May 19, 2020

Africa Cup of Nations: a lesson in marketing

Idriss Akki
3 min
Africa Cup of Nations: a lesson in marketing

Last month we saw the best in African football come together to compete in the 31st edition of the Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), in Gabon. Cameroon’s Les Lions Indomptables showed resilience and a spirit that transcends across Africa, to score a last minute goal and claim victory over seven-time champions Egypt. But how has football developed in the continent and with the rising popularity of African football, what does this mean for brands investing in sport?

With six of the 10 fastest growing countries in the past decade coming from Africa and a GDP growing at almost double the global average, it’s clear the continent is fast becoming a financial powerhouse. Already home to 700 companies with revenue greater than $500 million, including 400 companies with a revenue of more than $1 billion per year, it is set to be one of the greatest economic success stories this century. With its unique style, passion and quality, African football is the driving force behind the engagement of hundreds of millions of fans across the globe.

One of the biggest impacts comes from the growing popularity of African footballers. Relatively unknown two decades ago, stars like Yaya Touré, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Yacine Brahimi and Riyad Mahrez have shone a spotlight on African football. Their prominence in European leagues including the Premier League and Bundesliga showcases the quality of players coming from Africa, and a style of play that adds vibrancy and competitiveness to the international stage (the World Cup in particular).

Now with grassroots initiatives, coaching of local children and funding and support available for development projects, the heavy investment in the future of African football will allow many more players to come through, further contributing to the growth of football in Africa. With this development, perhaps the future stars of football will look to African leagues as a destination of choice? Who knows, but with this rapid growth I can certainly see the African leagues rivalling the European ones!

Governing sport in the continent, the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF), was founded in 1957. With 10 principal events it is Africa’s most powerful sports marketing platform. An investment in a premium property such as CAF can provide brands with consistent brand exposure and a key to all African markets. This year’s AFCON saw the implementation of advertising tools such as LED systems in the stadiums for the first time, which gave sponsors the opportunity to advertise messages across almost the entire pitch perimeter at once. Digital activations also saw 20 million fans engage across online channels, and the official hashtag #CAN2017 exceeded six billion impressions on social media.

Already big name brands have seen the potential of African football, with Total becoming the title sponsor for CAF’s top competitions. Patrick Pouyanné, President and Chief Executive Officer of Total believes that the company's commitment enables it to strengthen ties with stakeholders and customers through exciting, celebratory events that are always popular, including within Total’s own teams.

Orange has also renewed its relationship with CAF and signed a new eight-year partnership as an official sponsor. Bruno Mettling, Deputy CEO of Orange, and CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, says that football is the number one passion of its customers in Africa and the Middle East, thus this new partnership allows them to bring customers even closer to the events and things they love.

With Total AFCON over and attention now turning to the Total CAF Champions League and the FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia™, players, businesses and Africa are showing no signs of slowing down. A continent that could make up a quarter of the global economy by 2050 is definitely worth a visit.

Idriss Akki is President, Football Africa at the sports marketing agency Lagardère Sports.


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Jun 16, 2021

SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data

British Army
3 min
Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM, explains the important role that SAS is playing in the British Army’s digital transformation

SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation. 

“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.

In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”

Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.

Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”

SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”

With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.

“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”

Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.

“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”


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