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Nike's lack of support for Amantle Montsho hits a nerve in Africa

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Failure of African Sports Marketing: The Case of Amantle Montsho

By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
Southern Times Africa
1st October 2012

There is no doubt that Amantle Montsho is hot sports marketing property on the African continent.

The lady has taken the world of athletics by storm. Nobody in their wildest dreams and imaginations could think that a simple girl from Maun, a small tourist resort town of northern Botswana, could establish such dominance in the 400m event of world athletics.

Montsho (29) is twice All-Africa Games gold medallist, twice Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) champion, current Commonwealth Games champion and World champion.

She has scored many firsts in the history of athletics and has matured into an excellent sporting ambassador for her country, where she has also dominated the National Sports Awards in the female as well as overall categories.

Having been honoured by her country and being a revered figure in Botswana, Montsho is yet to exactly reap the fruits of her phenomenal endeavours in track and field.

If she were British or American, she would now be benefiting from a multitude of product advertising endorsements.

Sports apparel manufacturer, Nike, the brand that she wears, has dismally failed to come to the party in a significant way or in a manner that they would have done if Montsho was adequately represented by way of a qualified lawyer and/or business manager.

Montsho’s case is a classic case of the tragic failure of sports marketing in Africa.

When other Nike ambassadors such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Serena Williams are raking in millions from their close association with Nike, one would be forgiven for asking why Africa’s 400m sprint queen is receiving shabby treatment in the form of the small change that she is getting from Nike.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Nike would take advantage of her achievements to utilise her as a role model and aggressively market their brand in Africa as a whole.

Montsho has, over the years, been an excellent sporting ambassador not only for her native Botswana but for Africa as a whole.

The only medal that is remaining from her awesome collection is the Olympic Games medal.

In two consecutive Olympic Games editions ‑ Beijing and London ‑ she has been the sole African representative in the women’s 400m finals.

Montsho was expected to show her competitors a clean pair of heels at the London 2012 Olympic Games but, alas, that did not happen.

She, however, finished fourth, narrowly missing at least a bronze medal.

Her below par performance in London was a big disappointment not only to the athlete herself but also to her thousands of fans not just in her native Botswana but across the entire African continent too.

Her failure to get a medal in London has not taken anything away from her fantastic record of achievements. One thing is certain: Amantle Montsho has really rattled the cage in the women’s 400m. The women’s 400m event has in the past, been the preserve of the American, British and Caribbean athletes who have dominated this exciting race at world level.

It is, therefore, extremely refreshing to see a young African woman without the huge amounts of funds invested in her by her country compared to her competitors as well as a big entourage of sports science support personnel, gate-crashing into this elite club of world athletics.

The miserly treatment that she is getting from her sportswear provider is an indictment of the company that it does not care or is not serious about rewarding athletes coming out of Africa.

It seriously belittles and trivialises her achievements.

Yes, she is doing what she enjoys most with her God-given talent, which is running, but she should be getting her dues for it.

Surely, if somebody at Nike is being paid to market the brand all over the world, especially in the emerging markets such as Africa, then that particular individual is not doing due diligence needed for track and field sport, especially where Montsho is concerned.

Southern Sport prays that Nike authorities will wake up from their deep slumber and use Montsho to dramatically increase the visibility of their brand on the continent and in the process rewarding the young lady accordingly.

It is the least they can do, considering Amantle Montsho’s determined pursuit of excellence against all odds.

Sport careers are by nature very short. You need to capitalise on all your assets while you are still young and energetic.

Ageing, loss of form and injury can curtail an athlete’s market worth.

There is need to make the proverbial hay while the sun is still shining. Failure to do so can demotivate not just the athlete concerned but other emerging youngsters as well.

In some cases, this then condemns a good number of young people to a life of hopelessness, joblessness, promiscuity and prostitution as well as alcohol and drug abuse.

Amantle Montsho, like other talented African athletes, has brought hope to a lot of youngsters not just in Botswana but throughout the continent that they can effectively compete with the rest of the world.

Yes, sports science and sports medicine support are necessary in the modern world but they are not the critical and determining factors.

As the great Mohammed Ali once said, “Champions are not made in the gym”.

They have something inside them, a strong will and determination to succeed despite the terrible odds stacked up against them.

That is the hallmark of a champion like Amantle Montsho.

Southern Sport salutes Her Majesty the Reigning Queen of the 400m sprint!

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