Nontokozo Madonsela – “There is a Need for Deliberate Change”

‘Frankly, we need to view sponsorship portfolios through a gender lens and be deliberate about it.’ Nontokozo Madonsela, Group Chief Marketing Officer at Momentum, believes that sponsorship can change inequity in women’s sport. Photo: Momentum

When brands sponsor women’s sports, they are not only supporting female athletes, but they are also sending a message to young girls and women that they are valued and that their dreams matter. This can have a profound impact on the lives of young women and girls, and it can help to create a more just and equitable world.” 

The Women’s Sports Foundation

The history of sport in South Africa has been traditionally male-focused and yet, particularly in the last decade, it is the women’s teams that have been making significant strides in South Africa.

For example, within football, while the women’s provincial football league was only established in 2009, Banyana Banyana are the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Champions, Africa’s number two in the FIFA rankings and ranked 54th in the world. 

Meanwhile, Bafana Bafana are ranked 66th in the world and 12th on the continent, and still, women’s football players earn less than 10% of what Bafana Bafana players get paid for a match. 

The Premier Soccer League was established in 1996 coming out of the various leagues that existed prior to the first democratic elections in 1994, a reality not unique to just soccer, in fact this remains a trend that we can see in virtually all sporting codes.

The inequity in terms of individual earnings and overall sponsorship of women’s sporting governing bodies and national teams is short-sighted and hinders society from benefitting from all. An improvement in sponsorship of women’s sport has the potential to tangibly change this.

To understand the obstacles to inclusivity in sports sponsorship, we need to look at the source of sponsorship, especially the corporate environment, and how the challenges women face in those spaces actually influence sponsorship. 

For example, with the presence of women being significant across the middle layers of many organisations, one could be forgiven, a bit, for assuming that the playing field is being levelled, to a certain extent. Yet, when you look at executive and board levels, the status quo remains and this is, often, where decisions are made. As a result, this lack of access means that those making the decisions around the gender-related inequity don’t understand the obstacles faced by women, in general, and women in sports, specifically.

For us to truly tackle this, we need leadership that is fair, gender-aware and socially conscious. And, frankly, we need to view sponsorship portfolios through a gender lens and be deliberate about it.

Momentum Group Chief Marketing Officer, Nontokozo Madonsela

This approach means recognising that the criteria many use for sponsorship need to be modified to take into account the situation. It is a chicken-or-egg situation. With visibility, particularly in the media, being at the heart of many a corporate’s sponsorship strategy, it becomes easy to focus primarily on men’s sports because it does continue to get a great deal of coverage. But, without greater sponsorship of women’s sports events and teams, the media will continue to approach coverage as an afterthought. 

When we, at Momentum, started our relationship with Women’s Cricket and launched the #OneMoreFan campaign, we recognised that the challenges are so immense, with so much ground to cover, that we cannot fund everything, and therefore, how we measure the ‘performance’ of the sponsorship is “bang for heart” as opposed to “bang for buck”. 

‘We cannot operate in isolation of the society we are part of and, increasingly, people care about what the organisations stand for and how they’re helping in addressing societal problems.’

In the CNBC article, For Women’s Sports, the media buys are becoming a big deal, Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business programme at Washington University in St. Louis, is quoted as saying, “Part of advertising and part of the reason you do these deals is you’re building this cultural capital with consumers. If you stand for equity, and you represent that by partnering with women’s sports, then you’re hoping that that’s going to resonate with your current customers. And perhaps it’s going to attract new customers who align with that.”

From a pure business perspective, operating with bang for heart means positive association which has the potential to drive future growth for brands and businesses. 

For us, it is not a competition. This is why we continuously encourage other corporate organisations to step up and also support women’s sports and sportswomen, to ensure that we can close the sponsorship inequalities. If, for example, other organisations get involved in women’s cricket, it’s for the good of women’s cricket, which is the end goal. We will all be better for it.

The reality is that while the performance of South African sportswomen continues to draw applause and plaudits, with women’s teams progressing beautifully, both at home and internationally, the funding is not commensurate. And, while we believe that men’s sport is, to a certain extent, overfunded, we are not saying continued sponsorship of men’s sporting teams should not take place. 

All we are saying is that a portion of those sponsorship funds should go to women’s sport because every bit helps, and every bit shifts the dial for women in sport. In addition, the validation and boost to sportswomen’s confidence cannot be understated.

Depending on the sporting code, women earn between five times to 10 times less than men. We each have a part to play, whether it is corporate organisations, media owners or supporters, in growing and investing in women’s sports ahead of the numbers. In August Momentum will be hosting a Momentum Women in Sports Summit where we hope to further entrench our commitment to ensuring the financial success of women in sport. 


Photo Caption: ‘Frankly, we need to view sponsorship portfolios through a gender lens and be deliberate about it.’ Nontokozo Madonsela, Group Chief Marketing Officer at Momentum, believes that sponsorship can change inequity in women’s sport. Photo: Momentum

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