In every race from 800m to the Marathon, a Kenyan will always be in top three. But as the distances grow longer, Kenyans more often than not get 1-2-3 top positions. But after these athletes retire, they end up wallowing in abject poverty and alcoholism, and we have never fixed it. Athletics Kenya is too busy collecting bribes and stealing sports kit to do anything. The parent Ministry Of Sports is struggling so survive with an annual budget that is smaller than one illiterate supplier of air to NYS gets paid.
Why our athletes fade to obscurity is ONE: absence of global brand endorsements. Usain Bolt has annual endorsements of us$33m; Kevin Durant has us$265m (Kshs. 2, 650, 000,000/=) and LeBron has whopping us$1Billion (Kshs. 100, 000,000,000/=) endorsement from NIKE! Kenyan athletes can’t attract even us$500,000 endorsements. The worst insult is big corporates in Kenya for pay athletes paltry us$30,000 (Kshs. 300,000/=) … Yes, the biggest Corporates in Kenya pay athletes measly Kshs. 300,000/= and proudly announce the partnership!!! The collapsed NAKUMATT used to give top athletes vouchers!
A scholarly paper by the prestigious University Of Uppsala says that athletes are used because of the Brand Equity they bring to the Brand. Professors Carole Ginman and Nazeem Seyed-Mohamed argued that Brands choose athletes who inter alia bring Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and ruggedness. An athlete must be good looking, articulate and scandal free.
Our athletes, most of whom come from my neighourhood begin running when they are in Primary School. No Coach or teacher tells them to also study. Rather, the Primary Schools get carried away with the winnings in the field rather than in class. Ofcourse these athletes fail their KCPE then get admitted to High Schools solely because of their running and again and without doubt fail in Form Four. They then join the Police Force or Prisons. These athletes will go on to break world records because of our natural ability honed up in the mountains. Their English which is mandatory language of instruction in our Schools is zero. Their articulation is nil. They can only say: I run, I run, I win! You can’t be a Brand Ambassador Of a Global Brand when your language of instructions stopped in Class Three!
Our athletes will only be paid prize moneys for winning in races and not endorsements. These prize money is split by the athlete’s coach, team-mates, Family, girlfriends and Athletics Kenya and Ministry Of Sports officials demanding a share. The athlete is left with pittance.
After breaking world records for many years, a Kenyan athlete retires to his village to a long life of boredom then drinking and poverty. And that is our sorry state. That is our Kenya. Sports isn’t the only thing broken in our Country. But is the simplest to fix. Sadly, our officials have a bakery of Kalenjin athletes being produced everyday to invest in long term.
Athletes must have presence. Must have charisma. Must be able to raise brand awareness through articulation and style. No Brand wants “Simple & Humble” Athletes. Branding is not Church Service.