‘Authenticity’ was the buzzword on yesterday’s ‘Creating a connection’ panel – sponsored by Betgames.tv – at the SBC Digital – Africa event, as industry experts discussed the role that sponsors and brand ambassadors can play in the expansion of the burgeoning East African market.

Kicking off the discussion, Sandisiwe Bhengu, Commercial Manager at Hollywoodbets, emphasised that forming a collaboration with a sports team or league should not be ‘just a tick box exercise’ for operators and firms in general.

Bhengu cited the brand’s partnership with the Spanish La Liga as an example of identifying an organisation that ‘resonates’ with Hollywoodbets and creating a collaboration around those shared values.

“By authenticity, it’s not just about being a big brand, but does the relationship make sense?” she questioned. “When we engaged with La Liga, we found that, first of all, obviously they’re an established brand but they were looking to make inroads in South Africa. They already had quite a following and viewership and a following of the clubs in South Africa, as well as in Mozambique, so that was the first tick for us in terms of the regions that we’re looking at. It wasn’t just South Africa alone but also the neighbouring countries around the region where there was an interest that existed already.

“In terms of approach in what they wanted to do and were looking to build, they were very open to discussing how the relationship would work. It wasn’t a one-size-fits-all, and they didn’t say ‘this is the model that we use overseas and want to make it work in Africa’. It was very much a conversation.

“They said, ‘you guys are in the region, you operate in the region and you understand the nuances so you know what works and what doesn’t work’. That’s what they were looking for in a partner. That was something special because it just meant that as a business with the change that we’re going through as well with the growth that we are experiencing, that means that it would be a journey for both of us.”

Social responsibility should also be at the heart of such partnerships, with Hollywoodbets placing prominence on the brand’s social initiatives.

Bhengu continued: “One thing that we also found very interesting was the desire when they came into the country to focus very much on the development of football in the region. South Africa is a soccer bear country.

“One of the things that matters and that is important to us as a business is corporate social investment. It really has been one of the cornerstones of our growth in the community. We do a lot with grassroots sports, and in the last year alone we’ve done 250 development projects in the community.”

The agreement, which is just one of many ‘unique’ sponsorship deals to come from firms and sporting leagues in the region, according Russell Yershon, Director at Connecting Brands, signifies the growing potential of the influencer marketing landscape in Africa.

Using Kenya-based sports technology and betting brand SportPesa’s association with Everton, which was terminated at the beginning of last year following into the club’s commercial strategy, he stated: “Again, it’s looking at whether it’s football, horse racing, cricket or rugby – which is obviously absolutely massive in Africa and if you use South Africa as a whole, South Africa are current World Cup champions in rugby union, so, if you’re looking for a brand ambassador, going down that route again makes a perfect fit using a player or a former legend.

“Looking at cricket over the years, South Africa have had a number of fantastic cricketers and hugely trusted ambassadors, both on a local level and global level. Graeme Smith is an excellent African cricketer. He, for example, would be an amazing ambassador for what he’s done for his country and what he’s done outside of the game. But looking at South African or African legends as a whole, some of them would be outstanding ambassadors.

“And looking at the activation, it’s great to create a key set of unique rights, whether it’s social media, personal visits or personal greetings that the talent can do for the brand, and also the image rights that the brand can have of the talent, it’s massively advantageous to agree everything up front.”

This sentiment was echoed by CEO of Football Media, Dean Akinjobi, whose agency has worked with a number of top flight football teams on expanding their brand to fanbases in Africa.

“When you’re looking at the impact in Africa, what we found is it’s all about realistically looking at localisation,” he said. “When we talk about Africa, from a brand in Africa or a brand coming into Africa, I think it’s really about looking at Africa as a continent, and there’s about 54 different countries across this continent, and within that continent of different countries. Take for example, Nigeria, which has about 500-plus different languages so local knowledge is absolutely key and being authentic in the way you actually communicate and activate your sponsorships, as well.”

Akinjobi also highlighted how technology has ‘made the world smaller’ and advised that sporting clubs and organisations must remain ‘savvy’ when it comes to digital marketing and advertising strategies.

He added: “We work with a couple of clients that are sponsoring Premier League clubs, but we’re running their strategy for Africa because they’ve seen spikes in particular regions, and it was quite evident to us that was because those particular teams had a huge following in these particular regions in Africa. So, it’s about creating targeted content and targeted advertising.”

This week’s SBC Digital Africa conference and exhibition features a speaker line-up of 60 senior executives and specialists, all ready to share hard-to-find information about the continent’s best opportunities for betting and gaming operators.

The agenda for the event on 30-31 March 2021 includes sessions that examine the future of the markets in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire, and deliver insights on key issues such as payments technology, marketing strategies and the growth of esports.

To register for your free ticket, click here.