No Amplify licence installed, visit to order your licence.


Chiefs is where the money reside

Kaizer Chiefs have been doing a lot of losing in the last few years, but their immense amount of sponsorships tell a different story. So, what pays more, results on the scoreboard or legacy?
Thu, Mar 25, 2021

Kaizer Chiefs players in 2019, the good old days when fans could attend games. PHOTO: Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images

Sgwili Gumede, a former footballer and now industry expert in the business of sport, made a compelling argument about the Kaizer Chiefs brand. How is a team that's gone six years without a trophy still of significant commercial value with sponsors falling over themselves to queue for a slice of the pie?

"According to analysis from the Research Council of SA, 62% of all the most-watched domestic league matches during the 2017/18 season involved Chiefs," Sgwili wrote in his opinion piece in February. He said the statistics were almost identical the following year, when Amakhosi were nearly crowned league champions prior to being overtaken by Mamelodi Sundowns on the final day of the campaign.

Even with a dusty-looking trophy cabinet at Naturena, their partners have not moved an inch.

Vodacom, Nike, Toyota, Medshield, Black Label, Protours and Kaelo are still in the picture – a vast contrast when you compare this with their less-fancied Premier Soccer League rivals, especially when they've had a long running slump.

During these stringent economic times of budget cuts and tightening of belts, football clubs have taken a hit. When there's a need to scale down, corporate SA doesn't hesitate to pull the plug on sport. There are countless examples.

But you won't get that with Chiefs, who, it must be said, are currently riding the wave of their popularity and previous successes, but nothing current. And that is what sponsors are leveraging – the reach and brand equity.

It took a while for Chiefs to win their first ever topflight league title in the new era of the PSL formed in 1996 and even after they had ended that drought in 2004, there was some famine at Naturena in terms of silverware. But in that period, they were boasting 13 sponsorships.

Whether you like it or not, Amakhosi have a unique selling point and every year they seem to grow from strength to strength regardless of the results on the pitch. The form on the field usually aligns with what is happening off it, but the club's past accomplishments really have set them apart so much so that the drought is hardly a dealbreaker for new partners coming on board.

Chiefs were quick off the mark in embracing the digital media boom and taking advantage of growing trends. One other thing the Glamour Boys do well is fan engagement, which has obviously been affected by Covid-19 across the board. But people love Chiefs, their roadshows were ticking all the boxes for their sponsors who are dying to see them take to the streets again after lockdown restrictions.

Today their social media platforms put them at No.1 in SA and fourth on the continent behind clubs like Al Ahly, Zamalek and Raja Casablanca, and my guess is that Amakhosi are only behind those teams because of the population in North Africa as well as their sports structures – they don't have to compete with cricket and rugby for their following.

Chiefs' Instagram, Twitter and Facebook give them a digital community of nearly 6-million followers, and those are the kind of numbers sponsors want to see. Who cares that Gavin Hunt or his predecessors haven't won a trophy in six years? Okay, the fans do, but the partners can let it slide.

There's a TV audience as well, where the broadcaster tailors their offering to the 'customer', and in football most of them are Chiefs fanatics. I would argue that SuperSport would have a steady decline in eyeballs if there were to be a blackout on Amakhosi matches.

Sgwili, referencing Nielsen Sports, said of more than the 20 million adults in SA who insist they are football obsessed, the majority are Amakhosi supporters. Now, you tell me, which sponsor in their right mind would dump a guaranteed cash cow because they aren't winning trophies?