Fri | Sep 20, 2019

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Score goals by building brand

Published:Tuesday | September 10, 2019 | 12:15 AM

Bottom line, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has a money problem. This embarrassing non-payment of salaries to the Reggae Girlz should not have happened.

I recall issues with Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore’s remuneration, the shortfall in funds to execute programmes, unpaid match fees, and several news headlines over the past decade indicating a cash crisis. Money matters are perpetually plaguing the JFF.

I’m quick to admit that the JFF has football property that needs attention. Then there’s the developmental side for coaches and match officials and the support it might give to the establishment and upkeep of venues.

I listened to JFF President Michael Ricketts as he made the media rounds last week, and he was consistent in pointing out that, essentially, the JFF was a charity, dependent solely on government subsidy, sponsorships, donations, and injections from entities like FIFA. And that is where I have a problem.

There’s no way, year after year, you can beg enough money from this high-level crowdfunding scheme to run a credible football programme.

Perhaps we can learn from the European football model. I lived in Scotland for a year and had no choice but to drink the Celtic Kool-Aid. The various revenue streams of the football club were clear.

The team put out a new playing kit almost every year, and fans just had to have it. I was able to get my 2007 jersey, made special with my name on the back. Yes, it cost a pretty penny, but in the euphoria of singing songs and winning ways, I didn’t care. Merchandise was a big part of the Celtic model. There were branded items aplenty: scarfs, mugs, thunder sticks, playing cards, stuffed toys, and the list goes on.

Celtic didn’t make them. Licensing rights were sold to promotional companies, who paid both fees and royalties. There was no risk on Celtic’s part.

Gate receipts were another earner. Games were played almost weekly. True fans had season seats. They bought them a year in advance and paid up front for a guaranteed sweet spot on every match day.

Celtic understood that people needed to see stars. Fans were drawn by them. You knew who the players were. They had special songs and personalised merchandise. They appeared frequently in sponsors’ advertising campaigns, and everyone wanted them at social events.

Then there were the media rights. Gold! Television and radio stations fought over and outbid each other for the rights to broadcast the games exclusively (especially derby matches against the Rangers). Celtic TV was another online property developed by the club where fans could pay to watch their team play.

And Celtic won games. That’s truly what kept fans coming back. There’s clearly a chicken-and-egg conundrum in the case of Jamaican football. A conversation must be had about training and resources and what’s required to increase our wins. I’m not qualified to speak about that. But marketing, that’s my space.

The JFF has anchored its funding model in the battleground for an ever-shrinking corporate marketing budget. As patriotic as the legacy brands in Jamaica with deep pockets may appear, before they even consider disbursing a single cent, they ask: “When I cut you a cheque, what’s in it for me?” And the JFF answer keeps coming up short.

Feather banners and logos on a screen just aren’t cutting it. You haven’t given us, sponsors and fans alike, enough reason to care or opportunities to cheer. Relook at your revenue model. All sporting bodies, not just the JFF.

There’s no time like the present for us, as a country, to rethink how we monetise Brand Jamaica and execute sports marketing. Who are the stars, and where are the opportunities for a pound of flesh? There’s a missing magic that requires a whole-day retreat.

By the way, JFF: Your website’s domain registration expired last month. Renew it, revamp the site, and use it to make some money. Start with broadcast rights and merchandise sales.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a broadcaster and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@gmail.com.