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Rebranding the Domestic Football League in the Land of "African Champions"

Dr Nnamdi O. Madichie

Posted: September 16, 2014

It was only recently that the world football governing body, FIFA, lifted its suspension of the Nigerian Football Federation’s ban resulting from political interference in Football. This article revisits the way forward from such embarrassing moments for a body which such unrivalled influence in the entire Sub-Saharan Africa.

In a previous publication in the African Journal of Business & Economic Research, I had written on “Giving the beautiful game a pretty bad name” (see Madichie, 2010). While this may be generic topic that covers every aspect of the game of football – from Gazza’s binge drinking, through John Terry’s extra-marital affairs or Luiz Suarez’s pitch dinners – the case of Nigerian football was at the centre of deliberations.

In that paper the key protagonists were the government and the management of the National team. We have seen the implications of government interference, which recently culminated in the suspension of Nigeria from all international football activities shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Although the said ban has now been lifted (BBC Sport, 18 July 2014) there remain grounds for not being too optimistic about the future.

When governments begin to involve themselves in the election and sack of officials in football, the signs are not always good for the sport. This is not the first time this has happened (see Madichie, 2010) and may well not be the last. However, such interference would need to cease in order that the beautiful game be given a chance to engage its key stakeholders – especially the fans, players, and sponsors.

In order to engage these tripartite stakeholders the marketing the domestic league needs to be revisited and the use of ambassadorial networks might yet be the one of the means to this end. Unfortunately, an interrogation of the sports marketing and/ or management literature has not yielded any prior studies on the influence of sports ambassadors in the legitimisation, promotion or marketing of the discipline – rather phrases such as word-of-mouth and celebrity endorsement cropped up. This unfortunately leaves any research in the area to be dependent on media reports (see, for example, Deans, 2013).

It’s even more troubling that numerous sports personalities that fit the bill have actually been more involved in gaffes – a typical example being the fastest man on the planet Usain Bolt rubbishing the Commonwealth Games (see previous article on communication on this forum) and Luiz Suarez being an embarrassment to both club and country (also captured in the legal section of this forum).

Be that as it may, the Nigerian Premier League Football needs a rebrand – even though it is known as the Glo Premier League (BBC Sport, 12 September 2014) for sponsorship reasons akin the Barclays Premier League – note that the name Glo is short for “Globacom,” a key Telecoms provider in sub-Saharan Africa (see Madichie, 2011).

Such a rebrand would require the identification, recruitment and engagement of brand ambassadors to promote the league. Notable individuals in this regard could include the likes of Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo (a UNICEF Ambassador), Celestine Babayaro and Daniel “The Bull” Amokachi. Most of these names have featured prominently in the English Football League playing and changing the games for teams from Arsenal, through Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Everton, Hull to West Bromwich Albion.

The world has witnessed how David Beckham has been instrumental to the branding of teams from Manchester United to Real Madrid and LA Galaxy. Now, the man has signed a deal as Sky’s Sports Ambassador (see Deans, 2013).

IBBC Sport (12 September 2014) The Nigeria Premier League will resume next week after the country’s referees called off a boycott of the competition. Retrieved from: [Link]

IIBBC Sport (18 July 2014) Fifa lifts suspension on Nigeria. Retrieved from: [Link] />

IIIDeans, J. (The Guardian, 18 April 2013) David Beckham to become Sky Sports Ambassador. Retrieved from: [Link] />

IVMadichie, N. (2011) A Preliminary assessment of Middle East Investments in sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from the Mobile Telecoms sector. Thunderbird International Business Review, Vol. 53, No. 1. (January/February), pp. 79-92.

VMadichie, N. (2010) Giving the Beautiful Game a “Pretty” Bad Name: A Viewpoint on African Football. African Journal of Business & Economic Research (AJBER), Vol. 5, Issue 1, pp. 135-151.

VIOkeleji, O. (BBC Sports, 29 August 2014) Referees’ strike brings stop to Nigeria League. Retrieved from: [Link]

VIIOkeleji, O. (BBC Sport, 27 August 2014) Nigeria Football Federation split after ‘election’. Retrieved from: [Link]

About Dr Nnamdi O. Madichie

Nnamdi O. Madichie, is Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business at Graduate Studies Division, School of Business Administration, Canadian University of Dubai. He has published extensively in the area of sports marketing and management covering topics from the English Premier League, to Middle East Investments in Sports, and Leadership lessons from Sports, especially football. His paper “Management Implications of foreign players in the English Premiership League football” has received 18 citations on GoogleScholar since it was published in 2009. He can be contacted at: nnamdi@cud.ac.ae