Grant Nicholls Driving Sponsorship for Women in Sport

by | Mar 19, 2021

Experienced sports marketer, Grant Nicholls, aims to impact the lives of young sport administrators and is also determined to grow his brand beyond the borders of South Africa.

For the past 20 years, the Managing Director of Papadi Sports Marketing, has been active in the Sport Marketing and Sponsorship industry, and has developed a reputation as a leading distributor of apparel.

His extensive knowledge and experience working as a consultant in football allowed him to partner his client VITA with SAFA National Women’s League’s debutants, JVW Girls Football Club, recently.

The sponsorship deal has boosted JVW’s credibility, to the delight of Nicholls, who is adamant to change the current negative narrative of investing in women’s sport on the continent.

He believes that Africa’s mindset about women playing sport needs to change in order for corporates to dig deep into the pockets to back the women’s side of the game.

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Nicholls shares insight of what makes his company different as compared to other Sport and Marketing agencies and reveals the projects he has been involved in over the years.


Grant, thank you for chatting to gsport! Please tell us about Makarapa International Pty Ltd t/a Papadi Marketing and the services that you offer your clients.

Makarapa International Pty Ltd t/a Papadi Marketing is a leading sports marketing firm consulting to corporate sponsors and sports commissions both in SA and around the world, capitalizing on opportunities associated with the sports industry.

Papadi is a public relations consultancy which specialises inter alia in the management and development of sponsorship relations and contracts for and on behalf of its clients.

Papadi has a creative and dynamic team behind numerous township marketing strategies, sponsorship, eventing and provides the energy that develops effective marketing solutions

We have developed a reputable reputation as a leading distributor of apparel and is the commercial agent for Vita, Umbro, Kappa and Barron.

We have a substantial portfolio of corporates where we manage their social messaging and enhance their reputational assets.

We own the Makarapa trademark and market these both nationally and internationally.


What makes you different compared to other Sport Marketing and Sponsorship Agencies?

I’m a seasoned consultant having been active for the past 20 years and consult to various corporates, and government clients. One of our major accolades was being appointed to implement the ANC Soccer Centenary celebrations in Alexandra and the Johannesburg Youth Games.

“I am well versed in the dynamics of the soccer supporter and townships.” – Makarapa International Pty Ltd t/a Papadi Marketing

My main strength lies in the development of marketing, communication and branding strategy formulations and business development strategies. I am well versed in the dynamics of the soccer supporter and townships. I won an accolade via the MFSA for cross cultural marketing, more recently was invited to present a sponsorship implementation paper to the Sports Commission Conference.


We are aware that you are involved in a number of development projects in the country. Why has it been so important for Papadi to not only look at investing into bigger, well-known institutions but rather play a part in developing sports structures in the country?

Grooming young sport administrators is a key necessity which we take pride in and apart from fostering a kid, who has now just qualified with a sports management diploma from UJ, I currently have five youngsters on mentorship programmes.

Developing and investing into the mass market is my big passion and I’ve also taken a few guys on mentorship programmes. We were very involved in the FIFA SWC 2010 and took them to various squatter camps as part of their understanding the African market.


What standout projects have you been involved in that has played a part in assisting teams/clubs or even individual athletes to reach a higher level?

Loads (haha). Some of the more notable projects include the sponsorship of Kaizer Chiefs, being appointed to build the ex-Gauteng Boxing brand, being invited to present the 1st ever marketing presentation to the PSL, running the ANC centenary celebrations in Alex and Soweto, sponsorships of five PSL teams, Manchester Cities commercial mandate for South Africa, creating Cell C’s township soccer activations, creating the very successful Old Mutual Mangaung tournament…


As an official agent of Vita that recently partnered with JVW Girls Football Club. What are your thoughts about the level of sponsorship in women’s sport and what advice would you give on how the current level of investment can be improved?

Women’s sport is growing in leaps and bounds, especially football. I believe it is massively under valued and corporates need to take cognizance of the power of associating their brands with this market.


It is unfortunate that to this day agencies/companies are reluctant to partner with women’s team and athletes. From your point of view, why is this still a factor despite the significant rise of women’s sport globally?

“Netball has shown the way and we will soon see the SAFA Women’s National League kick off, and this bodes well for the teams to attain sponsorships.” – Nicholls shares his thoughts on sponsorships in women’s sport

Sadly, I think it is a cultural problem all over Africa, and this needs to change! Women are dynamic leaders and now that there’s growing TV exposure in the various female sporting codes, I think this will have to change. Netball has shown the way and we will soon see the SAFA Women’s National League kick off, and this bodes well for the teams to attain sponsorships.


Going forward, what are your plans to change the narrative of investing and working hand-in-hand with women in sport?

I am currently working with the sister of my ex-partner, the late ‘Shakes’ Kungwane, who is a top boxing promoter, and of course with what I believe to be the best marketed female owned football club, JVW FC.


Let us get to know more about you and your passion for the sport industry. Where does your passion for sport come from?

I’ve always enjoyed sport growing up and I was really fortunate to head up TOTAL South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs sponsorship.


How did you get involved in Sports Marketing and Sponsorship?

The Chiefs sponsorship was immensely successful, and it ultimately led to Total sponsoring football globally, including the official fuel sponsorship of SWC, South American league naming rights, AFCON official sponsors and a host of African clubs. Total offered me an ultimatum, either go to France and head up the global sponsorship division or they would outsource the local sponsorships to me.

I took the latter and created “Papadi” the Sotho word for game!


What is it about being in the sport industry that motivates you to want to do more?

It’s just so rewarding, and the industry is dynamic. I’ve always said that you do not demand respect, you earn it. We have personally been involved in a squatter camp activation for the past 16 years and just seeing the appreciation makes it all worthwhile.


With years of experience under your belt and having seen what challenges women have in the sport industry, what advice would you give to young girls who aspire to work within this space?

They need to try and get an education in and around sport and then they need to brand and market themselves. The days of sporting codes being male dominated are over and witnessing JVW’s Janine Van Wyk and Lauren Duncan’s club, in my opinion, one of the top run projects on the continent, there’s a massive opportunity to not only work but revel in the sports industry!


What is your greatest ambition with Papadi Marketing?

To now spend more time concentrating on growing the brand across the borders of South Africa.


Photo 1 Caption: Makarapa International Pty Ltd t/a Papadi Marketing owner, Grant Nicholls pictured with JVW Girls Football’s Amanda Dlamini. Photo: Grant Nicholls (Twitter)


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