The jury is still out on whether there is a connection between the first-ever sponsorship of Nigeria's men basketball league, and the qualification of the team to the London 2012 Olympics.
Prior to the sponsorship of the league by MultiChoice Nigeria which commenced in 2008/2009 season, D' Tigers, as the male team is popularly known, had striven unsuccessfully to qualify for the grand stage of basketball competition at the Olympics.
Time and time again, the team fell short, sometimes painfully close but never attaining qualification. However, three seasons into the sponsorship of the DStv Premier Basketball League, D' Tigers qualified for the very first time for the grand stage and did the league and country proud. Is the link between MultiChoice's sponsorship of the DStv Premier Basket League and D' Tiger's qualification for the Olympics tenuous?
This question is perhaps best answered in 2016 after the Rio Olympics must have been concluded because the sponsorship deal that led to the uplifting of the fortunes of male basketball in Nigeria has been renewed; and this time, the deal is bigger and better. Between now and the Rio Olympics, the growth and development of basketball in Nigeria is expected to maintain its upward curve as MultiChoice/DStv has ramped up its sponsorship of the league, from the previous N150million to about N230million (US$1.45m).
This is complemented with added incentives such as the continuous broadcast of live matches of the league which value runs into hundreds of millions of naira, expansion of the league to accommodate more clubs, and the attractiveness of the league to potential teams' sponsors as well as other avenues for brands to connect with their customers. With the growth in the popularity of the league coupled with high definition broadcast of matches, the DStv Premier Basketball League becomes a major platform for brands to connect with their customers.
With 16 teams from both the Savannah and Atlantic Conferences competing in the league, other sponsors beside MultiChoice who is the title sponsor have opportunities to benefit from using the DStv League to reach their target audiences. The immediate benefit the renewed sponsorship brings to basketball is what is most exciting.
First is that it gives the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) stability in managing its affairs, planning for the future, and expanding the reach of the sports to the grassroots, thereby expanding the scope of the game.
This much was attested to by the President of the NBBF, Tijjani Umar, who expressed delight at the sponsorship deal, promising to work with MultiChoice and other basketball stakeholders to continue to develop the game with a view to making it the number one family sport in the country.
Umar also said that the federation will implement a series of developmental programmes to support the clubs and raise the standard of the game in the country
"We will work very hard and consistently to build on our London 2012 Olympics outing. We will also take basketball to the grassroots so as to widen the base of the sport and also recruit the next generation of basketball stars for the benefit of the country," he added.
The sponsorship initiative, which if added to the previous one becomes an eight-year period, is no mean feat particularly in an environment where organisations are grappling with operational challenges as well as high overheads, and an inability to plan long term as the variables required for such extensive insight are in a constant flux. The sponsorship and support from MultiChoice give the NBBF stability, which is a crucial element needed for long term planning and growth.
Mayo Okunola, General Manager, DStv, described the sponsorship deal as a relationship in progress.
"The profile of teams, players and the league has been considerably boosted since we entered into the partnership with NBBF to sponsor the league. We can only envisage a brighter future for basketball in Nigeria following the renewal of the sponsorship deal. Our long term commitment to the development of quality programming on TV also extends to our contribution to the development of sports, which we believe will have a positive impact on the lives of people and their communities."
The 2012 - 2016 seasons will likely witness clubs building on the experience that they have garnered over the past four years competing in a stable league that was ushered in by the previous sponsorship. There will likely be more focus on improving the quality of play, enhancing the marketability of the names of the clubs, attracting more fans to the courts, which without a stable environment, would have been impossible to bring about.
"We would be raising (more) money for the clubs and the league through the branding and marketing of most of the clubs jerseys," said Umar.
According to the NBBF president, the 16 clubs will share 40 percent of the new sponsorship fee while the balance 60 percent would be for the running of the league.
"Yet again, we will be experiencing another four years of value being added to our league and the federation itself. We are happy about this development for it is indeed another milestone achievement that would yield a great thing for basketball," enthused Umar.
The greatest benefit, however, is the unstated, incalculable value that the broadcast of matches brings to the league.
The matches are broadcast live on high definition channels to millions of homes in 50 countries in Africa and to some other parts of the world. Without such a platform, no sport can attract any worthwhile or meaningful sponsorship: without TV broadcast, the scope of sport is limited to just the fans at the arena where the sporting event is taking place. With TV broadcast, however, the scope is expanded beyond the confines of the sporting arena to millions of homes, hotels, airports, and anywhere a TV set might be. Indeed, without TV broadcast, sports will lose most of its attraction.
The value of the live broadcast is better appreciated when it is beamed on primetime on the DStv premium and compact plus bouquets, which is a status only enjoyed by highly regarded and valuable sports content. What this means for the DStv Premier Basketball League is that the players and clubs enjoy premium exposure to potential sponsors, just as the brands of potential sponsors will enjoy exposure to their customers and potential customers. It is thus safe to predict that the clubs in the league would in the near future become brands in their own right, strong enough to attract organisations to sponsor their paraphernalia such as jerseys. Clubs could start investing in building a fan base, deepening their franchise, and generally make themselves more attractive.
It is almost impossible to imagine sports without television. The growth of the English Premier League in Nigeria, just as it is in many other countries, is tied directly to TV broadcast. While attending matches physically has its inherent enjoyment and satisfaction, TV broadcast however extends this enjoyment to fans that cannot be physically present in arenas to watch their teams play.
It is against this background that the value MultiChoice brings to the DStv Premier Basketball League is appreciated. Coupled with the sponsorship fee, it is indeed a great developmental initiative which has long term benefits for the growth of basketball in Nigeria.