through gate takings but to be sure of continued and consistent cash flow in the clubs’ coffers, the corporate world needs to come on board and partner with them.
Money that professional clubs make through gate takings can’t be compared to the money that comes from kit deals with sportswear makers and from other big players in the football kit boom which are corporate sponsorship deals that have taken center stage with the biggest shirt sponsorship deals but this is dependent on kits sales.
This can be done through different marketing strategy either by having one sponsor on the clubs’ jerseys who folks more than others or featuring them all through wearing different shirts in different competitions with different names each sponsor attached to a different competition.
Take the example of Nkana who in the game against Raja Casablanca did not have the usual BETWAY logo on the front of the jerseys instead the jersey had only the TAX ONLINE logo of ZRA(Zambia revenue authority) in the middle and this was because the rule which CAF has set that 1-XBET are the official partners with CAF and no advertising of a rival company betting on CAF games. So for CAF games, Nkana could strike a deal with another shirt sponsor who is not a betting company and is not in direct Competition with CAF sponsors.
What should be done
Clubs need to develop a policy of having alternative shirt sponsors. For example, clubs need to start having two different kits sponsors, one for the league and the other for cup games such as CAF club competition, ABSA cup and name the one with a bigger audience as premium and give it to a shirt sponsor who offered a lot.
By doing this clubs can think and start making money from shirt sponsors, otherwise with what is happening in Zambia by most clubs, more money that can be channeled to teams through shirt sponsorship has been deprived. Clubs need to wake up and smell the coffee.
With such sponsorship in place, a club can have no problem financially and results are the only thing they need to worry about as they are key to keeping sponsors as they will love to partner with the winning club to grow their business or brand.
The corporate world or sponsors don’t just partner with clubs just for the sake, they want to reap results to also benefit them, it is a two-way thing and not a charity. They will partner with a club with a big fan base or clubs who are willing to grow their brands to reach a wider population, so clubs need to create a friendly environment.
Sponsors will partner with clubs on two conditions which are a big fan base and the club who are willing to grow their brand through being open to marketing strategies which they will bring to the table with also the club posting positive results to woo fans to them by having them at their venues who in-turn will see other things which sponsor will put on their jerseys and billboards displayed at match venues which will seek their attention and asking more through reaching out to sponsors and buying their products in-return meaning all parties have ended up with a win-win situation, a thing sponsors always want.
Clubs should start doing things which will promote the growth of sponsors brands such as ruffle draws every week or month to give fans clubs kits branded with sponsors logo, branding their stadiums with sponsors billboards, naming clubs stadiums after sponsors like the Woodlands stadium which has been renamed MTN stadium on a contractual agreement.
One thing we need to know is that this doesn’t come cheaply, it needs hard work to convince them of a win-win situation. A large Fan base alone doesn’t bring sponsors on board.
Some clubs who are struggling financially should learn from the City of Lusaka who despite being in the lower tier, they are doing a good job financially all thanks to sponsors they have brought on through their tireless works.
No sponsorship deal is small nor big, clubs should respect every sponsor and not overlook any sponsorship deal.
ZamFoot had access to the interview a Malawian musician had in Zambia from which Zambian clubs can learn something. The mapulani hitmaker despite been Malawian is a popular figure among Zambians, why? the answer is simple.
He is Malawian yes but the language he sings Zambians understand and this has made him take advantage of such and sign a contract with a Zambian recording label elation entertainment. This has seen him record some songs and hold shows in Zambia.
He said he had been in Zambia more often even before he became popular, despite trying to grow and become famous among Zambians, he didn’t get frustrated after seeing his efforts not paying off at first not until recently when he became popular among Zambian music lovers. Patience Namadingo lamented that patience pays.
“I am signed to a record label which is based in Zambia and my previous album was recorded on kwacha road based in Olympia Lusaka, I have been someone who is been coming to Lusaka on a couple of times, I have performed at the festival called zamfest on many occasions at showgrounds,Nkwashi, I have been in Zambia on many occasions and I sang a song with macky 2 and surprisingly macky 2 doesn’t remember but now am more popular and have developed a brand in Zambia as you know it’s not easy to make a name outside Malawi,” patience Namadingo
The question is if Namadingo of Malawi solely can make it outside Malawi, why should Zambian clubs for example ZESCO United fail to make it outside Zambia despite having foreign players like Tafadzwa Rusike from Zimbabwe. The answer is simple, Zambian clubs are not doing enough outside the country
What can be done
Our clubs need to start thinking beyond borders. Let’s take this example and the basis of the topic, Zambia super league contributed six players to Zimbabwe national team back to back games against Botswana and Zambia for afcon qualifiers, players like jimmy Dzingai, Gilroy Chimwemwe, and Talbert Shumba all with Nkana, Tafadzwa Rusike, and Thabani Kamusoko both of Zesco United and Tanaka Chinyahara who is with Red Arrows. With these stats, can Zambian clubs fail to exploit the Zimbabwean market surely? They can only if they become serious and realize how viable it can be when it comes to generating income.
Zambian clubs can open merchandise shops in Zimbabwe, go to Zimbabwe for pre-season and play with Zimbabwean top teams to become more popular there a thing which they are not doing. (The use of Zimbabwe here is an example, it could be any country where a team has such influence).
It is not Zimbabwe, there are other nations with potential like Kenya as we Zambian clubs have a lot of Kenyan players. It is time Zambian clubs woke up and put to brush financial problems they are facing by thinking beyond borders. It takes time, but patience and focus are what are important.