By Eddie Chikamhi
The Government has hailed the coming on board of NetOne to sponsor football after the giant mobile telecommunications company announced a sponsorship package of over $1 million for the country’s Big Three clubs – Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United.
Minister of ICT and Cyber Security Supa Mandiwanzira, who officiated at the launch on Wednesday, hailed the NetOne board and management for their decision to support football in this country.
NetOne are pouring over $1 million into the three clubs’ coffers, with each team getting $350 000.
They also made a commitment to spread the sponsorship to the other teams in the league next season if they get value for money from the first year.
Mandiwanzira, who played a big role in the negotiations, hinted that the choice to start with the big teams was driven by the fact that they draw the largest crowds to their matches, which offered a great opportunity for brand visibility to the sponsors.
“We are very proud as Government that NetOne, which is 100 percent owned by the Government, is doing the right thing by being involved in a national sport that unites people, a national sport that everybody wants to associate with.
“Last week, a very disturbing story graced our sports pages for two consecutive days. The story highlighted the lack of interest by the mobile phone industry in Zimbabwe to promote the world’s most popular sport, that is football.
“In South Africa MTN, Vodacom and Telkom are passionate about sport. In Botswana, Mascom and Be-Mobile are strong partners in football. In Mozambique, Mcel plays its part. In Namibia MTC is powering the beautiful game and I can give examples even in Europe, T-Mobile, Orange and many others.
“In an era where return in investment is the in-thing in business, it will be folly to think that these telecoms giants are pouring their hard-earned millions in projects which do not ultimately benefit them financially.
“In short, the telephone industry worldwide has over the years become a major sponsor of the game, cognisant of the potential to grow their businesses in such partnerships.
“However, in Zimbabwe the sector has over the years failed to realise and appreciate the bountiful benefits of supporting sport that draws thousands to stadiums every week.
“It is thus gratifying, especially to me that an organisation under my purview has identified this gap and moved in with speed. The intervention of NetOne has heralded a new era in football in Zimbabwe,” said Mandiwanzira.
The sponsors also unveiled playing kits and promised to make replicas available to supporters at affordable prices before the kickoff of the league.
The minister said there were big opportunities for NetOne in coming to football.
The partnership is expected to create a platform for the company to connect with a huge fan base from the country’s most popular clubs.
He said the corporate world should consider pulling resources together for the development of the game and overall success of the nation.
NetOne promised to come back bigger next year if the pilot project with the three teams is successful.
“The three teams we are celebrating today had the opportunity of being the torch bearers in this endeavour. We, therefore, applaud the initiative taken by NetOne and urge the beneficiaries of this sponsorship to make this project a success by playing their part as agreed in the pact.
“Obviously, NetOne is not just putting money. They expect a return on this investment and Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United are not just accepting the sponsorship, they also want value out of the sponsorship they are getting.
“So it’s a win-win partnership that we expect to grow from strength to strength,” he said.
“I gave an example that if you go to the National Sports Stadium or Rufaro you, will find that an alcohol beverage company is associated with sport, and we must really thank them for their effort and support.
“But the reality is that they are not getting full value because almost 60 percent of the audience in the football stadium drinks alcohol and 40 percent doesn’t because we are a Christian nation and we also have young children below 18 who go and watch football.
“But if you are a local network company, you are assured that 100 percent of the people in the stadium are your potential customers. So you are likely to get much more value. Why are you not putting your money into football?
“Thankfully, they also recognised the opportunities that football offers and decided they should take the opportunity,” said Mandiwanzira.