A Journey To Be Shared

By Emmanuel Narokobi

After all that excitement with Ryan Pini and the finals last week, one can only ponder on what an incredible ride that was and no doubt a story to be told and re-told until our next Olympic finalist comes along. But then hey, when will that be? Ryan is no doubt a winner and there’s no reason why he won’t have a crack at the next Olympics but who’s coming up behind him?? Are we going to expect another family to foot the bill of developing their own children and when they make make it big then everyone and the government wants to claim them and go on about how they are true sons and daughters of PNG.

So now that the excitement has subsided a little I think it’s back to the drawing board now for how we can create future athletes. Team sports are different and they have different avenues for making money like the growing popularity of the National Soccer League and the Rugby League’s SP Cup. Athletes on the other hand are one off individuals who need special attention and care for their talents from when they are at least 10 years old. Which means a very long term investment for the families, coaches and friends involved.

Government grants, advertising, TV exposure and sponsorship are what fuel sporting initiatives. We have to be smart about that. We have institutions and programs in place through the Sports Commission but how and when they can be implemented and to what level of professionalism will all depend solely on funding. So again, we have to be smart about how money can come into athletics to create the next Ryan Pini’s and Dika Toua’s.

Athletics by it’s very nature is not played and displayed like big rugby games and other team sports. This immediately means that the type of sponsors that you would be looking for would come from the big businesses with deep pockets. On the potential big business sponsors side what will they be looking for in such a long term investment? The corporate ideals, goals and culture of these potential big businesses have to be reflected in someway in their investments. So using Bank South Pacific and Ryan Pini as an example. BSP see’s itself as an industry leader in PNG and they are striving to make a name for themselves in the Pacific through their recent regional expansion. Ryan Pini is a swimming record holder in PNG, the Pacific and he now takes on the world year in year out in competitions, not just the Olympics. Both also want to develop PNG in their own fields and there are many other analogies that can be drawn between the athlete and sponsor.

So funding and one off sponsorships for one off events and swims are not long term measures. An alignment needs to be drawn with the corporate ideals of the sponsors sought (like BSP, OIl Search, Petromin, Air Niugini, Airlines PNG) and the potential achievements of the athlete. This aligning of interests therefore becomes the responsibility of sport managers. If sports managers can sell an athlete and manage well sponsorship deals then we can start expecting some stable revenues for targeted athletes. Keep in mind also that we’re not talking about whole teams here, these would be one off individuals which could total to less than 10 individuals with real potential to go the distance.

The other aspect to it is the exposure that the sponsors get. One off TV and newspaper reports and adverts are the primary sources, but you almost need to have something like a fan club and maybe them being involved in promoting the sport among younger kids as an ambassador for the sponsors to get milage. The sponsors and the athletes need to actually build relationships with the fans and supporters so they better appreciate the struggles and wins. It also helps to better promote the goodwill of the athlete and the sponsors. This would be a more robust approach Instead of just hearing about athletes in the papers when they need money to travel for a competition.

In short athletics will always need special attention. After all it is a long and lonely journey for them and their struggles and dreams are more like the journey’s of our big companies today. Our big businesses have allot to gain from a successful PNG athlete so all in all it can be a journey shared with mutual benefits for all involved.