African athletics needs a marketing drive
Africa cannot seem to shake its label as the stepchild of global athletics despite establishing itself as one of the best performing continents in recent years.
The continent has made massive strides in recent years, with Kenya leading the way when they topped the medal’s table at the 2015 IAAF World Championships.
Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa have consistently been among the top-10 nations at the global championships.
Kenya and South Africa have also shown they are able to host world-class meetings.
South Africa hosted the inaugural 1998 Continental Cup, while Kenya successfully put on the 2017 IAAF Under-18 World Championships in Nairobi.
Kenya was recently awarded the hosting rights for the U20 World Championships in 2020, serving as a vote of confidence.
The continent is often its own worst enemy considering the organisational mess of the recent African Championships in Asaba, Nigeria.
The Stephen Keshi Stadium drew enthusiastic crowds despite the chaos in the build-up to the championships.
It serves as an example of the appetite the sport has on the continent, and mirrored the incredible atmosphere that was witnessed at the World U18 champs in Nairobi.
But there still seems to be limited love for our continent coming from our European brothers and sisters.
One just has to compare the lack of coverage the African championships received, compared to the European edition a week later.
Africa’s enthusiasts had to search high and low to find the odd live stream on social media platforms to catch a glimpse of the action. Finding results was an equally laborious battle and it is still difficult for the average athletics fan to find collated results.
This is in stark contrast to the European championships where the results are conveniently available on the IAAF website.
Surely that cannot be right. Taken on face value it suggests some sort of European bias but it is too easy to make allegations without at least considering some sort of alternative explanation.
From a purely South African point of view, it can be a mission and a half to find reliable and prompt results at local track and field meetings.
It is something that needs a hell of a lot of improvement before we can say we are at the same level as some of the world’s best meetings.
One often has to wait up to a week to get results for small meetings while bigger events manage to publish them within seconds of an event finishing.
The point is, Africa has massive potential and instead of relying on the IAAF or banking on European funding, we need to look within.
Athletes and observers speak of the incredible vibe present in Asaba and Nairobi, which is completely different to that in European or American meetings.
We need to address our indifferences and demonstrate that athletics is truly a global sport.
This can be achieved by giving more coverage of events outside the Euro and American bubble.
The African Athletics Confederation seems to be waking up from its eternal slumber. It has signed a three-year deal with Ericsson while it is in discussion with a South African marketing and events company to host a few Diamond League-style meetings on the continent.
This will not only grow the sport in Africa but increase our ability to host world-class events that are the envy of the rest of the world.