When we look back at the year that was 2023, we can certainly say it was one for the books when it comes to women’s sport.
But one thing that has steadily started improving is the sponsorships of our women’s teams on the local front, and internationally. Sponsors and those who are looking to invest have now realised the women’s sport is not just entertaining but also top quality stuff when it comes to the complete package.
Someone who knows the in’s and out of investing in women’s sport and is Braam Wessels, the head of sponsorship at Telkom, and he says that the company’s focus has been on getting youngsters interested in a sport:
‘Development of the sport (like netball) by ensuring great involvement at the grassroots levels – growing the love of the sport in the younger age groups.’Braam Wessels, Telkom Head Sponsorship
The year started with the Proteas Women having a successful T20 World Cup campaign, reaching the finals and losing to the eventual winners Australia at Newlands Cricket Ground. Another big win was that of Banyana Banyana who were a roaring success at the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The second major women’s tournament of the year that was held in South Africa was the Netball World Cup, an event held on the African continent for the first time since the tournament’s inception.
In the lead up to the tournament, the Telkom Netball League graced our courts and screens as players showed off their skills, and generated the ‘gees’ for the World Cup.
The league has certainly grown since it began in 2014, where the Free State Crinums were the inaugural winners. They went on to dominate the league, winning the title three years in a row.
It was then the turn of the Gauteng Jaguars, who upstaged the Crinums and went one better to secure the championship for four consecutive years.
Most recently it was the Jaguars who won this year’s competition, after defeating fellow competition dominators, the Crinums, in the 2023 final.
Back in February Telkom launched the #STANDTALL initiative which was designed to use netball as catalyst to encourage South African youth to embrace their individuality and follow their dreams whilst growing participation in the sport ahead of the World Cup.
It is programs like this that raised the profile of the sport and encouraged young female players to be themselves while playing the sport that they love. Clinics with various Spar Proteas players, past and present, were held across the country.
Women’s sport stalwart and Proteas captain Bongi Msomi visited her home town of Hammersdale in KwaZulu-Natal, where she spent time at Emaxulwini Primary School hosting a netball clinic. Msomi shared her knowledge and skills with approximately 80 aspiring netball players, where she took them through simple drills and exercises meant to develop and improve their talents.
And it is just this kind of impact that sponsor Telkom was looking for. Wessels says the #STANDTALL initiative turned out to be the perfect catalyst to raise the profile of netball, and it was one that was very successful:
“The #STANDTALL messaging translated well within the netball community and a lot of players really resonated with it. Above and beyond this, we achieved the largest jump in awareness in less than a year for a first-time sponsor of an event sponsor and the highest audience ever for a women’s sporting event in SA.”
Wessels also pointed out that as a sponsors they saw that they could harness the power of netball and use it help youngsters embrace who they are.
“As a brand, Telkom noticed a concerning trend among school-goers showing hesitancy to embrace their unique talents as a result of increased societal pressures. From this, #STANDTALL was developed; a rallying cry championed designed to use netball-led stories as a catalyst to encourage young South Africans to follow their dreams and as a result, live their ‘monate’.
“Our aim was to shine a light on Netball’s transformative power by drawing more people towards the sport and we achieved this in many ways; such as through netball clinics, amplifying the Telkom Netball League and Telkom Netball Championship as well as hosting staff activations.”Braam Wessels, Telkom Head Sponsorship
The investment from sponsors is one that has been an integral part of growing women’s sport and giving the various codes and sportswomen the recognition they so deserve. Sponsors like Telkom have put their best foot forward in doing what is needed to put women’s sport where it’s supposed to be. With 2023 more than putting women’s sport on the map, it will not be of utmost importance to build on the legacy that this year has left on the various codes and disciplines.
Wessels says Telkom has already earmarked how they plan to continue to show their support in the women’s sports arena.
“Telkom will continue to develop and support the code as well as build on the #STANDTALL motion. The focus will be on preparing the next group of players to participate at all levels and ensuring the players stand tall in each endeavour. We will further focus on the 2027 Netball World Cup, looking at it as more than just a sport and making sure each participant sees the value in the sport and the opportunities it provides.”
Photo caption: Telkom has been an important player in women’s sport for some time now, and the company’s investment shows results in their work to raise the bar from grass roots to the international level in their support for women’s sport. Photos: Thuligraphy Images / Skhu Nkomphela