Sports & entertainment sectors provide opportunities for entrepreneurs

In Michael Jordan’s heydays he didn’t only bring pride to the City of Chicago, but he also brought money; watching Jordan play for the Chicago Bulls was one of the City’s main attractions. Today he is one of the wealthiest celebrities worth $1.14 billion, and as a self made athlete he set a great example of what a career in sports and entertainment can lead to.

With Kenya’s economic growth rates at an average of 5.41% over the past 10 years all indicators show that household incomes are increasing. This includes the Living Standard Measures (LSM) demographic data that illustrates that the affluence of Kenyans is on the up and up.  As we get more money in our pockets, bank accounts and M-PESA balances our wants are changing in line with Marslow’s hierarchy of needs and this has certain implications for business.

80% of Kenyans say that their favourite sport is soccer, yet we suck at it. 25% name athletics as their favourites sport and yet we are the champions in long distance running. Only 8% claim that they enjoy rugby the most, and yet our star is shining in sevens rugby. When a team is doing great, more fans come to watch them, and when they are dithering the fans would rather stay at home. We have tremendous talent in this country as we can see from those who thrive in soccer, athletics, rugby, cricket, and now American Football. So why does it seem impossible to consistently fill the arenas during regular athletic meets and sports league games? It is because we are disorganised.

Its only a matter of time before we see the end of sports associations that are more interested in personal political careers and individual poverty eradication projects. These will be replaced by people who truly love the game, who want to see the talent thrive, who wants to make the fans happy (and spending), and who are given the space and time to make it viable for commercial, entities so that the shilling inflow from sponsors and investors into the sector will support its growth. The industry will begin to meet its potential once we put an end to the esoteric match scheduling and make fixtures known to the wider public rather than a chosen few. There will be more money made when seasonal tickets are just an M-PESA transaction away, game access is tiered, corporate booths are made available, and the auxiliary services for refreshment and merchandise become standard. Events such as the Safari Seven’s have shown us that it takes a well funded advertising campaign to consistently fill stadiums and we can certainly take a lesson from this. Finally there will be more bums on seats if the security is improved along with the ability to eliminate undesirable and antisocial behaviour at games.

The potential of the entertainment industry comes into focus as people get more time for rest and relaxation. Our history of this sector has been checkered and the owners of bar and nyamachoma joints have made their money in the meantime, with a growing density of number of bars per thousand, while cultural centres are scraping by, if not dying. Movie theatres struggle to stay open and even the release of hit movies don’t get the seats filled. International pop stars rather go to our neighbouring countries irrespective of the fact that we’ve got higher per capita income, as if to say that we have a lower per capita spend on entertainment. What I see when I look into the local entertainment industry is talent exploitation, demotivated performers, get-rich-quick schemers, mediocre investments, and many former celebrities who die poor.

But we have a tremendous pool of talented individuals and an enabling financial environment that is ready to invest, as well as a population that loves music and drama. Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood are the three largest movie industries in the world and they have a number of things in common that make them thrive. The first is that their primary markets are local. These industries came to prominence and success because they were able to tell stories that their audiences craved and that were reflections of their hopes, dreams and fears. The second thing they have in common is that their people love stories and they spend money to be entertained. The third thing is that romance plays a central role in their stories adding a spice to life and bringing something in that everyone can enjoy.

Finally they invest heavily to advance their productions and in the marketing and promotions to get their audiences out and spending.

The rising fortunes of the country is bound to drive the growth of non-traditional industries that will augment the traditional sources of income namely agriculture, manufacturing & tourism. When I review the market and consider what has happened in developed countries I’m placing my bets on the sports and entertainment sectors for the next level of growth.

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