There cannot be a more noble gesture than the one promised to Team Botswana athletes than the P1 million guaranteed to gold medal winners by retail giant Choppies.
The six figure sum is enough to rev up and give each of the seven strong teams extra oomph to go for gold. This was not the first time Choppies pledged prize money for winning athletes as the company came good on their promise when Nijel Amos scooped silver in 800m at the 2012 London Olympic games.
This week Choppies Chief Executive Officer Ramachandran Ottapathu made the bold announcement. “Choppies will reward the Olympic gold medallists with a prize of P1million, silver medallists with P500 000, Bronze medallist with P250 000 and P75 000 for the finalists,” said Ottapathu addressing a fully packed press conference. However, local corporate companies should not only sponsor or reward ready-made athletes. It is important for sponsors to grow with athletes and catch them young. Grassroots are the most crucial part of the athletes where the most resources are needed to support and build future sports stars.
For Choppies it is perfect timing, and excellent brand positioning, which brings a lot of mileage. The retail giant also deserves credit for the much-needed sponsorship during the 2014 Africa Youth Games that were held in Gaborone. Nevertheless, local corporates should have the conscience to start with athletes when they are younger. Perhaps starting with athletes when they begin their four-year Olympic cycle would be way better and deliver positive results at World championships, Commonwealth games and Olympics.
There is need for local companies to sponsor running programmes alongside government and sports authorities instead of chipping in when there are passing events. On the flipside it might not be easy considering the harsh economic climate, but sponsoring grassroots is a more pragmatic way of doing things. A recent example is the Botswana Athletics Association National championships in which there were not enough sponsors. There were not many posters or billboard signs since another local company, Senn foods was not on board this year.
The BAA national championships had an abundance of talent and this is where a local corporate could show commitment to sports and grassroots development. By no means there are many companies, perhaps too many to mention, that have supported local sports for a long time. There is Debswana mining company through their grassroots ‘Re ba Bona ha,” talent identification programmes and lately there is the Copa Coca Cola development football programmes spearheaded by Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL).
Currently, the Copa grassroots programme has two young boys being Ryan Brown and Kabelo Seshabo taking part in an international camp in France. Moreover, KBL is unlikely to claim glory once the two youngsters and some of their peers in the programme make it to top-flight football. A while back, KBL took a decision to divert from sponsoring the then Coca Cola cup and poured money on the Copa Coca cola. In a few years’ time the results are expected to be transformative for our local football.