Kenya: Tusker's Toast to Team Kenya Stars

interview

Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) on Tuesday announced a Sh45 million partnership with the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) to support Team Kenya at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Nation Sport spoke with KBL Managing Director John Musunga on his company's engagement with sports. Excerpts:

What inspired KBL's partnership with the National Olympic Committee of Kenya for the Tokyo games?

Athletics continues to mirror KBL's goals and objectives making it a natural partnership platform for us. This is because, as a brand, we have always endeavoured to bring Kenyans together so that we can each stand tall and celebrate who we are. Partnering with NOC-K for this engagement was therefore an easy decision for us in this regard.

At the same time, KBL has been at the vanguard of connecting with Kenyans through sports. Our footprint in different sporting disciplines from athletics, football to golf and rugby dates back decades.

We are confident the partnership with Team Kenya is another great opportunity to express our continued support for our sports men and women as they represent us in Tokyo.

How important is the sponsorship to Team Kenya ahead of the Olympic Games?

We believe that this sponsorship will support the team with their preparations for the games, as well as assist the NOC-K with the logistical requirements associated with this event.

We understand that this event will be held under very difficult circumstances because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we remain hopeful that our athletes will compete hard and fairly, make us proud and lift our flag high.

KBL has long been involved in sports in this country -- be it football, rugby or golf. What drives this involvement and interest?

KBL is one of the oldest and most dedicated supporters of sports in Kenya. Sports is at the heart of our ambition in driving the passion that connects millions of Kenyans -- whether they follow football, rugby, or golf as we have been doing with the Magical Kenya Open.

Our involvement in sports spanning many decades follows the agenda we have set out as we interact with the communities.

No doubt, sports is part of our Kenyan fabric, very much like our brands -- Tusker or Johnnie Walker -- have provided the financial support and driven fan passion for sports in Kenya for many decades. It is about meeting our customers at their passion points.

So Tusker and Johnnie Walker have been involved in rugby, golf, athletics and football at different levels. The Opich Pacho community football league in Kisumu County is a classic example of this.

On the other hand, you have former Kenya Premier League champions and current league leaders Tusker FC on the other end of the spectrum.

Then you have our participation with Rugby 7s and 15s and our sponsorship of the Kenya Open and Team Kenya to the Olympics.

KBL's investment in sports is weaved in our bid to connect Kenyans at the point of passion. And we are consistently asking ourselves: how can our involvement in sports create a more inclusive society, create opportunities for talented Kenyans and propel Kenya to the global sports arena? We are in sports for very strategic reasons.

Specifically, what has inspired KBL to be heavily involved in both golf and rugby the way it has over the years?

Whilst golf and rugby are perhaps more visible, our biggest involvement is in Football. KBL sponsors Tusker FC, one of the most successful KPL teams (currently on top of the league) and we have previously sponsored Harambee Stars and the League.

And again, we support Opich Pacho, the community football league in Kisumu County and we have plans to restart this post-Covid and to perhaps expand it into the neighbouring counties.

What do other sports federations need to do different to attract the same level of interest as the above two have?

KBL, and indeed all corporates in Kenya, have the same basic requirements when it comes to engaging in partnerships. Firstly, governance is key; all our partners must be ready to demonstrate that they have a sufficient level of corporate governance and accountability. When we invest in sponsorships, we are tasked with ensuring the prudent use of such funds.

Secondly, our partners must invest in building their sponsorship propositions and their offering.

They must ask themselves: how does this partnership create a win-win situation for everybody? It is not just about the sport; it is also about the brand.

Having said that, KBL has enjoyed fantastic relationships with the federations in football, rugby, golf, athletics over many years. We always seek to do better for the generations of sports fans to come.

Looking at the various sports disciplines, we saw, KBL, this year once again sponsoring the Kenya Open despite the many restrictions that were in place. What inspired this?

The Magical Kenya Open and the inaugural Kenya Savannah Classic were among the first international sporting events to be held in Kenya since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year. The proposition to support these two events, to once again be part of the team that showcases Kenya to the world was reason enough. We see a lot of sense in providing an opportunity for our top Kenyan and East African golfers to compete on a global stage.

KBL has been part of the Kenya Open for over 20 years and we believe that this unique hosting of the event is a testament of triumph over the pandemic. And we would like to congratulate the Kenya Open Golf Ltd and the European Tour, alongside the Government of Kenya for coming together to make this possible.

KBL has been involved with the Kenya Open for long; what are its future plans as far as its partnership with the organization is concerned?

We are on the back end of a three-year contract with the Kenya Open Golf Ltd and in line with our way of working, we will review that agreement and chart a way forward. What I can assure you is that KBL and our brands are in sports to stay.

Beyond the borders, is sponsorship of Kenyan pros to play in other European Tour events something you may be willing to explore, to give them more exposure and a competitive edge?

In 1998 when Kenya's Jacob Okello finished a close second at the Kenya Open, it was KBL that supported his trips into Europe thereafter. This year we have also supported all Kenyan and regional professionals at the Kenya Open and at the Kenya Savannah Classic. In other words, KBL is open to partnerships that allow our local sportsmen and women to stand tall.

What can you tell us about KBL's future plans?

We are currently in discussions with the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) on a wide array of opportunities in rugby. I do not have the full details of what those discussions are, but I can assure you that we will be working with KRU in one way or another just like we have done for the last 20 to 30 years.

Tusker FC are currently leaders in the Kenyan Premier League. What has KBL done differently this season and what does the future portend for Tusker FC?

The Tusker FC team is doing a great job on the Premier League, we are extremely proud of them. I don't want to take credit for the efforts of the players and their coach, Robert Matano, but as a business we cushioned the team through the pandemic period in 2020.

The entire team was kept at full pay and as you may be aware, we are diligent in ensuring the welfare of our team is top class.

Again, the performance of the team on the field is because of their individual and collective efforts and we encourage them to keep it up.

Are there plans to re-look at other football properties in the country with the aim of being involved in them?

KBL is consistently in talks with the Football Kenya Federation. To be sure, football is big, and we will soon be in a World Cup year. So yes, we are always seeking opportunities in football at the community, national and regional levels. We had a great run supporting Cecafa.

Parting shot?

KBL is authentically Kenyan. We strive and desire, as a business, to be involved in those things that Kenyans are involved in. So, ask yourself, what is Kenyan culture? What defines us as Kenyans? Is it music, sports, moments of celebration, our athletes? Is it our nyama choma and ugali and a cold Tusker?

If so, it is in those moments, in those passions points that you will find KBL and our brands. Sports is part of our Kenyan culture -- so you will certainly find KBL in sports.

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