Sport and Entertainment Intellectual Property Lawyer, Ojonoka Agudah believes with the right strategies in place, brands can get increased value in women’s sport.
Ojonoka’s passion for sport began at a young age right into her university days where she went on to write sport and entertainment articles for magazines and blogs.
With her intellectual curiosity, Agudah obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Law at University of Lagos and went on to complete her Master’s in International Intellectual Property Law at Swansea University in the UK.
She is currently the Head in Legal and Women’s Sport at a leading African sport management company based in Nigeria.
Agudah’s duties include working across the sport value chain from sponsorship, media rights, hospitality, talent representation and management.
She hopes that in the next few years, she will be in a decision-making position where she will be able to help young girls and women athletes to maximise their full potential.
Agudah is also aiming to ensure that sport will be in a better space and be more gender-inclusive.
Speaking with Tatenda Gondo, Agudah chats about the importance of intellectual property in sport and what women athletes should do to attract sponsorships.
Ojonoka, thank you for taking time out to chat with us. What made you venture into intellectual property law in sport and entertainment?
Curiosity I guess, as far as I can remember I always loved sport and entertainment in general. But looking back I realised that it was not just what I saw on television that I was in love with, but I was always curious about the behind the scenes, for example why players’ boots were different, why the jersey colours were such a big deal, the importance of badges or why were there music videos that had Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan and how it happened.
From a young age I was always thinking about concepts without understanding what they meant hence I was always fascinated with the relationship between sport and entertainment.
May you please tell us a brief history about yourself.
I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and I am a huge fan of sport and entertainment. During my days in school, I used to write articles about sport and entertainment for a magazine and online blogs. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in law at the University of Lagos and briefly worked in the entertainment industry. Before studying for my Master’s in International Intellectual Property law at Swansea University in the UK.
Whilst studying for my Master’s I won the IP Wales prize for being the best student in International Intellectual Property law and Intellectual asset management. After I completed my Master’s I started working for a leading African sport management company based in Nigeria and I am currently their head in legal and women’s sport.
What are some of the challenges you face when trying to acquire sponsorships for women athletes or teams?
First would be lack of exposure for women’s sport and athletes. There are hardly any broadcasts of women’s sport and for brands, the first thing they think of before they agree to sponsor you is exposure and how they can benefit from sponsoring any team or athlete. When this exposure is lacking they understandably switch off.
Most women athletes and teams are not recognised, hence they do not have a following, a platform for visibility and it is therefore difficult for brands to see a reason why they should sponsor them.
For me, the most difficult challenge is that most sponsors here do not think of women’s sport as part of the sport industry because they are focused on men’s sport and are not open-minded to entertain what is possible with women’s sport sponsorship and the long-term benefits.
How do you overcome these challenges?
It’s a work in progess to figure out how we can overcome these challenges and for me, I think outside the box using my advantage of understanding intellectual property, which is the foundation of sponsorship.
It’s getting sponsors to see the bigger picture and understand. Globally, we are seeing that women’s sport sponsorship is more organic, authentic and that women athletes are easy to use for activation because they are more engaging.
Hence with the right strategy, there is more we can get from sponsoring women’s sport. I usually target brands that are women-focused and persuade them to see how sponsoring women’s sport can open them to a whole new audience they might have overlooked.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I am head of legal and women’s sport at a leading African sports management company and because we work across the sport value chain from sponsorship, media rights, hospitality, talent representation and management no two days are the same. It is dynamic and fast-paced, I could be reviewing media rights agreements one minute and the next minute I am talking about player transfers with the talent management team.
What should women athletes do to ensure that they attract sponsors?
They need to be confident and know that they deserve to be in that space, they are athletes regardless of the outside noise. If they are confident I am sure this will help them build their brands and with social media nowadays it is a bit easier.
Firstly they should build their social media presence, by engaging and interacting as much as possible. I notice that we as women in any space tend to enjoy being in the background and working silently and not sharing what we are doing and what we have achieved. This affects our exposure and visibility particularly for women athletes, so they need to always share about their success on the field of play no matter how little the achievement might seem.
Exposure and visibility will get those deals and enhance their careers beyond the field.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
While I do have a vision, I am currently in a space where I am learning to live in the present and learning from each moment and each day. I do know that in the next five to ten years I want to be a decision-maker being in a position where I will be able to help young girls and women athletes to be able to maximise their full potential. I am aiming to ensure that sport will be in a better space and be more gender-inclusive.
Photo 1 Caption: Sport and Entertainment Intellectual Property Lawyer, Ojonoka Agudah believes with the right strategies in place, brands can get increased value in women’s sport. Photo: Supplied