Our goal is to support sports development in Nigeria – MD, BetKing

Ikorodu City FC, an indigenous football club based in Lagos, which was incorporated in 2007, plays in the second division of the Nigeria National League (NNL), and uses the newly refurbished Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan as home ground. The Lagos-based club recently signed a partnership agreement with BetKing as the official shirt sponsor and hopes to leverage on the partnership to develop the game and grow its fan base. Gossy Ukanwoke, managing director for KingMakers (BetKing in Nigeria), spoke exclusively with John Salau during the official unveiling of the partnership in Lagos. Excerpts:

What does this partnership entail; first for BetKing and then for the football team?

The partnership that BetKing and Ikorodu City FC have is one that focuses purely on the sport. We are providing the team with the support that enables them to invest in the things that they find quite critical; whether it’s team management, investment in media promotion, and any other thing that they find quite useful for them.

Talent management or finding more talents to join their team or anything that they find important to provide them that support without having to worry too much about anything else. It’s a team that is on the growth curve; they have a lot of opportunity and future ahead of them, and it’s good that we are joining them now in partnering together as they journey to their own success.

What is the value of the partnership to both brands?

Both brands are happy identifying with each other based on our shared aspirations. The partnership is geared towards the grassroots development of football in Lagos. The partnership is more than investing in a football team. It’s more than just investing in something. It’s why you invest your money in a project that is going to give you the opportunity to be KingMaker.

We know there are other grassroots football teams in Lagos; why Ikorodu City FC?

Every partnership grows from people meeting each other and having that conversation. This is the first time- we had a conversation with the team and we find that mutual value quite useful and it falls within what we are able to support and do.

And that’s why; we can’t support everyone, so we have decided that we wanted to get into sponsoring football. It is the first time that we are sponsoring a football team in Nigeria as a company, given our interest in sports, given our interest in developmental sports in the country; it’s very important for us to have this occasion, and no better way to start off by working with Ikorodu City FC, a football team playing in the NNL.

It’s a team that is winning, and we are very happy that we are backing the team that wins, which is one of our goals as a company. BetKing will continuously work with organizations that will help develop sports in Nigeria. This is the best and we hope that this partnership grows the standard of football sponsorship for local teams in Nigeria.

There is an Academy called Kid Sports that we support over the last two years. We too are growing – now we are supporting an NNL team, and we are hoping that we can work with them till they get into the senior league and get as much value as possible from our relationship.

Aside from having your brand on the jersey, what other things are you leveraging in this partnership?

So we’ve been able to use this partnership as an avenue to enrich the other partnerships that we have as well. Like we talked about youth sports and youth development; if there are youth teams that we also supported, it’s easier to be able to say you can go and do your trials; you can go and see maybe there are opportunities, and they too can also see really good talents in all the other initiatives that we support.

We also have access to assets. Assets are also very important – being able to have access to assets. When I say assets; in sports branding, it’s also good to be able to use images and rights, and all of those networks.

Having access to some assets that we can get from them enables us to also show our support for local spots in Nigeria and be able to use those assets on a global stage. It also gives exposure to the people in those assets and the team. So, it’s one of those that are quite a win-win that goes both ways for us.

Read also: Kanu Football Camp resumes in April to aid students’ sporting career

Let’s move a bit outside Ikorodu City FC; do you have plans at the moment to support national teams?

National teams! Well, you know there are limitations around how a private company can support a national team. So, within the purview of what’s possible, we would do. As I said, our goal is to support sports in Nigeria, and with the avenues that will open up to us; we’ll be able to provide our support.

We’re always open to conversations, as long as those conversations are within what we are able to afford and support, and back – then I’ll be able to do it. But, we start small; we see the value, then I can make a case for bigger sponsorship and support.

So, a lot of the things that we do – we bank on how successful relationships that we already established will go and then we can double down. But absolutely if the opportunities are there for us in the future to support a bigger team or national-level teams and all of that, we will do it to the best of our ability. Again, we are a private company; so we always have to make sure that we are getting the best value out of any relationship that we get into.

How long is the first phase of this partnership going to last before a possible review?

This is just the start; it’s a minimum of 12 months of sponsorship, which means after each season we can evaluate. It’s always good to evaluate that way. Again, the team can also evaluate at the end of the season before you go and print new shirts – to say okay, are we going forward with this; have they received value from us beyond the fact that we provide them some money; are they also receiving other values – are we showing them enough support, because anybody can give you money but you have to work with a brand that gives you support beyond money. So, they too have to evaluate; we have also evaluated the kind of brand that we are looking for – one that is always looking for ways to improve.

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