Vodacom Bulls player Marnitz Boshoff hit the turf at Loftus Versfeld as he has done through so many tackles in his career. Then he got to his knees and laughed, as his young son tackled him again. On this particular Saturday, on the main field that is his office, Boshoff was more than happy to let his younger "opponent" win.
Boshoff and his family joined several of his teammates at a memorable Vodacom Red Family Day on Saturday, 29 September, in which they mingled with some of the First Families of local TV, film and entertainment and the Vodacom Red families who were lucky enough to be part of this money-can’t-buy experience.
Celebrities such as actors Shona and Connie Ferguson, actor Thapelo Mokoena and Jacaranda FM presenter Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp joined with their own families to enjoy a day of family fun and games. Young fans were given exclusive access to their favourite players, and the families could watch the Rugby Championship Test between the Springboks and Australia on the big screen at Loftus as they lounged on picnic blankets and just enjoyed the experience of being part of the greater #BullsFamily.
And as Katleho Mahloane, the Vodacom Executive Head of Segment Marketing High Value, watched the many families together, it crystalised in his own mind just what makes the relationship between Vodacom and the Vodacom Bulls so unique.
“It goes beyond the sport and the sponsorship. When you share a joint purpose, it unlocks a much richer relationship,” said Mahloane.
“One of the challenges we have in this country is the appreciation of our diversity. I believe sport sponsorship and brands like ours have a humongous role to really unite South Africans. We have a responsibility to showcase our diversity. Sports and lifestyle experiences give us that opportunity to connect on another level.
“It’s not about having my brand on a team kit. It’s about playing a more active social role in a more emotional space. At Vodacom Red we have a very sacred group of customers who we value. We want to make this a movement that drives a nation-building objective. That’s bigger than bottom line or subscriber growth. We’re not competing in the mobile telecommunications space. We’re not worried about other networks and how much data they give. We want to give the best to people and help them to unlock their best daily.”
The Vodacom Bulls have, possibly more than any other sports franchise in South Africa, taken ownership of the concept of family. The players speak of the family bond in the team, and the fans feel it as well.
Rugby fan Johann Basson was there on the day with his young boys. As a Vodacom Red client, Basson can quite easily purchase the jumping castle, or the VIP match tickets, or even the prizes his boys won on the day. But he cannot buy time with the Vodacom Bulls players and their families on the main field at Loftus Versfeld, and this was the unique money-can’t-buy experience Vodacom Red gave him. And he knows it and appreciates the value of being part of this extended #BullsFamily.
“Where else do you get an opportunity like this? I watch a lot of rugby and travel to Kings Park and Newlands, and it’s nothing like here at Loftus Versfeld. There it’s kind of hit and run, but here it’s very much a family atmosphere. I’d almost say at other stadiums it’s just members getting together, but here it’s family,” he said.
Actor Thapelo Mokoena summed up the emotional connection between these two great brands and their fans or customers. “People don’t connect with SIM cards and airtime. They connect with experiences. This is going the extra mile and creating memories. It’s about family and relationships, and you’re seeing that with all of these people here today.”
Vodacom Bulls Player Appearance Manager Bandise Maku is involved with many sponsor appearances throughout the year, and he knows the constraints on family time these place on players who already spend a lot of time on the road.
“We have a set number of player appearances for all of our main sponsors, and then also CSI appearances and then suite appearances on match day. So, for Vodacom to bring together an appearance such as this and combine it with family time, that’s unique and immensely valuable to the players themselves. That’s a special story.”
As Mahloane stated, it’s a shared purpose when a brand can understand a tannie Johanna de Vos who doesn’t work for the Vodacom Bulls but every Tuesday is at Lotus Versfeld serving oranges to the players during practice. Or why CEO Barend van Graan invites a fan who on social media has raised an issue to come and have tea with him in his office and talk it over.
“That joint ethos with our brands allows us to go deep and develop a far more unique relationship.”
Or as Boshoff will tell you, “It’s tough being a professional sportsman with a young family. But the Vodacom Bulls is a great place to have a family”.
The Vodacom Red Family Day was part of a series of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and forms part of Vodacom’s Super Rugby Red Rewards campaign that sees Vodacom rewarding its Red clients with a number of exclusive experiences throughout the rugby season.
Don’t miss out on the Vodacom Red 4 X 4 coming up in November. Visit www.vodacom.co.za/redrewards
for more information.