Sports marketing is a specialized turf – Taye Ige

When the history of sports marketing in Nigeria is being told, one name that would always pop up and occupy a place of pride is Taye Ige, founder and chairman of HotSports Media group. Ige through HotSports in about two decades of operation in the sports arena has not only charted a new course in sports presentation, production, content provision and marketing but has also added value to the sector. A trained journalist turned marketing professional and entrepreneur, Ige started off presenting brilliantly with eloquence, the sports segment of the popular talkshow, Morning Ride in 1996. It was this little beginning that has metamorphosed into a giant oak known as HS Media conglomerate today. In a recent encounter with Brandwise, Ige begins the story of his early days on TV thus: “ I started off presenting the sports segment of Morning Ride on NTA in 1996. I think that was when the seed of sports marketing was sown in me. This field of sports marketing is new. It is not like engineering, journal- ism or law. But then it has always been there. At the USA ’94 World Cup, a company called DBN Sports marketed the tournament to Nigerians on behalf of NTA. The guy was later to set up a full-fledged television station after this.

When one starts to make a living out of what people don’t know much about, then the initial problem of acceptability creeps in. But we thank God. We are here and people know about us. Unknown to most of us in this part of the world, in sports there are thirty-six different professional areas one can tap into, but we are not doing more than eight. Being an athlete is one, a manager, a media owner, a sports marketer and so on. But you and I know that in other parts of the world it’s a different ball game. Imagine you taking sports out of the English people. It’s impossible. They love sports. They live sports and they create time for sports. Unlike here, where the challenges of day to day living hardly give people enough time for sports and recreation.”

When asked on what has been the secret of HS Media success and staying power over the years, Ige in his usual humility and candour attributed it to perseverance and the God factor. “Indeed, sports marketing in Nigeria is not just evolving, it has evolved and we are happy that we are one of the pioneers that are still in the business. A lot of people that crashed into it have crashed out. Perhaps they had a wrong notion of the area. In other areas, there are foot steps to follow but not in this area. Over the years we’ve had to chart our own cause and we have been helped by God,” Ige says.

Sharing his experience on the business further and why brand owners especially Fast Moving Consumer Goods producers in the country are not leveraging sports to sell their products, Ige affirms that manufacturers of goods and services in spite of the hard times are trying but they could still do more. According to Ige, “They are trying; I won’t tell you they have not tried but they could do more. In those days when we’re new in the business, it was not out of place to be snubbed. You wrote a proposal and you made a hundred or more copies and hardly would you be able to get a look-in by five companies. Out of the five, you got to do business with one or two and luckily they will be able to meet your costs and overhead. It can get better. In this environment, the indices are there. If you are into FMCGs, you need volume and the huge Nigerian population provides volume; and you need this population to push your brand. No one can buy what they don’t know. Therefore, those into FMCG need to leverage on this but it is still lacking, I must confess. In telecommunications, you see a lot of advertising going on but in convincing sponsors that they need to come in is not easy. As for us, initially we used to write proposals and hardly would we get a look-in by five but now as we speak, we get briefs from sponsors who tell us what they want to do and tell us they understand our competence over the years and they tell us if we can help them handle this. This is different from what it used to be in the past.”

As a veteran in the business when Ige was prodded on what he feels on the state of sports, especially football in Nigeria he says: “A nation gets the kind of leadership it deserves whether in the political, social economic or sports arena. Nigeria is trying in sports in spite of our obvious challenges and limitations. For example, we have won Olympic gold medals. We have also won gold medals at World age-grade football tournaments (Under 17) and at a time were the number five football playing nation in the whole world. We are improving. But in football now, we don’t seem to command as much respect as we used to do in the 90s our performances have been dropping. All over the world, our athletes are doing well but other countries are poaching them from us. Why? The people running sports administration here, are not doing the right thing. We are putting square pegs in round holes. I think it’s high time we all sat down and find a way out of the problem.”

Apart from sports media marketing, one area in which HS Media group has expertise is in area of media content provision and production. Only recently, the firm unveiled a new TV game show. The programme which was unveiled in July at the HS Media Group office in Oregun, Lagos and has since been running on TV is titled, UAC Unscripted

UAC Unscripted which airs on NTA family belt from 8.30 – 9.00pm on Mondays features two celebrity families in fun-filled games that educate, entertain and stimulate family bond for the viewing audience. According to Ige, “UAC Unscripted which is a sponsored production of the UACN Plc is aimed at promoting family virtues of love, understanding and affinity.”

Ige states that from the TV programme production and presentation he started within 1996, HS Group has evolved into a conglomerate with competence in events, media, marketing, public relations and advertising. For Ige and the HS Group, the future looks quite bright and it is indeed morning yet in their arsenal of marketing creativity.

Taye Ige is the Founder and Chairman of HotSports Media Group

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