In a bid to enhance visibility and image, various corporate companies irrespective of their size have gotten a niche into the value associated with social event sponsorship.
As a way of boosting profits and establishing goodwill, mostly large businesses like breweries and telecommunication companies can afford to sponsor social events, for instance album launches, music shows, sporting events and beauty contests.
Last year, saw the highest number of upcoming artists launch their albums. More precisely, is the interest with which corporate companies participated in sponsoring these events.
Sponsorships are effective when it comes to boosting a company’s visibility in any community. An example was Rwandatel’s move in December to sponsor the first Miss Rwanda contest in 17 years.
Close to US$500,000 was spent on this event yet their least worry was to increase the number of subscribers.
Cleophas Kabasiita, the Corporate Communications Manager at Rwandatel S.A, said they chose to organise and sponsor the contest because they wanted to bring something different, and not to increase the number of subscribers.
“We wanted to bring diversity to our local entertainment industry, something not directly related to telecommunications for Rwandan’s to look forward to at the end of every year,” Kabasiita said.
As a result, Rwandatel through the Ministry of Sports and Culture, have been permitted to organise the Miss Rwanda Pageant events for 5 years.
“We proved that we could do it in a professional and transparent manner even when it was the first time to organise the Miss Rwanda Pageant 17 years,” said Kabasiita.
“In return, the event created heightened awareness and visibility for Rwandatel and strengthened our company brand image in the eyes of Rwandans,” she added.
Undeniably, sponsorships help corporate companies to enhance their public profile.
Irrespective of a company’s size, a broad spectrum of benefits can be gained by sponsorship besides enhancing visibility and image, such as differentiating a given company from its competitors.
According to Rachel Mulinde, MTN’s Brand & Sponsorships Manager, MTN is continually committed to the development of the arts in every country it operates in within Africa and in the Middle East.
“Music is part of who we are as Rwandans and this makes it even more relevant for MTN to sponsor. It’s one of the ways in which we can develop music through encouraging and enabling talented local artists to develop their skill by showcasing their talent at concerts and events,” said Mulinde.
The idea of sponsorship has proved to be a great means of broadening a company’s competitive edge especially when it comes to boosting image, prestige and credibility. As a result, corporate sponsorship is growing as the fastest marketing tool in the country.
Through providing a service that exposes Rwanda’s raw talent to international and regional artists, opportunity is given to local artists to improve.
Sponsorship offers our own artists a glimpse of what real success is,” said Mulinde, adding, “More so, it gives MTN an opportunity to connect with its customers at their passion points, especially when they had never imagined they’d be able to watch their favourite international artists live.”
Mulinde explained that sponsorships foster business growth especially to service providers within the entertainment industry; owners of sound and stage equipment, entertainment venues and event management companies.
Joseph Habineza, the Minister of Sports and Culture (MINISPOC) said, the lack of sponsorship affects the quality of shows and games which in turn affects the number of people who want to get entertained.
“Business people should see an opportunity to advertise for their companies because Rwandans are used to free things and even those with money, don’t like spending,” Habineza said.
MINISPOC’s Minister underscored the fact that sponsorships help companies to; develop closer and better relationships with customers-- both existing and potential ones, showcase services and products, and also enable them to get rid of outdated inventory.
Habineza also explained the need to improve quality within the sports arena. He cited the fact that sports doesn’t have to depend on the government budget alone given, the competition coming from fans watching more live matches on local T.V and other cable channels like DSTV.
“The challenge is to modernize our sports and make it exciting—everyone wants to explore and enjoy a game or show; I mean…no one wants to pay for something boring!” Habineza said.
He further encouraged the Private Sector to grab the available opportunities to contribute and fund Rwanda’s games.
According to Habineza, with more support, there will be improved quality, professionalism, fun, entertainment and more local viewers will go to the stadiums to watch matches.
However, the challenges that come with sponsorship are still at large.
Event Manager Mc Davis Genza, the CEO of Show Time Events expressed the lack of venues as the biggest problem of sponsorship in Rwanda.
He said that event management companies have to work and depend on the football schedule if they want to use the Amahoro stadium.
Genza said that, even with the stadium’s availability, the cost to hire it is way too high at USD 20,000 per day. This has pushed them to hire Petite Stade—which is a venue too small to accommodate all the fans.
“This is where we need the government to come in,” Genza said.
With 6 years experience in event promotion, Genza noted monopoly over the last decade by big companies who hardly spent a dime, as the reason for the sluggish development in the entertainment and sports industry.
“These wheels have now changed because of competition,” Genza said, “since more companies like East African Breweries Ltd, Rwandatel, Tigo and more have surfaced.”
New telecom companies on the bloc, like Tigo have spent only two months yet have zealously spread their tentacles and sponsored the end of year fireworks and ‘Happy People’ concert, Medi’s album launch, ‘Bye Bye’ concert as well as in Sports at the 2009 FIBA African Basketball Tournament.
These challenges are not to be heaped onto the sponsors alone. MTN’s Mulinde said sponsors face challenges as well when it comes to sponsoring local artists.
Mulinde cited; a lack of professionalism from some artists who don’t show up for shows on time and do not practice enough to ensure that they give their fans a good performance, the lack of a variety of good quality sound and stage equipment within Rwanda coupled with high cost from the few businesses that do have these equipment and the lack of skilled human resource capable of setting up and organizing good quality shows, as challenges faced by sponsors.
“If artists can exhibit a commitment to their craft, more organizations will sponsor them. That means they’ll be able to earn a living, give their fans great songs; everyone benefits,” she said.
Miss Jojo one of Rwanda’s local musicians has been singing for 3 years and says that Rwanda’s Entertainment industry is still young making it hard for sponsors to pick interest.
“They are not so interested and I agree that there is a certain level that Rwanda’s entertainment needs to reach before sponsors can fully participate,” Miss Jojo said.
“Each industry must have investors if they are to thrive. We simply do not have enough funds to consistently produce the high quality of music that we need to.”
However, Miss Jojo acknowledges the fact that some corporate companies are slowly picking interest in sponsorship.
“We have the talent but we need sponsors to be there for us, to support us; this is what gives us hope.”
Even when the arm and leg is charged, MTN Group is coughing millions of US dollars to sponsor this year’s FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa.
Also Rwandatel after their requisition to MINISPOC, have a high chance of financing Miss Rwanda contests for the next 4 years while Show Time Events remains optimistic that facilitation from sponsors, will enable them achieve their 2010 goal of flying in 2 major international artists.
Often companies are looking to improve how they are perceived by their target audience. Through sponsoring events that appeal to their market, they shape buying attitudes, help generate a positive reaction and also enhance the development of certain sectors of the economy that are otherwise ignored if not forgotten.