Netball is one of the fastest-growing female sports in Zimbabwe and it’s a low-cost way for firms looking to appeal to women to build brand awareness, says local sports marketing expert Desmund Ali.
Speaking ahead of Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 where Zimbabwe will participate in a 16 tourney in Liverpool, UK, Ali said the international showcase offers a platform for brands to connect with this audience.
Ali, a FIFA certified sports manager and the current group manager of Homelink, a diversified financial service provider, believes that the low-profile sport is punching well above its weight when it comes to international achievements hence the need for high-profile sponsors to come on board.
“For companies looking to increase brand awareness among women, the netball court could have the answers. They do not only generate exposure for their brand at reasonable prices, but also create loyalty among a group of sporty women,” he said.
“Netball is a sport based on teamwork, co-ordination and balance, which allows women to enjoy the social side of staying active.”
“It has always been a popular sport for women, particularly in schools where girls can get involved from a young age.”
Ali added: “The big question will be, how does netball help brands to appeal to women and how can sponsoring the sport help brands to increase awareness and affinity as well as engage deeply with customers?”
In Zimbabwe, the encouraging point is that the sport is growing in popularity — being played at grassroots level from primary, secondary schools up to the super league despite lacking funding.
The sport’s popularity has been aided by
The Gems qualifying for their debut World Cup to be played in July. They are now ranked 13 in the world.
Despite their success story in the history of Zimbabwean sport, the World Cup-bound team has been ignored considering Annual National Sports Awards (ANSA) controversy when they were relegated to last sport earlier this year.
The Gems coach Lloyd Makunde also lost in the Coach of the Year award with the judges handing it to Cheetahs gaffer, Gilbert Nyamutsamba for the second year running.
Despite a relatively low profile and limited support, Ali says the Gems could be poised for eye-catching sponsors ahead of the continental showcase.
He believes the “female-dominant sport” that crosses a wide variety of age groups, offers a “huge potential customer database” plus “significant cross-marketing opportunities” in Zimbabwe.
“For sponsors, netball can be a targeted and relatively low-cost way for brands looking to appeal to women to build brand awareness, affinity and loyalty. The question now is who else will be quick enough to jump on the bandwagon?”
“The health benefits and extra opportunities that comes with the sport have all helped to contribute towards increasing participation levels in netball.
Locally, netball’s attractions are further heightened by the potential for further growth of the sport, which is seeking to follow the successes achieved by women’s football, rugby and cricket in recent
Zimbabwe Netball Association (ZINA) president Letitia Chipandu, says women’s sport can overcome its low public exposure when many corporates and companies come on board to partner them.
Chipandu said there is lack of profile for women’s sports.
“We have seen a rise in young women in our local areas looking to take part in netball, this meant we decided to cater for the demand,” she said.
“Although a lot of corporates don’t necessarily get women’s sport, they do get the women’s market. There are huge opportunities in women’s sport and we are welcoming everyone to come and partner us as we prepare for World Cup.”
Chipandu believes, netballers are high-achieving athletes and true ambassadors for the city, the region and women’s sport.
“As significant role models, they can put something back into your business and give you a cutting edge.
“Despite competing at the highest level, many of our netballers still need to work either full-time or part-time and fit their twice-daily training sessions around those demands. We will also appreciate brand ambassador roles for any interest companies and that will benefit players in return.”
Recently, England Netball secured new three-year tie-up sponsorship deal with Vitality.
So England Netball’s confirmation of its existing title partnership, thought to be one of the largest deals in women’s sport in the UK, is another landmark moment particularly as the England national team will be known as the “Vitality Roses”.