Kea Taele Says Quality Airtime can Elevate the Value of Women’s Sport

Award-winning PR professional Keabetswe Taele says brands are looking for properties that give them a return on investment when considering sponsorship. She adds that we need to work as a collective to improve the quality of airtime for women’s sport. Photo: gsport

From a Sports Journalist to a PR Director at M-Sports Marketing, Keabetswe Taele has cemented her place as one of the leading PR practitioners in South African sport over the past two decades.

Before taking the big leap into this field, Taele was a sports journalist. What inspired her transition was broadening her spectrum after realising that the sports journalism space was congested. “Looking at the landscape at that time, we had some heavyweights of sports journalists. As a female journalist, I would find myself covering sports development stories or the lifestyle of sports content, as opposed to mainstream sport.”

The 2020 Momentum gsport Awards Woman in PR and Sponsorship Winner got an opportunity to cover some mainstream sport events while working for The Star Newspaper during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. She also worked on an MTN8 World Cup campaign, and her undeniable passion and work ethic caught the attention of Kassey Belluigi, who owns Intune Communications.

“She saw something in me that I did not see in myself. She said I should look into sport outside of journalism because there are other areas to explore. I started researching the difference between journalism and PR, and I think the idea of crafting brand stories fascinated me.”

“That was a game-changer for me because I got to tell stories from a brand perspective. A few months down the line, I went from being the girl that got invited to media events to being the girl that invited media to events, and that’s how my journey in PR was born.”

2020 Momentum gsport Awards Woman in PR and Sponsorship Winner, Keabetswe Taele

Public Relations forms a crucial part of companies, moreover now with the addition of Social Media, one could argue that without PR, organisations would be left in limbo. Many have described PR as the “golden mouthpiece” allowing for a business to establish identity—while giving the brand or company an edge that allows you to thrive and monetise.

PR helps an organisation connect their core messages with audiences through the news media, social media, emails, special events, and speaking engagements.

Taele highlights some skills and knowledge gained that gave her an edge as she started carving her way in PR.

“The two skills I would single out for me would be:

1. Writing Skills; PR serves as the guardian of reputation, I had to learn the art of writing for organisations/brands when transitioning to PR, and the few years I had spent writing news played an instrumental role in perfecting my craft because I had that foundation.

2. The media network I had built as a journalist: I was able to leverage those connections to get the right outcome for clients, be it attendance at media events, story placements, or interview opportunities.”

In 2024, female athletes and teams acquiring sponsors is still somewhat of a mountain to climb. Let’s look at the Hollywoodbets Super League as an example, 16 teams participate in the league, and outside of those falling under the University umbrella, individuals who’ve taken the bold step of establishing a women’s team are struggling to keep up with a big team like Mamelodi Sundowns. Be it in facilities or attracting big-name sponsors, many of these struggles continue to be a reality.

However, where does the point of correction lie? With the teams and individual athletes seeking endorsement or the prospective organisations that can buy into teams?

Taele says the reality is that brands are looking for properties that are going to give them a return on investment. “They are looking at the production value as well. Male sports have a higher quality coverage, and in reality, it gets more airtime in comparison to female sports. 

“The question is how do we work as a collective to improve the quality of airtime as far as women’s sports are concerned.”

“For example, in the UK, 30 percent of the BBC coverage is women’s sports, and they have aired the FA Cup Final, FIFA World Cup, Netball World Cup, etc. We also saw Telegraph launch a women’s sport section… these advancements promote women’s sports, and it would be great to see a similar methodology used here at home to change the narrative and elevate the value of women’s sports sponsorship.”

Staying with women’s football as a mini case study for the purpose of this PR and sponsorship piece. Banyana Banyana made history at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup after making the Last 16 of the showpiece, a historic feat for SA teams, male or female. This came after they won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. With these milestones, one would easily believe that the SA senior women’s team is about to hit the big time with sponsors clashing at SAFA’s corridors to sponsor the team. But in all honesty, it has been far from that.

Let’s not forget that we are also still sitting and waiting for the women’s league to be professionalised. Is gender parity that powerful or the proverbial “these things take time” at play? Kea remains optimistic.

“It’s not as rapid as we want it to be, but we have seen a significant change as far as the female athletes getting the recognition they deserve.”

“We’ve seen female athletes from Banyana Banyana moving overseas and getting lucrative deals. Some of them are attracting personal sponsorships as well, so there has been a marketability value that has improved, but we don’t want to look at marketability value from an individual perspective. We also need to look at marketability value from a team perspective.”

We’ve spoken a lot about professionalisation of women’s sport as a society, but how else can we ensure that women’s sport sees sustainable growth? Taele believes the key is in correcting how we’ve gone about development. She says in order to sustain this, we need a stronger ecosystem at the development level.

“We need to do it in such a way that it will showcase women’s sports as a career to look at. Our young female athletes probably wonder if they can make a career in sports, compared to their male counterparts, and to date, women’s sports are proving otherwise.

Social media has pushed us to add more phrases as we look at the medium and how it can aid in growing a brand. In the age of “engagements” and “aligning your personal brand,” it becomes crucially important for us to understand what big-name sponsors are looking for when partnering with athletes or teams? As this will help us on the road to advancing women’s sport.

“This is another paradigm in Public Relations. Brands are looking for partners who align with their values, messaging, and have a strong influence on their audience.”

“The key here is fostering a relationship that will drive brand awareness and positive brand perception; therefore, credibility and authenticity are key.

“These types of partnerships or collaborations extend beyond campaigns and are about deeper integrations between the parties involved. These mutually beneficial approaches must lead to more effective campaigns that deliver sustainable results. Nike would be a perfect case study for this.”

Many females dedicate their days and weeks to raise the profile of women’s sport, yet they do not feel appreciated or recognised for their efforts. Kea, on the other hand, earned the coveted gsport gong in 2020 and says that feat is one of the best highlights of her career.

“One of the best recognitions I have received by far. It elevated me and changed my career perspective. It played a role in how I built my career and personal brand from then onwards. To be recognised on that stage was a game-changer for me, and it’s a moment I will forever cherish.”

As Kea continues to elevate her name in the PR space, she pays homage to women that walked the path before her and pushed boundaries to open doors for generations to follow: “I was blessed & fortunate enough to cross paths with one of the pioneers and a phenomenal leader in this space Mam’Felicia (Ntisa), who is among women that have traveled this journey prior to us.

“These women have played an instrumental role in changing the narrative while paving the way for those coming behind. But the space still requires us to work harder than our male counterparts.”

Photo Caption: Award-winning PR professional Keabetswe Taele says brands are looking for properties that give them a return on investment when considering sponsorship. She adds that we need to work as a collective to improve the quality of airtime for women’s sport. Photo: gsport

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