KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES; SATURDAY OCTOBER 22, 2018 – The decision by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation executive committee led by Marvin Fraser to establish a Marketing/Media/Public Relations Committee, is a commendable decision.

But the executive and the secretariat headed by the General-Secretary must understand that having such an idea is one thing, but is another matter when it comes to the structuring of such to avoid legal hiccups. The mechanisms by which such a committee is expected to operate, is most important, for this would define how and by what means the committee operates; that is if persons are not inclined to do things just because they have a notion to do it no matter what the rules and regulations say.

A marketing committee should have the structure – legal and or otherwise, and man-power to focus both on the promotion of sports events and teams, as well as the promotion of sporting events and sports teams. It is the avenue by which the Federation would be in a position to promote a physical product in that of a well-rounded player, or a brand name such as Vincy Heat.

In a piece entitled ‘How Social Media Is Changing the Sports Marketing Industry’, Christian Zilles stated: “The goal of any sports franchise is to have an active, engaged fan base. Thus, it’s been an absolute no-brainer for professional sports teams to adopt social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to deepen and widen their relationships with fans.”

Zilles in his piece also called for marketing persons to “Amplify the passion of fans, and create interactive, real-time experiences that involve the fans.”

The persons who have been invited to attend should have not just the academic qualifications, but most importantly, the training and experience in key areas.

These areas include, but are not limited to advertising, sales, event planning and management, public relations, merchandising, media, facility management, and hospitality.

To maximise use of the skills and experiences of persons invited, a submission of persons’ curriculum vitae should have been requested. This would enable members of the committee to be utilised according to skill-sets, and experience. But members of the executive of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation view such an exercise as a waste of time, since “persons were asked to volunteer.”

Whether one volunteers or not, is not the issue. The success of the marketing/media/public relations committee should not be based on rumour-mongering, conniving, friendship, and grand-standing.

A successful marketing/media/public relations committee must have as its foundation, well put together terms of reference, which should have been be the very first exercise undertaken, but persons thought otherwise. The pillars of skill-sets, experience, training, and a willingness by members to take the initiative by thinking outside the box, are other key components to make the committee successful.

The spectre of possible manipulation by member and or members of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation executive is an issue which must be addressed immediately. The presence on the committee of employees of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation opens the committee to manipulation, in the near or distant future. It also asks the question – what amount of autonomy is and will be given to the committee?

When the proposed marketing/media/public relations committee operations have begun without terms of reference is similar to the cart have been placed before the proverbial horse. When a meeting agenda is drafted outside the parameters of established protocols, and other practices encouraged, then the committee becomes a liability – legal and otherwise, to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation.

A critical look must be taken as to what is needed to market the Vincy Heat brand. To be successful, the committee must have the skill and experience to stir up the public’s enthusiasm, so the members of the public will not just want to purchase a replica shirt, or buy a ticket to watch either a player or the team play, but will be the driving force behind a holistic Vincy Heat brand.

According to the CEO of Blackheart Productions David Christopher, “It is ok to have many qualifications, but being street smart is what makes the difference in marketing being successful.”

The committee’s primary role is to think outside of the box in an effort to decide the right marketing tactics – radical and or otherwise, to promote the Vincy Heat team, and the players – individually and collectively. The members of the committee must always be cognisant that the Vincentian society is a very conservative one, unlike that of their Grenadian, Trinidadian and Saint Lucia counterparts.

However it would be foolhardy to attempt to reinvent the wheel when such has already been invented. There are a number of persons who have employed successful marketing strategies, who have utilised mainstream media to maximise the effectiveness of the marketing campaign, but a captain is useless to a team when he or she encourages preferential treatment, or takes on board advice which is only design to appease the popular and not do what is right.

During the preparation for the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, a number of training seminars were held for a number of committees, one of them being the media committee.

During one such seminar, participants were told: “In the sports industry, there is a constant exchange of information, from teams to the media, from brands to their consumers, from scouts to their bosses, from agents to their clients. The stream never ends.

“We all have an audience; someone we are trying to reach through our words or actions – but how effective are we at reaching them? To thrive in the sports industry, you must harness the skill of effective communication, whether you are a journalist, photographer, or reporter.

“How you package your journalistic pieces, how you present it in the newspaper, on radio or television, will determine the impact on the viewing and or reading public.”

In today’s world, social media has created even more avenues for market penetration, but how such is used will determined success and or failure. One must complement the other. Mainstream media must be complemented by social media, for one is instant communication, while the other is focussed on long-term and gives greater latitude for creating a more vivid picture of the event.

There are marketing success stories of sporting events in the region. South of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the Waggy-T Knockout Football Tournament in Grenada. North of the island is the Blackheart Knockout Football Tournament in Saint Lucia, and further north is the Warriors Cup in Antigua and Barbuda.

All of these events have been running for many years, and the success of the organisers in attracting private sector sponsorship lies in a simple rule: Aggressive and innovative but simple marketing strategies.

The marketing committee because of its broad mandate, must be led by a chairperson who is skilled and experienced in this field. Hosting a village football tournament void of the fundamentals in event planning, implementation, and management is not a prerequisite for success.

Chairing the marketing committee of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation calls for one to be knowledgeable and experienced in event planning and management, administration, copyright law, player image rights, facility management, crowd control, and media relations. That person is tasked with delegating and supervising, and lack of the basics as stated, is a recipe for committing mistake upon mistake like a recurring decimal.

The chairperson and by extension the members of the committee are not called to be popular. This is left for those seeking elected office. The members – individually and collectively, first order of business is to ensure that there is a product to be marketed, that the basics needed are produced and adhered to by all, including the affiliates.

Planning and dissemination of tournament fixtures on a timely basis would allow the committee to promote and market the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation football tournaments. The committee must cause the tournaments committee to be shaken out of their slumber, for it behoves the right thinking, which year in, year out there is always either a late submission of fixtures, or it is done in a piecemeal fashion. Such a practice has and will kill enthusiasm, and the blame will be laid at the doorsteps of affiliates, but the tournaments committee collective head should be placed on the chopping block.

Putting together well-written pieces to capture the imagination of the listening public on radio sports programmes, and to the television stations’ viewing public, are critical to keeping the public’s interest in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation tournaments. This is just one part.

Updating of the yet to be made operational website is critical to the success or successes of the marketing strategy, player development, private sector confidence, and product development. But who is the point persons to undertake such a task is another question yet to be answered.

The marketing/media/public relations committee of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation must be prepared to radically change the mind-set and attitude of persons.

This is most critical as the professionalization of the sport’s administration draws near. The re-tooling of persons for the positions currently occupied is critical. This is applicable to all executive and secretariat personnel, committee members, and administrative officers of the affiliates; no exception.

Copyright laws, and use of players’ image rights, are two areas that will cause legal troubles for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation unless certain practices are immediately halted. The absence of a media policy which was suggested a few months ago makes the application of, and understanding of those two key legal components a most difficult task.

These are not of importance, but popularity. Failure to do what is right, failure to read and acquaint oneself with the laws of the land governing the various aspects of administration of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation will cause legal troubles, along with an unwanted public relations nightmare.