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Collegiate Sporting Platform to the Rescue

Brand owners and individuals looking for fresh channels to connect with the youth segment of the Nigeria market, may find the newly inaugurated Higher Institutions Football League attractive. Raheem Akingbolu reports

Music and Sports are fast becoming the most potent platform for marketing because of the affinity between fans and the teams or music stars, as the case may be. In advanced nations, handlers of top brands always find the two areas tempting because they are the easiest routes to the heart of the teeming youth population.

Though the Nigeria’s entertainment industry provides music personalities and other celebrities to connect with, that cannot be said of sports because there are no viable local football leagues. As a result of this, various companies have been restricted to music as the only serious platform to connect consumers.

A platform for brand affinity

According to the Director, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Sola Fijabi, whose agency recently inaugurated Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL), there is a connection between brand building and sports that has not been fully explored in Nigeria because of lack of strong sporting platforms. He stated that for discerning brands, HiFL is another platform for connecting with consumers.  According to Fijabi, the spread of the tournament and potential opportunities abound. “HiFL has been designed to address the needs of every brand. Here, we are referring to over 60% of the population in Nigeria as prospective customers of any discerning brand. That is huge. Opportunities such as kit endorsement/branding; branding of the display panels around the football pitch; branding of fans bid; products display amongst other sponsorship opportunities are available. The beauty of these profound opportunities is that brands may simply tap in for their corporate social responsibility programmes,” Fijabi said.

This is also the position of a Marketing expert, Babatunde Oguntuase, who argued during an interview with THISDAY that there has been serious vacuum in the nation’s marketing space, adding that the recent development will boost sports and brands marketing in Nigeria.

Yearning for viable sport platform

Being a part of the higher institutions in Nigeria has its awes and flaws, however, students always look forward to any extra-curricular activity that will cause an enjoyable distraction or relax the stress nerves even for a moment. Once an activity springs up, the atmosphere is somewhat celebration-filled as students begin to plan how their schedules would fit into the new development.

The situation is no different when the National University Games Association (NUGA) announces the commencement of a new edition. Schools begin massive preparation, which includes recruiting, training and retraining of potential candidates that best represents the school. For weeks, the euphoria basks in the air and these students make some sense of their educational journey as not just a routine experience but also a threshold for building their professional career.

Intercollegiate sports is not new to the world or Nigeria, however, it has shown a snail-like growth in the country in the past decade. Lack of consistency in the existent collegiate sports has barred any opportunity for sustainable growth in terms of linking potential winners/budding athletes to the professional scene. The focus on the Super Eagles and other top shots in the sports industry has indirectly affected the progression of collegiate sports.

It is almost impossible to flip through the sports page of daily newspapers with comprehensive colligate sports reports in Nigeria. In a bid to change the narratives and grow collegiate sports in Nigeria, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing recenlty launched the Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL) for teams in higher institutions in Nigeria. HiFL will be the first organised collegiate football league in Nigeria.

About HiFL

Simply, HiFL is an innovation to revive collegiate sports in Nigeria. More so, it seeks to create a unification amongst higher institutions with a common vision, which supersedes short-term goals. Beyond sports, it seeks a tie-in of an international recognition of athletic success to the improvement of academic objectives, enhancing the overall reputation of higher institutions in Nigeriaon a global scale.

This initiative is a calculated solution to the prevalent lack of sustainable policy on school sports as it is handled by private entities whose ultimate goal is to create formidable platform that will guarantee the discovery and pool of budding talents useful to the national team at all levels. Following the signing of MOU between PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing (PSEM) and Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA), the President of NUGA, Prof. Stephen Hamafyelto, expressed optimism that the issue of lack of funding for collegiate sports in Nigeria may now be adequately addressed.

According to him, “HiFL is the platform to enable NUGA inspire Nigerian students as the next generation through excellence in sports and academics.HiFL will complement the efforts of NUGA to bring back the good old days of competitive inter-school games with all the excitement therein. Interestingly, we are starting with football, which may be described as the pivot of Nigerian sports in an arrangement that we hope will spread to other sports later”

During the media unveil, Director, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Sola Fijabi,explained that HiFL was designed to propagate youth development in Nigeria through sports. HiFL will also place collegiate sports in Nigeria on the same pedestal as their counterparts in other countries that have recorded successes and build a strong an ecosystem of young, homegrown football talents that may become invaluable for future national engagement.

“HiFL® is designed to engage and showcase exciting sporting talents from tertiary institutions in Nigeria. HiFL® is a part of a bigger body, which is the HiSL -Higher Institutions Sports League. The quest to establish this platform was borne out of the great desire to engage Nigerian youth. Presently, a significant number of these youth are in the universities spread across the country. These talents must be identified and nurtured for sustainability,” Fijabi said.

The maiden HiFL® games is set to commence from July 28, 2018 to October 27, 2018. The league will commence with universities, which has been zoned into the Atlantic Conference and the Savannah Conference for reasons of proximity and effective administration.According to Head Strategy, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Olamide Adeyemo, the competition will be on home and away basis while the final four matches will be broadcast live on terrestrial and cable like African Independent Television and SuperSport.

In her remark, representative of the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Dr. Maryam Sali, announced the Commission’s endorsement and promised to provide the necessary support.

“The passion that football generates is overwhelming and the youths in Nigeria have found a common ground in the excitement that the sport provides. We aspire to contribute our quota to the development of sports in Nigeria and we are glad that HiFL is providing a viable platform for private-public partnership that key into the agenda of the Federal Government for youth and socio economic development in Nigeria,” Sali said.

In his goodwill message, the President of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) Mr. Amaju Pinnick lauded the initiative and stated “HiFL is a noble and maiden project that we are looking forward to it becoming an annual event”. The winner of HiFL will represent Nigeria at the International University Sports Federation games.