Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Simba and Yanga: Untapped Gold Underneath?

I am a sports fan and that is no lie. My wife would attest to the fact that I watch or attend anything competitive. May be it is a men's thing. When she hopes that the end of NFL football (I mean the American version) after Super Bowl would lead to our endless romantic quality times, the college "post season"- the March Madness carries me away...then comes the NBA playoff in mid to late Spring...Oh what about the summer season when we occassionally attend real football games at the Columbus Crew stadium?

But my reflection today is not about my addiction for sports, but on what could potentially be a gold mine underneath the soccer giants in Tanzania - that is, Simba SC and Young Africans SC - from a marketing perspective.

It is widely believed, statistically, that Simba and Yanga boast the largest fan base in Tanzania than any other soccer club, with Yanga having a slight edge over Simba. The regional soccer clubs only get "flip-flop" fans, that is, those who root for the local team when they are not playing Simba or Yanga, or root for either Simba or Yanga when those team play the local team, depending on the fan's allegiance. For instance, a Simba's fan in Dodoma would root for Polisi Dodoma when Yanga visits Jamhuri Stadium. Likewise, a Yanga fan in Dodoma is likely to boo Simba players when they visit to play Polisi Dodoma. Nonetheless, these fans will unite and collectively be Polisi's fans when RTC Kagera visits town.

Undeniably, soccer is the most popular game in the world. The gozi la ng'ombe game also claims the same position in Tanzania. The popularity of the game is not only vivid by the number of fans who flock National Stadium, particularly when Simba and Yanga duke it out, but by the sheer number of shillings collected during the most popular games. Just to prove my point, The Guardian ran a story that TFF has collected enough loot in the past few game played during the ongoing Kagame Cup. Read on below:

Tanzanian shillings 73m/- in just a few days in not a small change. That demonstrates, from a marketing angle, that fans are willing to part with their hard-earned currencies to be entertained, regardless of the perceived (and for the most part true) poverty in Bongoland. Despite the fact that fans are willing to dish out their money for a soccer game, it has been proven that only Simba and Yanga in Tanzania can command a higher gate fee. That is due to the fact that they have a wider base of fans, but also because they produce a relatively high quality, entertaining kind of game. The reason being their ability to attract and recruit top players from around the country and even from neighbouring countries.

Commanding higher gate collections has over time given these two clubs some clout or power in driving some decisions made by the soccer body, TFF (FAT). You could view it a political clout, but I view it more than an economical power. Practically TFF, National Stadium manager, DRFA, and others do benefit alot from these clubs. At some point even some freelance photographers were benefiting from the power of Simba and Yanga (remember those days when freelance photographers used to sell photos from a previous Simba and Yanga's encounter? I've never seen them sell that many Nyota Nyekundu players' photos, to prove my case). What about those popular Manazi who are not willing to let go of the clubs? It is all about kuganga njaa, a purely economical pursuit. It is through the same clout, being a Simba or Yanga's club leader could give someone some sort of a political edge. I believe any individual who can lead Simba or Yanga to a successful season is more than likely to help someone win a Kiti cha Ubunge contest in his/her constituency.

It is my opinion, however, that both Simba and Yanga has not fully recognized and utilized their full economical and marketing potential. I am convinced that the problem lies in ignorance and fear of change (and fear of change could also be related to ignorance). There are some wazee was kilabu who are not willing to embrace change, simply because they are afraid of losing their traditional roles in the club. But let us look at some facts: If, hypothetically, the Tanzanian population is 30 millions stomachs, then Simba and Yanga are guaranteed of at least 10 million loyal customers apiece. That is a large and guaranteed market share.

That is huge, because even Vodacom or Celtel cannot boast of such a number of subscribers. I believe that Mr Reginald Mengi, in his previous suggestion that Yanga form a Company, had some grand ideas that Yanga didn't want or bothered to pursue. In their ignorance, they only ended up forming two "civil war" groups within the club, namely Yanga Kampuni and Yanga Asili. I can only theorize that Yanga Kampuni saw the vision, but failed to effectively communicate the vision. On the other hand, Yanga Asili were afraid that the club was taking a non-traditional path. In essence, Yanga Asili decided to be stuck in the past, embracing the 1961 view of the Club instead of focusing on being the pioneers of a new soccer direction in Tanzania. But that is the way things are in Bongoland sometimes, not surprising.

I believe that Mr. Mengi saw a marketing potential that could be mind boggling. While most companies fail to launch successfully because of the uphill battle in building a brand name, Simba and Yanga do not have to go through such hurdles due to their already established and strong brand names in Tanzania. In my opinion, all they had to do is launch themselve out and reap the benefits.

If I were a Simba or Yanga's executive, these are just a few strategies I would lead the club to employ in order to reap the profits of our brand name:

1. Owning a Stadium - Uwanja wa Taifa's management is always reaping Simba and Yanga off. Having our own turf would guarantee a steady cash flow, not only from the gate collections, but also through renting of office spaces, concession stands (we would sell karanga, aisikrimu and all that jazz ourselves), and other fees for the use of our facility. There are so many organizations, such as NSSF, with lots of money but no investment ideas. Since earning potential in soccer is almost unbelievable, I would form a partnership and give them the naming rights to the Stadium. I believe in 20 years, NSSF would get the cost of their investment back and we will part ways, everyone smiling.

2. Co-Branding - We don't have build a factory or sell products, but we can surely utilize our brand name in collaboration with other strong brands in the country for mutual benefits. What do I mean? You can get into an agreement with Kilimanjaro Water, for instance, to produce special edition of Yanga or Simba water bottles - in celebration of our winning the national or regional championship. It is a given that fans who identify with the team will also identify with the product. The profits generated from such a marketing arrangements will be divided among the Company and the club as per the contract. No pain.

3. Original Branding - This could be worked out with manufacturers to make original product lines for our club, such as Simba or Yanga sandals, cups, bumber stickers, pens, writing pads, and whatever we can imagine. Again, with the fan base of over 10 million folks, that is a huge market. Fans across the globe like to own memorabilia pertaining to their clubs. As such, writing with a Simba or Yanga's pen is surely guaranteed to make an avid fan proud.

As I pointed out, ignorance is such a heavy burden and that is evident in a way Simba and Yanga have failed to utilize their potentials. I understand that part of it is also attributed to poor leadership that is prevalent in almost all aspects of Tanzanian life. Si TFF wala serikalini. Nonetheless, I believe that if these two clubs can look for consultants like me (just kidding), they would see such a tremendous change beyond their imaginations. The problem, however, is the fact that we have had an attitude of hakiwezekani bwana, labda Ulaya tu.

I was in Tanzania at the end of 2004 and in a random conversation with my brother one day, I hinted on the marketing potential for Simba and Yanga. Guess what? My brother thought I was too ambitious, too Americanized. He thought that my ideas were not workable - "siyo Bongo ndugu yangu" type of mentality. I pointed out that an effective marketing campaign is the one that is able to create even an artifical demand. The same thing Vodacom, for instance, has been able to do in Tanzania. Does anyone believe that poor folks in Tarime need a cell phone? The answer to that is that those poor folks truly don't need a mobile phone due to their economic conditions. Nonetheless, Vodacom and the rest has created an artificial demand for cell phones to the extent that everyone thinks they need one. The same tactic is being used in developed countries like the United States, where companies try to make you think that if you don't use their products you will be incomplete or mshamba. Simba and Yanga's position, fortunately, do not require any extreme marketing strategies, just a change of attitude and a grasp of a grand vision. Arsenal, Juventus, or even Egyptian teams do not apply "Bagamoyo strategies" to win, they've embraced a marketing formula that works -- generating money, money, and more money. Such is possible in Bongoland, if we truly desire that.

The bottom line is - Simba and Yanga are just two pots of gold that nobody has been able to tap. If we keep on hanging to people like Wambura, Semvua or Simfukwe to lead these clubs, we'll never see that gold glitter... Kibaya zaidi, even TFF bosses have not seen, and probably will never see such a vision.



whoami123 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ned said...

Boy Metty,
This is kigongo!
Mzee we need to talk! I like your thinking


Anonymous said...

I have a feeling someone hacked my laptop and took my 'confidential' file! I've had these ideas for a while.

I think trying to do these things through simba and yanga is like beating on a dead horse. I think for a personal success in your investment and also for the benefit of the whole nation, rather that keep on 'steroiding' simba and yanga, we need to have a bunch of teams (5-6), which have strong competitive abilities in all aspects ie. technically, management-wise and financially. Moro United is a perfect example. But I don't think Moro United ever attempted to 'eliminate' or convert those simba and yanga fans in their territories to support the local team AT ALL TIMES, and that might have been a mistake.

Try to see if you can contact me, I'm planning to aggressively go on with my plans in 2008. I'm still doing research on things while modifying and perfecting my plans, and at the same time look and collect necessary needed funds. You are defintly in one of the page in my overall master plan. Looking forward to hear from you.