For a long time, the local sports scene has been marred by poor management, poor financial sponsorships, lack of focus, and poor sports development. In fact, by February 2014, not too many could dream of a local sports-oriented company that would not only spread its tentacles to all corners of the country but also go global in search of proper development of sports in Kenya. Yet, this was the difficult endeavor that Pevans East Africa Limited took in February 2014 when it became the first company in Kenya to acquire a betting license and launch a Sh. 400 million gaming platform under the trailblazing Sportspesa brand.
According to a statement issued by the company during the launch, Sportspesa was seeking to inspire, excite, and motivate the local engagement of sports fans through the provision of opportunities to win by following and predicting the outcome of games. The firm would also channel huge tracts of its proceeds into sports development in the country, and particularly football. According to the Betting Control and Licensing Board, the introduction of Sportspesa was a critical step in gearing the country towards the vision 2030. “The regulator is excited at the modernization of the local sports industry which is in line with the vision 2030,” said Paul Wambua, the board’s chairman. Unlike any other betting platforms that existed pre-2014 in the Kenya, sports enthusiasts were granted the first opportunity to place bets with as little as Sh. 100 on either single or multi-bets.
Since then, the local sporting scene has seen a proliferation of a multiple sports betting firms which have been modeled as replicas of the Sportspesa brand. However, none of these has managed to pull a following as huge as Sportsesa. Neither has there been any among Sportspesa’s competitors who has offered a larger amount to winners of the coveted betting jackpots. Currently, Sportspesa has an average daily usage of about 1 million users.
Interestingly, as the number of users has grown, so has the firm’s output into sports sponsorship and development. In March this year, Sportspesa announced that it had entered into a sponsorship agreement with Nakuru All Stars. Under the agreement, the Nakuru-based club would receive Sh. 10 million per year. This amount would then be increased annually by 20 per cent. This sponsorship became the first by Sportspesa among the lower cadre of football clubs in the country. Earlier on, Sportspesa had announced a multi-million sponsorship deal for top Kenyan clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, with each receiving Sh. 325 million and Sh. 225 million. Other major sports areas that have benefitted from Sportspesa’s social corporate responsibility include the Kenya Rugby Union which has a sponsorship deal of up to Sh. 607 million and the Kenya Premier League which has a sponsorship deal of up to Sh. 450 million. Kenya Boxing Association, Extreme super 8, EFC Charity Basketball, KBC as RIO 2016 Olympics broadcast sponsor have also been sponsored.
Interestingly, Sportspesa has not only been a financial bulldozer for the local clubs, but also a strict disciplinarian. For instance, following persistent hooliganism by AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia fans, the firm decided to suspend it multi-million sponsorship deal for the two clubs until they pulled their act together. “As sponsors we won’t sit back and watch our brand soiled. There are clubs that feel are above the law and we take this not kindly. We are disappointed because when we signed the sponsorship with the team, they pledged they would take control of the hooliganism problem but it is clear they have failed. We know the clubs know these hooligans and must take action,” Sportspesa CEO Ronald Karauri said.
Last week though, Sportspesa grabbed the headlines after announcing two major deals with two English premier league clubs, Hull City and Southampton. According to the company, the deal with hull City amounted to a sponsorship of 3 million pounds per year and was based on revenue projections from the international business. “Just like we have international brands offering sports betting and any other services in Kenya, Sportspesa is also taking the Kenyan brand globally,” said Mr. Karauri in a statement. He added that the move by the club to start targeting English Premier League clubs was aimed at penetrating into the EPL market which enjoys a viewership of up to 4.7 billion viewers.
The deal with hull City is expected to see the EPL club travel to the country for a game with a local side during. Interestingly, on the other hand, the deal with Southampton is expected to see the EPL club provide support for the development of young football players in Kenya by sending football development and support staff to the country.
“Our reputation for player development continues to resonate around the world and we look forward to sharing our unique philosophy in Kenya and across Africa,” Gareth Rogers, Southampton FC’s Chief Executive Officer, said. Mr. Karauri added. “We are grounded to our core values that centre around grassroots sport and community development. Our vision is for Kenya to participate in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and this partnership is a step in that direction.”
Earlier in the year, Sportspesa announced that it had entered into a long-time partnership with Arsenal football club that would see Sportspesa engage directly with the local Arsenal supporters through Arsenal’s digital channels, promotional activities and marketing initiatives. “We are delighted to welcome SportPesa as our Official Betting Partner in Kenya. Arsenal has huge support across Africa and we look forward to engaging further with our fans in Kenya while also helping to drive the SportPesa business and, through a wide range of initiatives, the development of football in the country,” said Arsenal’s chief commercial officer Vinai Venkatesham.