Content We Love: How Visa and the First-Ever Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Team Push Past the Expected and Head to 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics

South Korea, Nigeria and the United States, perched on different continents and more than 10,000 km away from each other, could be closer than you think as they are brought together in this story presented by Visa on its sponsorship of three Nigerian female sprinters-turned-bobsledders participating in the Winter Games this February

Worldwide TOP Partner Visa has recently announced the addition of the Nigerian Women’s bobsled team to its Team Visa for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games which is set to take place in February 2018 at Pyeongchang, South Korea. Formed by three former Nigerian sprinters, Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, the team made history by becoming the first ever African team to qualify for a winter sport at the Olympics Games.

The Expected: Sports sponsorship is a tactic commonly deployed in today’s marketing and the mutual benefits delivered to the parties involved are well recognized. While the sponsees obtain financial assistance or other kinds of provisions, the sponsor earns a higher visibility among audiences because their logo is printed on the players’ uniform, seen around the stadium, and featured in their sponsored athletes’ marketing campaigns. More often than not, it is not just increased visibility and positive image-building that the sponsor is looking for by tapping into the spirit of sports, like other marketing tactics. The ultimate goal is to bring more sales.

On the side of the audience, we might find ourselves familiar with all these attempts. It will not be a difficult guess when we are asked to tell what images the brands are trying to portray by associating themselves with high-flying athletes — faith, dedication, hard work, and spirit (and probably a lot of sweat too?). Think about Adidas, Nike, Puma and some world-class football clubs and athletes, sports sponsorship never runs short of successful examples.

Pushing past the expected: The story of Visa and the Nigerian Women’s bobsled team might seem to be just another ordinary sports sponsorship you see as the Winter Games is approaching. However, on second thought, there is something special about this sponsorship that makes it stand out from the rest of the crowd and here’s what it is.

Nigeria, a tropical climate country and bobsledding, a winter sport? For many including myself, the association could be impossible to make. But the Nigerian Women’s bobsled team is here to show the world it isn’t impossible, with determination and Visa’s sponsorship.  Before the sponsorship, the team has improvised training on the iceless grounds of Houston, Texas, with a makeshift wooden sleigh. Then a crowdfunding page was set up to raise funds for the trip to Pyeongchang. Inspired, Visa invited the team to get on board with Team Visa and pledged to help them make their trip from the U.S., all the way to Pyeongchang a reality by providing the necessary tools and resources.

In a bid to engage with a broader audience, brands usually choose to work with high profile athletes from popular sports as their fame and fan base provide a promising amount of attention to their campaigns and, hence, the brands. The sponsees in this partnership were relatively less known to the world before the sponsorship. But their inspiring story has won them attention, especially from Nigeria and the United States, and eventually Visa’s sponsorship. Appearing in Visa’s campaign has further attracted the eyes of the world. Major news providers such as Time, NBC and The Guardian have run stories of the team, bringing even greater visibility to the team and of course, Visa’s name. In December last year, the team even made an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’s popular The Ellen Show, showcasing their contagious level of energy.

Kate Johnson, head of global sponsorship marketing at Visa, has once said in an interview with Sports Pro that Visa’s sports sponsorships are not only for “engaging and exciting an increasingly distracted millennial consumer audience,” but also making  sure “its [Visa’s] investments in sports inform and educate its business and sporting clients on what Visa, the business and the brand, is all about.” By sponsoring the Nigerian bobsled team in the Winter Games, Visa has told a successful story which embodies its brand tagline: “Everywhere you want to be.” This meaningfully engages not just fans and those engaged in sports but people around the world who aspire to innovate and dream. As long as you have the courage to dream the impossible, there are truly no limits to achieving your dreams, and you can go places (in this case, the Olympics).  Or, just like Visa has said, it’s about “pushing past the expected.”

The Author:  Abby Tsang is the Supervisor of PR Newswire editorial team in Hong Kong. 


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