In as much as efforts are constantly tailored at making sure that the Nigerian football league get to a high standard such that sponsors will be attracted to the clubs, it is a common feature in recent years that clubs still wallow in debt despite the huge money that is being pumped to football worldwide.
It is widely acknowledged that the Nigerian football clubs have a lot of talents, but they lack strong financial base which has rendered most of them insolvent despite the endorsement and branding deals they get from corporate bodies.
Hardly will a month pass in the current season that the issue of non-payment of salaries, in backlog, rare its ugly head.
At a time when clubs across the globe are getting record sponsorship deals, Nigerian clubs are yet to get the full benefit of getting endorsements due to the unattractiveness of the league.
Although, not to be ranked in the class of the British Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and even the PSL in South Africa in terms of marketing value, the Nigerian league still has the potential of attracting sponsorship with foreign multinationals that are all across the country but despite the fact that the league attained a professional statute about 25 years ago getting a sponsorship deal that will change the face value of the clubs seems a Herculean task.
Low turnout of fans in stadiums at Nigerian league effectively means meager revenue in terms of ticketing sales hence shirt sponsorship now attract the biggest deal for clubs. Last year, Man United signed a world record $70m a year with automobile maker, Chevrolet while Chelsea also penned a mega deal with Japan’s Yokohama Tyres.
These amounts alone are capable of running the club –including payment of weekly salaries to players despite their mega pay.
However, try as they may, the few jersey deals that have been signed by Nigerian clubs have been like a drop in the ocean when compared to what the clubs gulp.
Most people continued to be baffled by the fact that despite the essence of the teams’ endorsement and jersey branding, what monetary gains the clubs enjoy from the exercise, when they are unable to pay wages to both staff and players.
Sports marketers have reasoned that sponsorship of football clubs entails marketing in which a company pays for some of the costs associated with a club or its players in exchange for some rights, which may include the use of such rights for commercial returns.
However, most of the time, none of the parties involved in the arrangement ever comes out to disclose the sum of the branding contract.
In Nigeria, football is yet to attract the desired level of support from corporate bodies, despite the strides in the field by the clubs and national teams. It has usually been a situation where the organisations make billions of naira in Nigeria and deploy same to support foreign football.
Over the years, there has been poor articulation of football agenda to provide the business parameters for firms to key into, while on the other hand, Nigerian businesses have failed to be part of the building process, which would have served to provide the environment for football to thrive.
For instance, in 2011, two-time African champions, Enyimba Football Club of Aba, Abia State, topped the list of football club brands in Nigeria, according to a research conducted by Leading Sports Brands.
“The People’s Elephant” earned 72 points to beat 10 other Nigeria Premier League (NPL) clubs.
The research was the first analysis of Nigeria’s football club brands since the introduction of professional football in 1990. The research was conducted using the following parameters: corporate social responsibility, kit sponsorship deal, functional and interactive website, match attendance/size of the supporter base, shirt sponsorship deal, brand popularity/history, brand value/international recognition, international partnership, club house and titles won.
Other Nigeria Premier League clubs who made the elite list were Heartland, Enugu Rangers, Dolphin, 3SC, Sharks, Kano Pillars, Kwara United, Ocean Boys, Lobi Stars and Niger Tornadoes.
In 2013, one of Nigeria’s top breweries signed shirt sponsorship deals with five top clubs in Nigeria. Guinness, through one of its brands, Harp, decided to partner with Heartland, Enugu Rangers, Sunshine Stars, Lobi Stars and Dolphins as their official shirt sponsors.
It marked the second major shirt sponsorship deal in the Nigerian League in the space of one year after Enyimba of Aba as well as 3SC of Ibadan signed shirt branding deals with Dubic Lager.
Port Harcourt-based Sharks were the most recent to seal a shirt sponsorship deal with Eunisell, a local oil company.
However, at present, the effect of such sponsorship is not robbing on the clubs, who are used to getting funds at will from the government an entity that has been battling cash crunch in recent years.