The newly-elected Media Relations and Marketing Officer at the Botswana Volleyball Federation, Kagiso Meswele, has a mammoth task of turning around the fortunes of what is certainly the second most popular sport in the country.
Meswele was elected into the position this past Saturday although it was not the position he had prepared himself for. Going into the elections, he had hoped to be elected as Vice President Technical, but was beaten to the position by George Keotsene who was retaining it for the second time since first being elected three elective congresses ago.
On the sidelines of the weekend congress following the elections, it was clear Meswele was not very excited about the role the volleyball delegates chose for him. He cut a forlorn figure, looked deep in thought, perhaps thinking of what really lay ahead of him. His anxiety, which he shared with close associates, is not misplaced – volleyball as it is currently, needs the office he holds.
The volleyball governing body has never had the position of a media relations and marketing officer, and no one was keen on taking up the challenge. After he had lost in two positions, he was nominated from the floor with nobody else showing interest in the media relations and marketing position. Now he is the man tasked with making the sport even more attractive and he has a strategic plan and policies to set up for the new office.
Yet on the ground, his office will be needed more as the association is still fresh from losing a major league-sponsor that pumped over P10 million into the sport over the last decade. It is a mammoth task, but one that will make or break him in the eyes of the volleyball fraternity. Without sponsorships, the sport is in limbo, because there will be nothing to play for. The standards, unfortunately, have been set high, and any league sponsorship that attracts less than P1 million will feel like regression.There was a point in time when volleyball activities were all over, making the sport attractive to the level where clubs could find sponsorships from reputable companies, thereby helping strengthen competition that led to growth. Clubs nowadays find it difficult to attract sponsors because the sport is no longer as popular as before, where every two months there was a competition or an activity.
Last year, only one major activity was conspicuous – the Mascom League. There was neither the Top 8 tournament nor the Capital Motors Independence Cup.There was a time the sport could run several competitions in a year – the Debswana Cup, Barclays Cup, Blue Train Marathon that was sponsored by Botswana Railways, JB Sports Challenge, Schweppes Volleyball Grand Prix sponsored by Kgalagadi Beverages and Keone Mooka Mageu Cup sponsored by the then Botswana Breweries, among other competitions. It was a busy sport that easily gave football a run for its money. This is the same sport that enjoyed live coverage of their matches on national television, and this is the only sport that had a dedicated weekly television magazine show on BTV, called Touch Net.
The volleyball people miss those days, and with the new office introduced specifically for marketing and publicity, this could be an opportune moment to return the sport to those glory days. Meswele, however, comes in at a time the sport code is also in need of youth competitions; when the volleyball people should be working on enhancing their public relations drive; when the sport is losing quality players to the government constituency tournaments and when government has cut down on monies given to sport. These are some of the areas the marketing office will need to address. BVF president Daniel Molaodi, who was retained unopposed on Saturday, emphasised after the election that publicity and marketing were now the priority areas of the sport that appear to have lost appeal over the years. Molaodi said, “It remains our primary objective as the committee to get sponsorships as soon as possible even as we have delegated that responsibility to consultants.”
Such responsibilities within the new committee will be led by Meswele, and that is who the volleyball community will be looking to for answers. Because of the massive Mascom sponsorship, volleyball clubs had begun to either pay their players or at least ensure they cover some of the players’ monthly expenses such as accommodation, toiletry and groceries. Many are now wondering where the money to pay the players will come from and training for all the clubs has not started as there is no word of what will happen of the 2017 season.
Already, Meswele is inundated with questions of how he intends to help the situation, because without the said support, volleyball may be at the beginning of its end. The newly elected committee must come up with more innovative ways of ensuring that without the sponsorships, the sport continues to command its place as the second popular in the country after football.
Close to his new role, all Meswele was promising when he sought votes to become Vice President Technical, was to put BVF activities on the website of the continental governing body of the sport, CAVB. He also promised to lobby for an Indoor Sports Hall owned by the volleyball body.