Sports Marketing & our development

In the previous Column dated 19 April 2013 emphasis was placed on reviewing our point of departure with regard to the national sport development process.
In that Column we addressed the importance of Sport for All and Physical Activity as the critical starting point for Vincentians.
When we examine the philosophy of the International Sport for All Association (TAFISA), the idea is that we include any form of physical activity, anything that engages the individual in movement. This includes active commuting and any form of recreation around the home with children.
Sport for all and physical activity knows no boundaries in respect of who is involved. There is no discrimination in respect of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, politics of geographical location.
Children must be introduced to physical activity through parental engagement in exercise even as the former are in the womb. Thereafter, even in the formative years the children must be taken through their paces in physical activity. This way the develop a love for and attachment to physical activity so that this eventually becomes a way of life.
Clearly, if we manage to get all of our society appreciative of and participating in physical activity we are less likely to have government as well as individuals expending extensive financial resources on non-communicable and chronic non communicable diseases. This translates into a healthy nation and the attendant consequences of productivity alertness, discipline and commitment.
The savings incurred through the cultivation of a culture of sport for all and physical activity can then be utilised to facilitate a national physical education initiative.
As mentioned in the Column of 19 April 2013, if we begin with sport for all then we can progress to a comprehensive Grassroots Talent Identification Programme (GTIP) for all sports. From this we can then move on to competition and the emergence of elite athletes for high-level training and competition.
The foregoing pyramidal structure facilitates a systematic, strategic approach to sport development in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is an approach that makes much sense and should be readily accepted.
In the Column of Friday 19 April 2013 we addressed the importance of marketing the sport for all and physical activity approach in order to guarantee that it receives as much traction amongst the peoples of St Vincent and the Grenadines. In that Column it was stated …The success of any programme is hinged on the extent to which the stakeholders are keen on marketing what is on offer.
…To many the odd press release while still having some use is no longer the leading mode of promoting programmes. It must not be abandoned.
The rise of social media has allowed marketing to take on a different pathway.
The promotion of SFA in today’s world therefore is rendered much more high profile because of the accessibility of social media.
The time has come for the word to be appropriately spread across the nation about the importance of getting off the couches and engaging in physical activity of some sort every day of one’s life.
Wellness must be promoted using all forms of the media available to Vincentians
Reality Check
The fact is however that here in St Vincent and the Grenadines we have done a very poor job of marketing sport.
Indeed a brief analysis may well suggest that virtually everyone of the national sports associations have failed to adequately identify a marketing strategy for its own development.
Not a single sporting organisation in St Vincent and the Grenadines has really spent enough time creating a brand and then engaging in deliberate brand awareness. None has deliberately engaged the services of a marketing specialist to assist in the framing of a strategic plan for marketing their respective brand and by extension their respective organisations and work/activities. As a result sport has suffered generally across the board.
The absence of any sound sports marketing policy and strategy in St Vincent and the Grenadines has to do with the absence of a sport culture in the country. We play sport and our people love sport but that does not translate into a national sport culture.
The absence of a sport culture also explains in part why as yet no Vincentian student has found it appropriate or opportune to select sport marketing as a chosen field of academic specialisation in spite of the global viability of this aspect of sport in the past two decades.
Another possible explanation for the absence of sport marketing in St Vincent and the Grenadines is cost to sporting organisations of accessing professional help. Since the personnel are not currently in any sporting organisation here at home and not in the country generally access is expensive and many of these local associations cannot afford to meet the associated expenses.
Finally we must place some blame at the feet of the economy of St Vincent and the Grenadines – small, open and decidedly vulnerable to external shocks. This means in essence that the corporate sector does not see sport as a viable option in relation to their development. This is the reason why it is easy for any sporting association here to identify those corporations/commercial houses that have never found it opportune to support sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Vincentian market is generally small and there are limits to what is possible. This is the view of several of the corporations that have agencies established in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Our reality reveals that since being established the single largest sponsor of sporting activities across sports in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the National Lotteries Authority (NLA). Of course this is a government institution that has the joint mandate of supporting sport and culture.
There is little doubt that while the NLA has been involved in sponsorship of sporting activities in the country there is no clearly delineated policy to guide sporting organisations in respect of how the allocations are undertaken.
One would imagine that as government and by extension public institution then there should be a policy made available to all involved in sport so that no one is in doubt about the criteria being used in this regard.
There are several business houses that have been identified as good corporate citizens through their generous support for sport. Among these are the St Vincent Brewery, Coreas and Hazells, KFC, the Banks, LOG Enterprises, Mustique Company, the communications companies inclusive of Karib Cable, the Super Market chains and a host of smaller institutions.
For the most part the aforementioned institutions deal with the national sports associations as well as the multitude of sporting organisations around the country whether they are clubs, teams or community-based.
Many local corporations/commercial houses offer at best partial sponsorship of events even as some of them still insist on having the events so aided branded with their mark(s). Often times the branding of the activity far exceeds the contribution in cash and kind coming from the particular corporate entity.
The end result of the foregoing is that there is no clear policy available to the sports fraternity about the criteria used by any of these institutions in respect of how they view sport and determine their respective contributions to it.
New approach
The National Olympic Committee (NOC) has itself been prey to an inadequate approach to marketing. It has recognised the paucity of marketing skills within national sporting organisations in St Vincent and the Grenadines and is determined to redress the current situation.
In the Column of Friday 19 April 2013 it was stated, The NOC has already committed its resources to the establishment of a culture of physical activity in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The work has started and the door has been flung open to Vincentians of all walks of life, abilities, gender, ethnic group, geographical location, religion and social class.
There can be no letting up.
We have started and we will see it through to the end goal, the production of a physically active St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In the important area of sport marketing therefore, the NOC has requested participation in a programme of Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC) called, the Sport Leaders Abroad Programme (SLAP). As a result, Mr Peter Metuzals will arrive in St Vincent and the Grenadines on 5 May 2013. He will work with the NOC effective 6 May through to 13 May 2013.
While here Metuzals will interface with the NOC Executive as well as with the various national sports associations to readily investigate and analyse the current status of sports marketing in these institutions. He will also be introduced to the Chamber of Commerce and the numerous corporate institutions in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Metuzals will then facilitate the development of a comprehensive sports marketing strategy and plan by the stakeholders that should serve to redress the current situation.
The specific outcome as identified by the NOC in planning for Metuzals’ visit reads: A robust strategic plan in respect of collective marketing, sponsorship and fundraising given the limitations of our size and the impact of the global economic circumstance on our country.
The work of Metuzals with the NOC and its affiliates in St Vincent and the Grenadines in early May is intended to be but a point of departure. It is another initiative aimed at strengthening the skill competencies of national sports organisations with a view to having them develop into more professional organisations.
The benefits are enormous.