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SA fails to brand itself at IAAF World Championships

While watching the recent International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships (held in Daegu, South Korea) on TV, I critically observed that most athletes' T-shirts, especially those from Europe and Asia, proudly displayed the names of their countries with big, bold letters.
You could see the name of the country from the kitchen and you did not even have to be close to your TV set to do so (okay, I'm exaggerating but you get the point!).

Struggled to read

However, I struggled to read our country's name on the shirts of Caster Semenya and Lucky Mohale, even when the cameras zoomed in on them.

I asked myself, "What has happened to branding South Africa, especially at such high-profile events?"

Okay, I know it sounds like the International Marketing Council's responsibility, but in this case, I am talking about the marketing "branding". Our country's branding was conspicuously hidden - its letters on the T-shirts were small, and to make things worse, they were written in green. "For the life of me, couldn't they do better?" I pondered.

Who decides and manages the branding of our country on athletic gear for such important international events? We certainly lost an opportunity to market our country.

We need to be rigorous

We need to be rigorous in how we brand our country at every given opportunity. The IAAF was an unpaid medium and SA organisers could have used the opportunity to showcase our country's beautiful heritage through the athletes' kit. Not only was their gear colour and SA name not visible enough, they somehow blended in with the rest of the other countries, whose predominant colours were similar to ours, thus creating confusion, especially if you are not familiar with your country's athletes.

Something needs to be done to address this anomaly.

The principles of marketing "branding" cannot only be limited to corporate and FMCG services and products. The marketing people heading these organisations must be creative and influence the branding of our country on athletic gear. Advertising sells and such opportunities are another way of branding and marketing our beautiful country to the rest of the world.

I hope the branding for our Olympic team will be a vast improvement. I want to see SOUTH AFRICA written in BIG, BOLD AND BRIGHT colours - so that we can be different and stand out of the rest.

Something for the world to talk about

We need to leave some legacy; even if we don't bring the gold medals home, at least we would leave something for the world to talk about. Let's give the "fashion police'' a different angle to their stories.

Nor do I want to hear tales about Olympic prescriptions on the type of gear a country needs to have, the material, the writing, etc. There is always a way around these prescripts, if we think out-of-the-box and be creative enough to make a difference.

South Africa is full of creativity; let's showcase it through different opportunities given to us.

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About Bonnie Ramaila

Bonnie Ramaila is a seasoned communication and marketing expert and professional with over 20 years' experience in the communication, public relations, media liaison, advertising, branding, eventing, marketing, reputation management, business development and stakeholder relations and management in both the private and public sectors.
Festus Mbuimwe
And the atheletes should also have a flag at the ready just in case they win 1st place in their races. The Kenyans usually do a 'lap of honour' round the stadium with their country's flag draped over them when they win their races. It's a practice Mzansi athletes can borrow.
Posted on 8 Sep 2011 08:11
Lelo Mzaca
You raise a very valid point. It’s not the first time that SA has missed such important opportunities to market itself. I can recall while we were still in the bidding process for the 2010 World Cup, when our competitors such as Morocco would place their field side advertising boards in prominent positions, while we had ours behind the goal posts (literally). In that case again we certainly lost an opportunity to market our country. Thank heavens we won the bid. Maybe the IMC should build close working ties with our sports bodies (or vice-versa) so we can fully utilise our marketing opportunities on the world stage.
Posted on 9 Sep 2011 17:46