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StarTimes drives local football forward with Shs28 billion leagues sponsorship

The ten-year deal is the biggest sponsorship in the history of local sport

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FOOTBALL | That the glory days of local football is back is not in denial. But there is more on the table as topflight Uganda Premier League and its second tier Fufa Big League have a longstanding sponsorship on their turfs.

Digital pay television, StarTimes, have committed $7.2 million (about Shs28 billion) toward the two local leagues as well as the title brand and broadcasting rights for the league.

The decade-long sponsorship kitty that takes effect in the upcoming 2018/19 league season has been dubbed as the biggest ever sponsorship in the history of Ugandan sport.

After years of tinkering with sponsors and a troubled local league since Nile Breweries under their Nile Special brand walked out on Fufa in 2002, the football federation can at last sigh with relief that the 10-year Startimes commitment to sponsorship of the local leagues is long enough to lay a firm foundation for local football.

Speaking at the launch of the kitty in Kampala on Thursday, StarTimes-Uganda chief executive Andy Wang appealed to Ugandans to support and embrace StarTimes, saying it would go a long way in enabling the digital television service provider’s support to local football and Ugandans general.

“We took the decision to give back to Ugandans through football because of their passion for the game. It touches a lot of people from the grassroots. It is our way of thanking the people for supporting our business and making us the leading pay television with 70% market share,” Andy said.

Eight years after launching operations in the country, StarTimes now enjoys up to 1.3 million subscribers.

The Chinese-based pay TV has been eating into DStv both on the market shares and in service offerings, having enjoyed official partnership rights to the just-ended Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup, and owning exclusive  rights to German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1.

Last season, StarTimes also exclusively broadcast the Italian Serie A, and had rights on Uefa Europa League as well as other European leagues such as Dutch Eredivisie and Belgian topflight.

Locally, StarTimes are the official sponsors of KCCA FC and their stadium in Lugogo, Kampala. The pay TV has invested at least Shs4.5 billion in Uganda’s Caf Champions League representatives.

It also sponsored league record champions SC Villa but the partnership was ended last month.

Andy expressed hope that StarTimes’ efforts and commitment to the development of local sport could garner the broadcaster tax incentives.

Aldrine Nsubuga Snr, the StarTimes vice-president in charge of marketing and branding, said the total advertising value equivalent the pay TV gained from sponsorship of KCCA, SC Villa and StarTimes Stadium for 2017/18 season stood at Shs2.8 billion with publicity value worth Shs13.8 billion.

“The figures have been rising for each of the last three years,” Nsubuga said. “No other sponsor in Uganda can give this level of brand equity and value in such a short time.”

Delving into StarTimes growing interest in local football, Nsubaga said theirs is a conviction borne of the need to not just entertain Ugandan fans with foreign football.

“We want to be relevant to local football fans. We want them to appreciate local sport and support it with greater passion, which is why we want to bring the local league in every household through our broadcast platforms,” he added.

Major confidence fpr Magogo

The development is a major confidence in Fufa president Moses Magogo, whose first four-year term of office was remarkable enough to see Uganda Cranes not only exorcise the Africa Cup of Nations jinx and qualify for the 2016 showpiece, but also saw to a plethora of changes on the local football management.

The days like in 2012 when Ugandans were appalled and bemused by the running of parallel leagues amid deep feuds among some sponsors appear to be fast receding from memory now.

Magogo thanked StarTimes for the endorsement it has given to the current Fufa administration, saying it was “humbling.”

“The enabling environment that Fufa has created by improving the image of local football and setting in place visible systems and structures to improve the game is now paying off,” Magogo, who sailed through for his second term off office unopposed last year, said.

In 2012, the local league was embroiled in such charade that two local leagues were run concurrently, leaving sponsors SuperSport and Nile Breweries frustrated to the point of seeking out of their Shs20 billion and Shs2.2 billion sponsorship deals.

At the time, Fufa had moved to reclaim league management under the Fufa Super League, while the Uganda Super League Limited (USLL) maintained a rival league.

What Magogo said of an enabling environment in local football will come as no surprise given the trajectory the local league is taking.

“Sponsors are strategic stakeholders in football and it’s incumbent upon the football fraternity, leaders, players and everyone to support StarTimes who have selflessly demonstrated their goodwill to see Ugandan football progress with their sponsorship,” Magogo said.

The magic in sponsorship

The significance of sponsorship in sports has never been in doubt. Clubs with good sponsors, just like it is with leagues, are known to be more organised and this reflects in their performance.

In the 1980s when local league was yet to understand the value of sponsorship, SC Villa chief Patrick Kawooya secured a five-year deal with Agip to sponsor the club in 1985.

Agip’s support saw SC Villa go on to win eight titles in five years and provided a major turning point in local football.

Smelling the coffee, Express FC followed camped at Gapco, another fuel distributor. When it emerged with the needed signatures and marital ring, the Red Eagles set out to dominate local football, winning back-to-back league titles and also reached the semifinal of Africa Club Championships (now Caf Champions League).

Nearly a decade after rivals Express and Villa had excited local football fans with the backing of thrir sponsors, Fufa finally saw the need to get a league sponsor. Nile Breweries put pen to paper on an annual Shs264 million deal in December 1997 and agreed to sponsor the league under its Nile Special brand.

The Jinja-based brewers, who sponsored the defunct Nile FC that became a swansong in the league in the 90s, was joined by co-sponsors like Coca Cola, BAT, MTN and Shell.

Tanzanian-based Azam TV have been the league sponsors for the last three years having injected Shs5.4 billion in 2015. The Azam deal has seen each of the 16 topflight clubs receive Shs60 million annually.

However, StarTimes’ sponsorship kitty has not yet made the breakdown figures, with officials at Mengo telling this news website that the deal includes clubs percentage, referees, the federation, event management, but that who gets what percentage will be determined in the stakeholders upcoming meetings.

 

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