What Next For The Safari 7s?
It has finally started to sink in, that for the first time in 21 years, what was once Africa’s premier sevens rugby tournament, the Safari sevens, will not be held in 2017.
This being the first week of November, the HSBC World series is exactly four weeks away, our fifteens season gets underway at the weekend and we are yet to see movement to suggest that we will see the Safari 7s this year.
After what had been a tough couple of years, the 22nd edition of the Safari sevens was meant to be the ‘redemption edition’ of the tournament. Declining fan numbers witnessed from 2013 coupled with a lack of top teams saw the once prestigious festival become a pale shadow of itself.
Organisers had already announced the move back to the RFUEA, much to the appreciation of the rugby fan and fun alike (Apparently, Kasarani was too far. I remain the few who did not support the move back to the RFUEA, but that is a story for another day.)
We were all looking forward to the 4th and 5th of November, ticket prices had been announced, an array of confirmed teams too. But due to the prevailing political conditions and other factors, depending on who you ask, the tournament was ‘postponed’ with a later date to be announced, that later date seems highly unlikely with every passing day, so where does the KRU go from here?
From where I stand, we have two options, one is to hold a very rushed watered down tournament, the other is to slowly pick our L and look forward to 2018, I chose the latter.
Start Planning for 2018, NOW!
I look at it this way, that the 2018 tournament will be the Union’s last chance to salvage their single biggest asset and revenue collector. They can not afford to get it wrong, they need to start planning for 2018, immediately.
Secure a favourable date, secure prize money and sponsorship, send out team invites, start selling the tournament to the fans right away. Make it your overarching message of the 2017/18 season, at every opportunity remind the fans that the 2018 Safari Sevens is on and will be the biggest one they have ever seen and that they cant afford to miss out.
My current favourite sporting event in the country, the Barclays Kenya Open started talking about their 50th edition, to be played in March 2018, back when we were playing the Sepetuka 7s. What this does, it gives your fan and indeed the organiser adequate time to plan.
Start selling Advance tickets
Tickets to the Capetown sevens were sold out in July, the tournament will be played on the second weekend of December. Tickets to next year’s Hamilton Sevens in New Zealand were sold out late last month.
While purchase of pre-event tickets might not be a ‘Kenyan thing’ it clearly works and we need to adopt it, fast. Your Korogas, Safricom Jazz, have already started utilizing this format of ticketing format, why not us?
Pre-event tickets do two things brilliantly, they significantly cushion the organiser from revenue loss in case of anything leading up to the tournament that will affect fan turn out, and like the early announcement of dates, gives the fan the opportunity to plan early, especially financially.
We are a peculiar people, we do not buy tickets prior to an event, we wait to the very last minute. To curb this the Union should allocate a certain number of tickets for pre-sale with a significant discount. This discount then decreases as we get closer to the tournament date. You all must be familiar with the early bird, advance ticket sale format.
P.S KRU, it doesn’t matter how much you price the ticket, as long as you can show value to the customer, they will come.
Rugby is more than a Sport, it is a festival.
A recent study carried out by TIFA during the internationals, confirmed what we all knew, that almost three quarters of the people attending rugby matches are rugby ‘funs.’ They have no idea what is going on, on the field of play and do not support any club. They are simply there for the camaraderie, fun and Shereheee!
These are the people the union needs to talk to, that is their biggest source of revenue. Your die hard rugby fan will probably always show up, even with Kenya playing Rwanda at the UoN grounds with a mausoleum.
Since the majority do not know or care for what teams will be turning out, there is only one way to get to them, speak the language they understand, the festival. With a plethora of potential and current partners/ vendors. This narrative should be quite easy for the union to sell.
Start announcing star performing acts, kiddie corners, off pitch activities and promotions well in advance, preferably when selling the advance tickets.
With that being said, the die hard fan is not to be completely ignored. This rugby ‘fun’ usually looks to a die hard fan for direction, if the fan says it is not worth it, then the ‘fun’ will amplify this message and follow it as gospel truth.
It is like a delicate balancing act with a domino effect, get quality teams through prize money and early dates for the die hard and sherehee for the fun.
Guess what, if we can get hold of this fun’s attention time and again, we will slowly convert them into a proper fan and build the sport’s fan base slowly.
The Biggest Communication Platform Has To be Social Media
The biggest chunk of rugby fans are aged between 18-30, your millennial. While I am not asking the union to completely forget main stream media (TV, Radio, Newspapers) which still play a pivotal role, their lead communication media through out the build up to the tournament has to be digital i.e your social media platforms.
While the Union is currently doing a fabulous job on social, for the 2018 safari sevens these efforts need to be doubled if not quadrupled. Engaging campaigns to keep the excitement going among the fans, timely and frequent updates, the full ‘shebang.’
I have barely scratched the surface (divulging anymore will require me to invoice the Union for my services, hehe) of what we need to do to make sure that come rain, shine or hail storm, the 22nd edition of the Safari sevens truly gets the tournament back to former glory. I strongly believe that we will do it.