It is not fiddly to understand why multinational Inyatsi Construction Company suddenly felt the need to play its ace in showing good Corporate Social Responsibility face by pumping in a sum of E2 million to help the beleaguered Eswatini Football Association (EFA) host the 2022 COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championship styled under the TotalEnergies AFCON 2023/COSAFA Qualifier.

The multinational company, now operating in nine different countries on the African continent, had long engaged in what is referred to as “40 acts of kindness” to celebrate its four decades of existence by introducing the graduate trainee programme, winter warmer blanket campaign, shoe campaign, food distribution and renovation of schools projects, among others.

The company had to find a niche on something that is at the core of every Swazi, irrespective of political affiliation, creed, religion, and educational background – football. It was not a first. The company had a long history with football, dating to the early 1990s when it sponsored not only the country’s football aristocrats Mbabane Highlanders but a Top-8 Cup and further sponsored the ‘team of the decade’ Mbabane Swallows FC to the tune of E1.5 million per season during the ‘Beautiful Birds’ heady days (2015-2018 seasons) when it scaled the African football heights with aplomb.

Inyatsi Construction’s top brass might have read writer Jennifer Lyons’ moving article on how the sports industry is poised to bounce back from the effects of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and flourish in the coming years. Most importantly, how football, as the number one sport in the country, can develop marketing strategies to ‘sanitize’ its brand which has been under relentless scrutiny, especially in recent times.

When the opportunity availed itself through the COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championship, Inyatsi Construction jumped at the opportunity with both hands to enhance its brand by partnering with a sport that appeals to people from all walks of life. Strategically placed with its sister company, Eswatini Mobile as the Official Communication Sponsor, it would seem Inyatsi has wormed its way into the hearts of many, far more than the E2 million sponsorship could have been envisaged. The deep connection it has built with the football world in the past ten days, especially on the youth level, in terms of engaging content and visibility, is unmatched.

Harnessing the passion for the sport and the excitement of the COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championship being hosted for the first time in eSwatini in 29 years has had a positive impact on the Inyatsi Construction brand image. Sports marketing, by its nature, is closely tied to live events and with the COSAFA U20 games being live-streamed all over the continent, some parts of Europe, and on SABC, has really worked like a charm in terms of brand visibility for the company. Social Media has been abuzz with content from the COSAFA games and this has no doubt boosted its brand awareness.

True to football parlance, Inyatsi Construction, through the E2 million sponsorship, must have used marketing as a midfielder in its defensive mechanism from recent scrutiny. Midfielders in the game of football, like marketing, are versatile. Author Amy, in the “9 Reasons why Marketing is a midfielder”, says:

“Your competitors are pushing against your defence and a goal is nowhere in sight. But one smart tackle puts the ball in the possession of your best midfielder – MARKETING. Marketing powers up the pitch, gaining momentum with a huge campaign that has the crowd roaring their approval. A few dodges and weaves plus some nifty footwork take marketing right up to the box. Then it’s an effortless tap over to Sales, who heads the ball right past the goalkeeper’s fingers and into the back of the net. The crowd goes wild! GOOOOOAAAALLLL!”

There is no iota of doubt that Inyatsi has scored what seems to be a beautiful goal, melting numerous cold hearts in a football-dominated society where the beautiful game is used to warm-up living rooms. As a sport, football is supported by an overwhelming majority of youth, not only in the country but across the African continent and the world. Every company that invests in football is bound to yield positive results.

Applauding the Inyatsi sponsorship on 09 October, Swaziland News implored other companies to also consider sponsoring university students and community soccer tournaments. Posited the publication: “What Inyatsi did with the R2million should be encouraged, perhaps we can have other companies sponsoring one football tournament for all the Tinkhundla Centres with the finals being played at Somhlolo National Stadium.”

Indeed, it would help private sector companies to have a close relationship with football or sports in general, and to extend their support beyond the football bodies to sponsoring individual football clubs and national teams. Through the COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championship massive E2 million sponsorship, Inyatsi Construction has not only played ‘ball’ with COSAFA but has also challenged other companies to do the same.