Business of Sport

Pre-season all about business

2011-07-26 10:25
Didier Drogba in Thailand (AP)
Comment by David Brooke

There’s no such thing as building the game of football from grassroots level when there’s money to be made.

Do you remember the days when the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal would take the bus to third division clubs Darlington and Macclesfield in mid-July for pre-season matches? I do, but those days are long gone and instead of some youngster having the golden chance to play against some of his idols, some bloke from the Chicago Fire gets that opportunity because Manchester United are a global brand and heading to America is in line with their strategy of continuing to growing their brand among an ever-growing football population who are just falling over shop queues to get the name “Rooney” printed on the back of a Manchester United shirt.

The fact of the matter is, money talks in this day and age and sponsors and shareholders determine the direction that a football club takes on the ever-competitive global stage. There’s a reason why Chelsea  head to the Far East to play some far-flung Thai team (that’s not the team name by the way), it’s because there are a few million people walking around Thailand with the blue of Chelsea and the name “Drogba” emblazoned on the back.

Here in South Africa, we’ve been accustomed to international teams coming down to play our local teams, but why do they only play Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates year after year? Well, it’s pretty simple, yet pretty clever by Vodacom.

The cellular giants sponsor both Chiefs and Pirates and know that the only two clubs in the entire PSL who can fill out stadiums around the country, and not only Soweto, in pre-season, are these two rival clubs.

This subsequently opens up their brand to provinces like Limpopo, where the opening game between Chiefs and Spurs took place recently. Their brand was seen by 40 000 people inside the stadium and according to SAIL executive and Vodacom Challenge tournament director, Jabu Mathibela, the match between Chiefs and Spurs achieved a 29% higher share of the market than normal TV programming during the same timeslot – that’s a pretty good branding exercise if you ask me!

So, if you’re one of those millions of football fans in Thailand, or up in Limpopo, enjoy your opportunities to catch a glimpse of the likes of Drogba and Van der Vaart in your backyard, because some bricklayer in Darlington is missing out on that opportunity.

David Brooke is the Commercial Manager of


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