19 June 2017

Uganda: Shocking That Rugby Cranes Lack Sponsor

Photo: Eddie Chicco/Daily Monitor
The Rugby Cranes are a well-known but virtually blank canvas marketing platform for a forward-thinking enterprise.

Since contemplating the sponsorship opportunities available for the junior Tag rugby levels of our sport in this column, we have since had a full international match here in Uganda. And guess what, that did not attract a team sponsor either.

Clearly the full 15s men's game has a different target audience to 12 year olds playing at the schools level, and indeed a different type of product or service would naturally gravitate towards it. The complication from a purely locally-focused sponsors perspective is that approximately 50% of the matches played in any calendar year are likely to be abroad, as the home-away share-out of host country is fairly managed.

However, most matches are now being televised (last weekend against Kenya being a rare exception) so provided your product can comfortably cross an international boundary and still have relevance, then happy days surely? It seems not, as the Cranes are struggling to find a major sponsorship partner that can see the value of the property that is Ugandan rugby.

Rugby is currently the fastest growing sport in the USA, and China is also showing major interest. Vogue and Vanity Fair mega-magazines regularly feature USA women's rugby. It is big, big business and I believe the USA men will be genuine challengers for the World Cup in the next 8 years. Corporate sponsors will be wanting a piece of this action, be in no doubt.

Uganda has been the continental champion twice, is featuring more regularly now on the global 7's circuit and is invariably the most popular team with the crowds at any international tournament, most likely due to our (correctly) perceived underdog, fully amateur status. The Cranes offer a blank canvas to any potential sponsor, to mould, weld and shape into their own marketing strategy. Players are available most of the year for photo shoots, promotional video making and advertising hoarding production.

They are the sporting stars of this country; other men want to be like them, women want to be with them, youngsters want to become them. Why-oh-why then is no-one grabbing this amazing branding opportunity? Many commercial products that have local and international appeal such as motor vehicles, fuel supply, airlines, pharmaceuticals, telecoms, foodstuffs (and the list goes on) surely have an affinity with successful top-flight sport, dont they? I just can't fathom out why it's not happening.

*Burley is a Ugandan-British dual national who has lived in Uganda for 30 years. He has worked in the tea, motoring, electrical power and mineral exploration industries and helped coach the Uganda Cranes when they first became African rugby champions. This column runs every Monday.


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