Bosso need to maintain a sound sports brand

Nonto Masuku

AS THE WORLD’S eyes have been glued on the culmination of this year’s Fifa World Cup in Brazil in recent weeks, my thoughts have drifted to ponder on the fortunes of Bulawayo’s very own Highlanders Football Club as an institution.

I have a nagging feeling that it is an underperforming brand, albeit with great potential.

Aaron Smith in his book Sports Marketing talks about four steps in creating and maintaining a sports brand. They are namely:

  • Establish brand awareness,
  • Develop and manage a brand image,
  • Develop brand equity,
  • Develop brand loyalty,

If we were to attempt to tick the boxes based on these steps, I would submit that Highlanders FC has great brand awareness as an established fixture in the football landscape of our country.

That said, it could benefit from further development and management of its brand, as well as further expansion of its brand equity.

It, however, has the benefit of a fiercely loyal following making brand loyalty a relatively easy task.

For the benefit of this discussion, I would wish to zone in on areas Highlanders FC may need to consider in enhancing brand equity.

Brand equity, or service quality, is commonly assessed through five key aspects, namely:

  • Reliability — The question is whether the Highlanders FC brand is offering members and fans a consistent and reliable service. Are tickets accessible, well priced and consistent? Are the benefits for members commensurate with membership dues? Does membership come with a newsletter/magazine, priority ticket access, member events and free merchandise?
  • Assurance — The issues pertain to whether there is an effective governance structure at Highlanders FC. Is the management of finances prudent, transparent and above board? Is the recruitment policy one that benefits the institution at all times?
  • Empathy — Does the club look at the needs of fans? Does it conduct social responsibility initiatives to give back to its loyal fan base? Do the club’s facilities show a desire to improve the customer experience of its loyal followers?
  • Responsiveness — Does Highlanders FC endeavour to improve services to its fans based on their needs? Is there wheelchair access at homeground? Does the club have a social media presence via Facebook, or Twitter to hear the needs and thoughts of fans? Does it have a hotline to receive feedback, suggestions and complaints?
  • Tangibles — The key tangible feature of the club is home stadium.

Is it safe, technologically advanced, and comfortable?

Does it provide fans with different means of engaging with the brand (for example, restaurants, stadium tour facilities and others).
All these questions have a bearing on the brand’s value in the hearts and minds of members, fans and stakeholders.

Come on Bosso — you can do better. . .