The 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicks off on January 13. The pan-African soccer biennial, organised by the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF), sees a men’s national teams from 24 countries descending on Côte d’Ivoire.
International interest in African football has boomed in recent years – amongst fans and corporate brands – with elite African players taking the spotlight. As major broadcasters picked up the 2021 AFCON (Covid delayed to early 2022), fan conversations on social media skyrocketed.
If previous figures are matched, then 157 countries will broadcast the 2023 AFCON (Delayed to 2024). Last time around, social media impressions hit 950m with TikTok, 1bn and the CAF X/Twitter account hosted 22m visitors.
The 2023 AFCON promises to be even bigger. For brands seeking to bolster their presence in Africa, sponsorship of the Africa Cup remains an unmissable opportunity.
In the build up to the tournament, corporate brands from diverse industries have jostled to become or remain CAF partners. Reportedly bringing in $54.25m in sponsorship revenue.
In doing so, they provide a lens with which to view the evolving economies of the vast and inherently complex continent. We take a look at the main sponsors and what they expect to get from their sponsorships.
TotalEnergies, the French oil and gas giant, enters the sixth of an eight-year title sponsorship. With both up and downstream operations across Africa, the continent represents some 30% of Total’s oil and gas output.
With tournament coverage accelerating, Total will reap benefits from the visibility. As the oil and gas industry seeks to clean up its image by transitioning into sustainable energies. Total’s ambitious vision and the association with AFCON will likely prove profitable in a competitive supplier market.
With its distinctive orange and black advertising colours, German automotive company Continental, which specialises in tyres, continues to sponsor AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire, concluding a five year deal signed in 2019.
With advances made in digital tyre monitoring and technology, Continental seeks to influence to industrial customers, road transportation fleet managers and logistics providers tasked with shifting goods and people across the continent.
Navigating Africa by road is a feat. The continent has a landmass bigger than China, Europe, the US and India combined. Road conditions are generally poor, maintenance under-financed and accidents common, according to the World Bank. The result has stunted trade and economic growth across Africa, ultimately leading to inflated prices.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which aims to vastly increase intra-African trade by eliminating border tariffs, has been hampered by the generally poor state of the roads.
China’s multi-billion pound Belt and Road Initiative, embraced by African governments and which can vastly increase the volume of Africa’s trade is similarly hampered. The solution is top quality road transport vehicles and in particular all-weather, all terrain tyres.
The AFCON sponsorship certainly puts Continental in a strategic position to take advantage of the ongoing $67.8bn (2022) programme to upgrade transport networks across the 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Apsonic is celebrated as the only motorcycle brand to sponsor the Cote d’Ivoire tournament. The Apsonic retail and spare parts supply business, with its regional headquarters in Ghana, forms part of the China-based Sincerity Group.
On typically-congested African roads and routes, two wheels are a nimble and cost-effective means of transport, also offering a taxi or delivery service between businesses and households.
By sourcing parts from overseas, motorcycle companies can remove import tariffs if the final product is assembled in the country. So assembly plants are now found in countries, including Angola, Togo and Nigeria. Allowing foreign motorcycle companies to reduce retail prices below $1,000.
Indian companies already supply as much as 50% of the two-wheel market and around 200 Chinese motor vehicle companies are in business in Africa. AFCON sponsorship offers Apsonic a significant marketing edge over competitors and local suppliers.
One African in 10 is a customer of Orange. The French telecoms giant confirmed the extension of its partnership with AFCON late last year.
Operating in 18 countries across the continent, 19.6% of the multinational’s Q1 2023 revenues derived from Africa. Cell phone-fuelled fintech has proved vital on the continent, where an estimated 95m people (a fifth of all adults) use mobile money accounts only.
Up to 57% of the African population is reported to be unbanked, with traditional banking touch-points, such as bank deposits and transfers, bypassed in favour of mobile wallets and ‘informal arrangements’.
As hundreds of African companies develop fintech solutions, networks and handset manufacturers have had to adapt. Kenya’s M-Pesa (operated by Safaricom and Vodafone) pioneered the route for mobile money in 2007, and network providers, including Orange, have since pivoted ever closer to the fintech space.
Tecno Mobile is now the exclusive smartphone partner of the Africa Cup of Nations, joining the sponsorship roster for the first time. The Shenzhen (China) based technology company reinforces its emerging markets focus, binging low-cost smartphones to customers in Africa, LATAM and India.
The tournament offers Tecno an opportunity to showcase its digital product range and advance its impressive 20% mobile vendor market share.
Visa Global payment firm sponsorships have been a long-term fixture of major football tournaments.
American powerhouse Mastercard has sponsored the UEFA Champions League since 1994, while rival Visa has been a FIFA World Cup partner since 2007. Visa’s CAF partnership began in 2019, and last year the agreement was extended to 2026.
Visa states a goal of achieving a cashless future and Africa presents huge potential. 400m people are online with strong growth set to continue in online retail.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, has an eCommerce growth rate of 11.82% per year, while South Africa’s eCommerce trade is roughly $6bn. Payment providers must adjust to new facilities such as obtaining credit using buy-now-pay-later (BNPL).
AFCON sponsorship offers Visa exposure and reinforces its credentials as a globally established and accepted payment method.
Pan-African banking conglomerate Ecobank joins the AFCON sponsorship roster plugging its own ‘insider’ solutions to major business and consumer challenges on the continent.
Winner of The African Banker magazine’s Bank of the Year Awards 2023, the Togo-based company has through Rapid Collect simplified business payments and collections across its 33-country network; while its Rapid transfer service, for retail customers, tackles the traditional low speed and high cost of remittance.
Ecobank wants to be the first choice for those seeking banking services across the continent.
Despite a historically uneasy relationship, betting and football remain intertwined.
Over the past decade, sports betting in Africa has seen massive growth. A mix of high smartphone penetration, rising incomes and improved internet access has led to forecasts of a $2.4bn industry within the next five years.
The online gambling franchise 1xBet became an official CAF partner in 2019. The Russian company operates as a leading bookmaker in countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Cameroon.
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will give 1xBet enviable access to a burgeoning sports betting market with an estimated 7.1m African customers by 2028.
The German brand Puma remains one of AFCONs most visible sports apparel suppliers. This tournament they sponsor no less than six African teams, including current champions Senegal. The cult, retro-tinged sportswear company will also supply the official tournament match ball and provide the kit for referees.
Razzl, a new soft drink produced by Cameroonian brewery UCB, proudly joins the sponsorship roster of the 2023 tournament. The fizzy beverage comes in a range of vibrant flavours (cola, orange, grenadine and lemon). Razzl bids to become the pan-African alcohol-free brand, on a continent where some 40-45% of Africans are Muslim.
CAF continues to confirm official tournament partners in the final days of preparation. Global consumer goods giant Unilever was recently added as an official partner, joining existing national supporters and suppliers.
AFCON promises to be a showcase for Cote d’Ivoire and African football. With the eyes of the world watching, both CAF and its partners, will have high hopes of commercial success in eventually converting fans to consumers.