Boosting Brand Nigeria With The Golden Eaglets Win

by Uche Nworah

If there were any such team or group responsible for managing the internal and external images of Brand Nigeria, perhaps they would be thanking the gods now for the opportunities they have laid out for them on a golden platter, or rather on a golden cup. This can only be the stuff that brand management dreams are made of; to have your brand being thrust onto the global stage by the activities of a few young men still in their teenage years who through sheer endeavour have used their God-given talent to do themselves, their families and country proud.

Brand Nigeria received the biggest boost it could ever receive in its quest to put some shine on its already globally battered image on Sunday, September 9th 2007 when the Under-17 football team – the Golden Eaglets beat Spain’s Under -17 in the finals of the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Seoul, South Korea.

The victory was hard fought though and came after 120-minutes of full-time play. The goalless stalemate then led to a penalty shoot – out but by then, the gods had already decided that it was Nigeria’s turn to shine once again. Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets scored all three of their spot kicks while Spain’s Under -17 were wasteful in front of the goal, one shot went wild while the Eaglets’ goalkeeper Oladele Ajiboye saved two of the Spanish side’s spot kicks.

For the records, Nigeria had previously won the Under-17 championships in 1985 (China) and 1993 (Japan) but has not managed to sustain the promise shown at the youth level and carrying over the same prowess to the Under-21 and senior teams.

This particular victory is important in many respects; it comes a few weeks ahead of Nigeria’s 47th independence anniversary scheduled for October 1st 2007, a much better birthday present therefore could not be more appropriate. The victory will help unite Nigerians and give them something positive to talk about in the coming months. The past few months have not been particularly cheerful ones, especially the disappointing conduct of the April 2007 general elections. The desperate situation has not been helped by the rising hopelessness in the land, increasing cases of crime and insecurity to lives and properties, poverty, killings and kidnappings arising from mass unrest in the Niger Delta region etc.

The victory will also help to enhance the image of Nigeria as a country, and reinforce its reputation as not only a football loving nation, but also as a strong African and emerging market brand. The worth in advertising or PR dollars of the reports and mentioning of this victory in several global media platforms is actually unquantifiable, and beats the botched attempts by the former president Olusegun Obasanjo to sell Nigeria through paid-for spot advertisements on CNN.

One can only hope that the new government in Nigeria will capitalise on the feel-good factor resulting from this victory by engaging Nigerians in constructive discussions with the aim of finding out important areas of needs to be addressed through sound socio-economic policies. The Yar’Adua government should build on the euphoria of this victory and not let this opportunity pass Nigerians by.

Just like the patriotic tidal wave that swept through Germany as a result of the Jurgen Klinsman effect during the FIFA world cup hosted by Germany in 2006, Nigerian governments at the three tiers – federal, state and local should key into this victory and use it to whip up an avalanche of patriotic emotions and feelings amongst Nigerians, they should tap into their now dulled and lulled senses of nationalism and patriotism as we all march towards a Nigerian national rebirth.

This victory by the Coaches Yemi Tella and Ben Iroha –led Under-17 team should be used to rekindle the ‘Can Do’ spirit amongst Nigerians once again, there is no better way to bring back our national self-belief than by showing how our indigenous coaches and home-grown talents can beat the best and hold their own anywhere in the world. The underlying theme should be that such winning ways are influenced by an enterprising spirit, that this is possible not only in football but that it can also be replicated across all the sectors.

For brand Nigeria, this is a priceless PR coup and this is good as it gets. This is indeed Nigeria’s chance not only in PR terms but also in economic terms. Not only will the Under-17 team be poached by foreign football clubs from where they would eventually start remitting some of their earnings back to Nigeria to boost the economy, but a recharged and self-believing nation will also be more productive, creative and enterprising in the long run. The victory will also further enhance the marketability of the next Under-17 championships which Nigeria will be hosting.

For the government and their officials, including the several communication advisers including the Heart of Africa project team, the time to do this is actually now, before the euphoria of the win dies down and we all get back to our ways again.

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