The Disparity in Endorsment deals: Exploring Why Nigerian Football Stars Lag behind Their Musical Counterparts

The Disparity in Endorsment deals: Exploring Why Nigerian Football Stars Lag behind Their Musical Counterparts | Illustration by David Ben/PulseSportsNG

OPINION The Disparity in Endorsment deals: Exploring Why Nigerian Football Stars Lag behind Their Musical Counterparts

David Ben 10:18 - 15.02.2024

In 2024, the disparity in endorsement opportunities between Nigerian football stars and their counterparts in the music and film industry remains a pressing concern.

In a country where music and film industry stars often bask in the glow of lucrative endorsement deals, Nigerian footballers, particularly those representing the Super Eagles, have found themselves grappling with a significant disparity in sponsorship opportunities as they struggle to bag endorsement deals.

 Despite their talent, charisma, local and global recognition, these athletes struggle to secure endorsement deals comparable to their counterparts in other entertainment sectors in the country.

Although this fact is well-established, it's important to acknowledge that there exists a somewhat intricate interplay of factors impeding Nigerian footballers from fully leveraging their fame and influence in the endorsement sphere.

The Glaring Discrepancy between the Entertainment and Sports Industry in Nigeria

Super Eagles of Nigeria stars Endorsement deals conundrum
In 2024, the disparity in endorsement opportunities between Nigerian football stars and their counterparts in the music and film industry remains a pressing concern.

While Nigeria boasts a rich pool of footballing talent, revered both domestically and internationally, the endorsement landscape tells a different story.

 Music and film personalities routinely enjoy a plethora of endorsement deals, ranging from beverage brands to fashion lines, while footballers often find themselves on the sidelines, metaphorically speaking. 

This stark contrast raises pertinent questions about the factors contributing to the underrepresentation of Nigerian footballers in the endorsement market.

Whether or not we agree, Afrobeats and Nollywood are far ahead of the Nigerian sports sector -  which most brands perceive as non-profitable, for obvious reasons.

The Nigerian Entertainment Industry stands as an indisputable titan on the global stage, with its music sector, notably the Afrobeats genre, at the forefront of this cultural renaissance. 

Burna Boy
Grammy-Award-winning Nigerian singer and performer Burna Boy is arguably the face of Afrobeats as far the 2020s are concerned| Photo Credit: Imago

In recent years, the meteoric rise of Afrobeats has not only captivated local audiences but has also reverberated across continents, earning Nigeria a distinguished position in global music, and even prompting the holy grail of music awards to create an exclusive category just for African music during their annual event.

The ascendancy of Afrobeats represents more than just a musical movement.

Spearheaded by luminaries such as Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy, this sonic phenomenon has since transcended geographical boundaries, piercing through mainstream consciousness and redefining the contemporary music landscape.

Wizkid pictured performing at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium || Credit: X

The international acclaim garnered by these musical trailblazers serves as an irrefutable proof of Nigeria's cultural influence on a global scale. 

Through their chart-topping hits and electrifying performances, artists like Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy have become cultural ambassadors, symbolizing the vibrancy and diversity of Nigerian music to audiences worldwide.

In parallel with their artistic achievements, these music megastars have seamlessly transitioned into the realm of brand endorsement, leveraging their immense popularity and influence to secure lucrative partnerships with both local and international corporations - from iconic beverage brands to luxury lifestyle brands and fashion houses, and even fintech companies.

Nigerian music star Davido is the most influential Nigerian musician in the world| Photo Credit: IMAGO

 Indeed, the symbiotic relationship between Afrobeats artists and corporate entities has not only elevated their status as household names but has also propelled Nigeria's cultural export onto the global stage. 

By aligning themselves with brands that share their values and ethos, these music icons have effectively bridged the gap between commerce and creativity, further solidifying Nigeria's position as a cultural powerhouse in the international arena.

One key factor behind the shortage of endorsement deals for Nigerian footballers is the struggle for recognition beyond the confines of the sport. 

While musicians are out there crafting their personas through savvy social media use, fashion flair, and lifestyle choices, our footballers seem to be lagging behind in this game of branding.

But let's not jump to conclusions too quickly. 

Sure, there are reasons why footballers might not be as proactive in building their brands as musicians. 

One big reason? Image perception.

 Negative stereotypes about Nigerian footballers—perhaps issues with discipline, professionalism, and off-field controversies—tend to stick around like stubborn stains on a jersey, making some brands hesitant to team up with them, and casting a shadow of doubt over the suitability of these athletes as brand ambassadors.

Victor Osimhen
Napoli forward Victor Osimhen | Imago

Unlike Afrobeats and Nollywood stars who often command widespread visibility and fan engagement through various media platforms including social media, footballers, particularly those competing domestically, may face challenges in cultivating a distinct personal brand. 

I would cite limited exposure beyond the realm of football competitions as a major hindrance in their ability to attract endorsement opportunities from brands seeking broad appeal and market reach.

On the other hand, the situation  is a bit tricky with footballers plying their trade abroad.

Most Nigerian footballers are true professionals who bring their A-game both on and off the pitch.

So, why the hesitation from brands to partner with our football stars, who wield considerable influence, especially on social media? It's a bit of a head-scratcher. 

Maybe an old-school thinking could perhaps be clouding the judgment of corporate entities, blinding them to the untapped potential and marketability of Nigerian footballers. 

Or perchance, it is a failure on the part of these brands to discern the evolving landscape of sports branding, where authenticity and relatability reign supreme.

Ultimately, it's a two-way street. Brands need to rethink their perceptions and recognize the value that Nigerian footballers can bring to their campaigns. 

At the same time, footballers themselves can step up their game by being more proactive in building their personal brands and showing the world what they're all about.

Nigerian footballers and the need for Branding and Marketability

Super Eagles
Super Eagles have won AFCON three times | Credit: IMAGO

Another aspect worth considering is the perceived marketability and branding potential of Nigerian footballers compared to their counterparts in the music and film industry.

 While musicians and actors are often celebrated for their creativity, charisma, and cultural influence, footballers may be perceived as less versatile or relatable by certain brands seeking to align with specific values or demographics. 

This disparity in perceived market appeal could contribute to the unequal distribution of endorsement deals across different entertainment sectors.

However, it's essential to challenge these stereotypes and take a closer look at the bigger picture.

By breaking free from outdated stereotypes and embracing the power of strategic branding, Nigerian footballers can kick off a new era of endorsement opportunities and continue making their mark both on and off the field.

Alex Iwobi
Alex Iwobi is the Super Eagles star with the most lucrative endorsment deals as of February 2024 |IMAGO

As of February 2024, only about five to six Super Eagles stars boast lucrative endorsement deals including - Alex Iwobi, Henry Onyekuru, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Wilfred Ndidi, while Super Falcons stars like Asisat Oshoala, Michelle Alozie, Ashleigh Plumptre have also inked down some deals.

It is quite a shocker that in 2024, the most influential footballer in Nigeria and probably Africa, Victor Osimhen, is lagging behind in the endorsement space.

Osimhen boasts the numbers to certainly back up his claim as the most marketable athlete in Nigeria, but for some reason, it is not the case on paper.

Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen is lagging behind in the spectrum of endorsement deals in 2024 | Credit: Getty

Another issue that might be a major concern behind the lack of endorsement opportunities for Nigerian footballers is the presence of structural and systemic barriers within the sports industry.

Issues such as inadequate representation, lack of professional management, and limited networking opportunities could hinder athletes' ability to navigate the terrain of brand partnerships effectively. 

Without proper support systems in place, even talented footballers may struggle to secure endorsement deals that reflect their true market value and influence. 

Huge credit has to be given to Plug Sports.

What is admirable about Plug Sports is that they simply know how to 'take care of their guys'.

Asisat Oshoala
Super Falcons star Asisat Oshoala is the Nigerian footballer with most endorsment deals (male and female combined) || Credit: Instagram

 I would like to believe they are arguably the biggest sports management company in Nigeria and have contributed immensely to the marketability of some superstar athletes, amongst whom include: six-time African women’s footballer of the year, Asisat Oshoala, Super Falcons’ fan-favourite, Michelle Alozie, and Hurdles World-record holder, Tobi Amusan

The Way Forward - A Call for Change

Napoli's Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen for Napoli (Credit: IMAGO) Napoli's Victor Osimhen

 As Nigerian footballers continue to excel on the global stage, the disparity in endorsement opportunities becomes increasingly glaring.

 It is imperative for stakeholders within the sports industry, including athletes, agents, clubs, and governing bodies, to collaborate in addressing the systemic challenges hindering footballers' access to endorsement deals. 

By advocating for greater visibility, professional representation, and strategic brand partnerships, Nigerian football stars can certainly unlock their full potential as influential figures in the endorsement arena.