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2021 has again been another tough year for the Sports Industry in South Africa, but what has been inspiring to see, is how everyone has evolved and adapted. Some have thrived whilst others have barely survived.

In amongst all the peaks and troughs, there have been several things that have happened which have had a positive impact on us and our clients. We wanted to share these with you –

  1. The increased awareness, understanding and appreciation on the importance of mental wellness, not just in the workplace, but in sport too.  We won’t easily forget Naomi Osaka pulling out of the Australian Open tennis tournament and Simone Biles withdrawing from a few events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Their bravery generated a lot of healthy debate on the topic especially around the obligations to sponsors and the commercial impact on their returns.Equally significant was the heroic decision by teenage tennis sensation, Emma Raducanu, to withdraw from Wimbledon. She then went on to win the US Open as a qualifier!
  2. The Springboks winning the Lions Tour was our highlight of the year  – nobody (except us) gave them a chance. The Boks had not played a game since winning the 2019 RWC, we were under strict lockdown conditions, no fans were allowed in stadium to watch taking away much of our home ground advantage, the team was training in a bubble, and the majority of the team contracted Covid 2 weeks before the Series was due to begin. Whereas the B&I Lions players had all recently completed both their domestic & international seasons and were all in top form & were expected to trounce the Boks hands down.
  3. The success of “The Hundred” new format cricket tournament that took not just women’s cricket audiences to new levels, but increased interest and growth of cricket with young audiences in the UK to unprecedented levels. This, after harsh criticism by many when the idea was first proposed.
  4. The growth of Women’s sport – brands who invested early and stepped into unchartered, uncluttered territory to explore the power of women’s sport are quickly seeing returns. Flexible partnership opportunities are allowing brands and rights holders to align strategically to meet business objectives. Audiences are growing, and loyalties being built, so if you’re not yet in the game, you need to move quickly.
  5. A notable sponsorship deal was DHL taking the naming rights to the Cape Town Stadium, something that has been in the market for a long time. Very significant for sport and the City.
  6. Absa taking over the Run the City series which was previously sponsored by FNB was a major sponsorship move. We look forward to seeing the results from this previously-perceived-as risky territory. Perhaps this is the start of more brands being braver and taking on properties previously held by their competitors.
  7. The South African rugby franchises breaking the Super Rugby umbilical cord and making the move North to compete in the United Rugby Championship (URC). This has also been spoken about for a while now, but it took NZ and Australia to force the issue by effectively ending the Super Rugby tournament.
  8. Major moves in the Women’s basketball Association, where Google joined AT&T, Nike and Deloitte in their very appropriately named WNBA top tier Changemaker sponsorship category.

As an agency, we too were surprised by some of the success and failures of 2021.

There were some incredible highs that we worked our butts off to make happen, and proudly share those with you as inspiration, that even under the most trying circumstances, we should get back up and try again. Perseverance, passion for what we do, our relationships, and our experience make a killer combination for potential success, and sometimes we all just need to be reminded.

  • The biggest South African contingent to date registered for the class of 2021 ESA Diploma, with 11 students across agencies, brands and rightsholders in SA.
  • We are currently in negotiations to renew 5 existing partners and to onboard 3 new partners with Comrades Marathon Association.
  • We stayed connected with the industry and had regular coffee check in’s with over 50 industry professionals.
  • The Sharks played in the Carling Cup Final – what a delight to finally have some sport to cheer about, in kit that we helped develop with our client
  • We launched our new website in February!
  • We partnered with gsport on International Women’s Day. And in just 5 months, completed our Flash Science, went to market, and brokered 9 deals for the 2021 Momentum gsport Awards.
  • We brokered a 4-year deal between Mr Price Sport and SASCOC, which saw our Olympians show up in style at Tokyo 2020.
  • After a long spell away from racing IRONMAN South Africa were one of the first rightsholders to successfully host a mass participation event under COVID conditions, and went on to host 4 events in 2021. A testament to the IRONMAN SA team’s hard work and commitment to their athletes, and their sponsors.
  • We launched a new Sport Sponsorship Marketing course in partnership with Red & Yellow Creative School of Business, to continue to help grow the South African sponsorship industry and had 29 students for our first intake in June.
  • We brokered the LIFT airline partnership with Team South Africa which has seen them come on board as the official carrier for the team in their first sponsorship deal since their launch.
  • We embarked on two RFP’s. Although we were unsuccessful in both, the experience we gained was invaluable.
  • We met one of our internal targets to secure a Football client as we signed with COSAFA. We quickly achieved traction by signing the SABC as the Free to Air (F2A) broadcaster for the COSAFA Cup, the COSAFA Women’s Champions League and the COSAFA Women’s Championship. In addition, we secured Energade as the Official Sports drink and aQuelle as the Official Water sponsor for these tournaments.
  • The annual Nederburg Harvest Festival was cancelled, but we still managed to create bespoke experiences for over 20 couples throughout the year,

So as we look back on a year that was filled with firsts – where some things went our way, and others didn’t, we can take a step back and remind each other, that whether you are thrown a curve ball or get the Twisties – we need to get back up, identify the opportunity, and keep going, because when you do, that’s when you learn, grow, improve and ultimately succeed.

Onwards to 2022. We can’t wait to see what’s instore for us.

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