NAIROBI – These past three weeks we have experienced the most action in quite a long time. With the FIBA Zone 5 3×3 qualifiers happening in Mombasa, Athletes in Action coming down to Kenya for their mentorship programme, league games going on as scheduled and The Africa City Challenge taking place this past week, fans were treated to a much longed-for cure for the dry spell. Honestly, this was long overdue, breaking the monotony of ‘all-stars’ games that had taken over by storm and hence become cliché and lackluster. My focus however will be on The Africa City Challenge. The inaugural tournament brought together teams from five Eastern African countries, represented by 6 cities, media, celebrities and a massive fan base. The widely sponsored event ran for six days, including one rest day and was the most action-packed event in years.
Nyayo Gymnasium saw tremendous passion, enthusiasm and zeal ooze from all corners. With food, drinks, music, crowd and good basketball basketball loves had their perfect evenings. Eastern African cities battled out in an entertainment galore, delivering great quality basketball, all while eyeing the $ 6000 prize money. The fans too did not disappoint. It was a spectacular crowd, massive on the last day. Special mention to the Mogadishu fans, who cheered and appreciated their own with tremendous passion and excitement. It scarcely mattered to them if it was a one sided, no-thrill game. Media coverage was superb, courtesy of Kwese Free Sports, with games streaming live for those who could not make it to Nyayo, and for our friends from Western Kenya to ‘tuma salamu’. Social media, being the 24/7 medium for discussion was awash with pictures, videos, lengthy discussions and hash tags. Celebrities too graced the occasion: Radio presenter Shaffie Weru, English Premier League star Victor Wanyama, his brother of Italian Club Latina Macdonald Mariga, the talented DJ Joe Mfalme and Hip-hop artist Khaligraph Jones were part of the list.
The action was greatly enhanced by the marketing done before and during the event, as well as media coverage. The media successfully exploits the public need for entertainment. The tournament was highly publicized through channels including TV, radio, PR companies, social media, celebrities and word of mouth, ensuring a wider reach than usual. This clearly illustrates the role of the media and marketing in general. With good publicity evidently, attendance rises as people want to see the action live and supporters are better informed. In addition, it is easier to attract sponsorship and overall participation is encouraged. Personalities and role models are also developed, something that would ideally benefit the younger generation of players. Generally, the game gets a lot of exposure as participation in sports covered by the media is always higher than for those that are not.
Looking at the current status of the game, it is quite evident that there is a market for basketball in Kenya. We are all aware that Nyayo gymnasium attendance has dropped significantly over the years, possibly because we lack good content. We yell for sponsorship yet advertisers and sponsors would not be able to function without fans to sell to. This however does not dismiss the fact that people love basketball. Our execution has always been the problem. Whether it is a matter of content, funds or just politics is debatable, fact remains that stakeholders fail to do their part. Hopefully we learnt a thing or two.