I happened to come across the Cell C Community Cup magazine programme on SuperSport on the weekend whilst flicking through channels and decided to give it some attention, as it seemed a peculiar sponsorship to me.

Off the bat I need to emphasize that I commend Cell C for putting money into and contributing to club rugby, an important pillar in the South African rugby ecosystem.

It’s always positive to see brands assisting sports financially, especially in areas where money is not as forthcoming as at the top levels of rugby, cricket and football, but at the same time, if you’re going to invest in something, leverage the potential it provides you with or know you’re paying money to miss out on a opportunity.

After paying some attention to the programme I’m still a bit puzzled as to why Cell C invested in this platform and what their strategy is around it. Now, it’s obvious that the major value around this property is in engaging with communities nationwide and adding value to them, something Levergy place a major focus on. But from what I have picked up and after some google investigation it doesn’t seem like Cell C are actually taking advantage of the asset and instead are unfortunately seeing it as the old school, brand exposure tool, which makes no sense. Firstly the logo route alone in sponsorship is not effective and secondly, this property does not provide the ‘eyeballs’ and viewership numbers that could half justify such an approach. The Community Cup has so far commanded an average audience of 16,325 (Repucom) on SuperSport. So if exposure was their main objective (which seems it was) then this platform is certainly not delivering any results on that.

So the question Cell C should be asking in this sponsorship should be – “how can we add value to your lives and enhance your experience’ if you engage with us?” I don’t see either value being added or any form of engagement from the brand. The leveraging and execution is not good enough. All I see are bits and pieces of Cell C branding here and there. Maybe I’ve missed something, if so drop me a line to tell me otherwise.

This sponsorship, over-and-above the financial assistance, should be all about Cell C demonstrating a commitment to amateur rugby and contributing socially to the communities involved, ultimately building brand loyalty and advocacy. Over time they would then see real results. Paying the sponsorship rights fee is a help, but it’s only the start if you want the sponsorship to deliver marketing and business results for you. I was hoping they would demonstrate how the power is in the communities hands thanks to Cell C.

In addition to the Community Cup, Cell C acquired the rights for Varsity Sports, including Varsity Cup. After trying hard, I struggled to identify what they had actually bought in the Varsity Cup besides a tiny collar logo that can’t be noticed, a couple random boards and activation space that is not being utilized.

It’s just disappointing because I was hoping for fresh, exciting things from Cell C when they announced themselves as a major new player in the sponsorship space. Instead I’ve seen no sign of any strategic thinking or innovative/exciting leveraging. The perception so far is that of Vodacom’s inferior challenger.

Another interesting point is how an amateur property with second grade performances can receive such a sponsorship while other elite (also amateur) athletes struggle to make their way and miss out on deserved exposure and resources. Again don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of club sport, I’ve been playing amateur club sport for 12 years on the trot now.

But the fact that we have amongst many, Olympic gold medalists still paying their own way (yes seven months on our gold medal rowing heroes from London 2012 are still without sponsors) while amateur club rugby now receives extensive TV time and rights fees is a concern.

Top level and grass roots swimming, hockey, netball and tennis are all sports (amongst others) that deserve sponsorship and can be leveraged very effectively with significant, loyal, high LSM participant and spectator audiences. Other neglected areas from sponsors are grass roots, schools and high performance programmes (including rugby, football and cricket) that churn out our next generation of sporting talent. Here’s a tip – back those platforms, activate thoroughly and tell your contributing story with comprehensive, multi-channel campaigns over a length of time and your brand and the sport will be winning.

It seems all too many companies in this country are only concerned with short term TV brand exposure, regardless of how many people are watching and whether it actually matters to consumers that their logo is up there anyway. Do some meaningful research – they don’t actually care. They do care when you truly add value to what they have chosen to be involved with. That’s when you put the power in their hands and see results.

Written by Struan Campbell, Director of Strategy.