Justin Lagat wrote this piece last month about the need for support of young Kenyan athletes by local Kenyan companies. This piece makes a lot of sense for companies and athletes around the world.
Kenyan Olympic Trials, 2012, photo by PhotoRun.net
Why Kenyan companies should consider sponsoring athletes besides sponsoring races
The months of October through to December sees a lot of road races happening here in Kenya. Many local companies in the country come in to sponsor these races and as an athlete I feel so grateful for such companies.
However, unlike in other team sports like volleyball, soccer and rugby where players even get salaries while in their training camps, I am yet to see a local company in Kenya that supports athletes in their training, nutrition, coaching, access to gym facilities, massage, accommodation, travel to races and other daily living expenses.
Before they can make it in their careers, athletes go through a lot of struggles and this should be the right time when they need help from the local companies and even the county governments.
But, interesting enough, track and road running athletes only get sponsored once they prove that they do not need a sponsor to succeed in their careers; by winning a number of competitions and building a good profile with their running, which is not easy in the first place when you do not have the training facilities and money to keep you in a training camp.
For example, to join some of the camps that are being sponsored partially by Nike and Adidas in Kenya, you have to have run under 61 minutes for half marathon, or 2:10 for the full marathon. That is when you get a sponsor!
It is not that Kenyan companies, and local governments, are not proud of the Kenyan athletes. In a recent trade fare show in Eldoret, many companies came out to parade their products and what caught my attention were a few companies that had their slogans associated with the athletes. Some of the slogans common around Eldoret are: Nutrition for champions, City of Champions, Source of champions, home of champions, among others. One of the sales executives of one company recognized me as an athlete and even told me that their company is proud to be associated with Kenyan runners and that they have always been joining in sponsoring some races. I asked him if they had one or two athletes who credit their success to them, or who can say they are able to keep training because of their assistance and he asked me to visit their offices one time and talk about that. A nice way of admitting that they are not yet sponsoring any runners.
Could the reason why these local companies do not sponsor local athletes be perhaps the fact that these companies do not see any benefit they will get by sponsoring the athletes? Could it be that the athletes do not go to them to look for sponsorship deals? Could it be the marketers in these companies only know about the top Kenyan athletes like David Rudisha, Asbel Kiprop, Ezekiel Kemboi and Vivian Cheruiyot and are afraid that they will have to pay them a lot of money if they need to sponsor them?
Well, I believe that if a local company would recruit young and talented runners and sponsor them and in the end any of the athletes turn out to become an Olympic champion, that will be a great way of giving back to the community.
My message to local companies in Kenya is that becoming proud of Kenyan athletes is the first step. The next step they need to take now is to know that they need help while developing their talents and the third step is sponsoring them.