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What we intend to achieve with grass-roots football —Tolu Adedeji

Tolu Adedeji, Marketing Director, International Breweries Plc, recently launched a 5-a-side grass-roots football tournament tagged ‘Join The Field of Honour’ and unveiled ex-international, Joseph Yobo, as campaign ambassador. In this interview, Adedeji explains the company’s decision to sponsor the tournament and what it intends to achieve. ROTIMI IGE brings excerpts.


Why is your company getting involved with 5-a-side football? What do you hope to achieve with it?

We are indeed happy to be hosting the maiden edition of the 5-a-side tournament. It is something we are really proud of because Nigerians always unite over football. That is very important to us as a brand. Football is the passion point for the entire country, which is why when we play football nothing else matters because our pride and honour are on the line. This is why football for us is something that fully describes what the brand represents and what we really believe in, that is, bringing honour to the country.

Also, in line with our natural disposition towards the development of the communities in which we operate, we recognised that 5-a-Side football is the most popular type of football played in our communities, perhaps because standard pitches are not so widespread. We reasoned, therefore, that organising a 5-a-Side tournament of this nature would be a good complement to other efforts aimed at developing grassroots football in Nigeria.


We understand the tournament is being restricted to four states. Why only four states, given that you have Trophy beer consumers in many other states?

As you know, Trophy as a brand has its origin in the southwest, which we are now sharing with the entire country because it has been accepted by all. It is no longer termed a southwest brand but a national brand. The outlay and logistics required for a tournament of this nature are quite enormous. Imagine coordinating over 1,000 teams and the complexities associated with it in this maiden edition alone.  We need to perfect this to ensure a hitch-free competition in those four states, then we can make the competition pan-Nigeria. However, even with this maiden edition, opportunity to engage we are engaging every consumer across the country through what we call the super fans. This tournament is not only about the players, it is also about the supporters. Everybody can participate regardless of where you reside. You are either a player from the four states or a super fan from across the country.  It is a one Nigeria tournament and not limited to any region.

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Will this be an annual or a biennial event and what are your expectations after this edition?

Our first priority is to produce the team that will represent Nigeria in Tanzania for the continental final, playing against countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa and so on. Our first priority is to ensure that Nigeria is well represented at the continental stage and to bring back the trophy and honour to us. Upon the success of this edition, we plan to make it a regular event. We will share the information with the general public when we decide if it is going to be annually or biennially. Whichever way, we want it to be part of the International Breweries calendar, going forward.


Our local football league needs sponsorship, do you have plans to sponsor the local league or, perhaps, one of the local football clubs in the future?

We are focusing on Trophy 5-a-side for now, which is all about grassroots but everybody must play their part. While some organisations may choose to partner with the big leagues, others may choose to partner with international clubs and some focus on grassroots talents across the country, which is what we are focusing on right now. This does not mean that we will not provide some form of sponsorship in the future but for now, we are focusing on grassroots football across the country. The 5-a-side format is to identify fresh talents that will become the Yobos of this world, in a few years from now.


In addition to the prize money, the winning team is expected to play in the regional finals in Tanzania, are you sponsoring their trip to Tanzania?

Indeed, we are also giving a special opportunity to the players. Anyone who is part of this tournament is being given an opportunity of a life time to go and represent Nigeria on the continental platform. For me, that is what I am most particular about and hopefully, a few years from now, some of them will say I began with the Trophy 5-a-side tournament and today, I am representing Nigeria in our national team or I am playing with one of the big clubs in Europe. We also have different cash prizes for the different stages of the tournament. We are going to be recruiting over 1000 teams at the very beginning and the different knock-out stages will attract various cash prizes, while the winning team, of course, gets the N3 million prize money. They will also get an all-expense paid trip to Tanzania alongside the super fans that will be recruited cross the country to cheer on our team.


Do you have any plans for the  MVP who emerge after the tournament?

Already, this is a big opportunity for all the players and in addition, the finals will be aired live on national TV where the whole world will be watching and you never can tell what will come out of that. Someone somewhere may identify a talent and before you know it, one club or the other may approach the player. The platform provides the players with a huge opportunity for them to showcase their talents to Africa and the world.


Do you have other plans for grassroots football besides this 5-a-side tournament?

For now, we are focused on getting this off the ground and getting it rolled out running successfully across thousands of outlets across the country, getting the winners to go to Tanzania with our ambassadors: Folarin Falana (Falz) the entertainer; Joseph Yobo, Nigerias ex-international and Femi Adebayo, an A-list Nigerian actor. They will also get to meet Samuel Etoo in Tanzania. But right now, our focus is getting this tournament off the ground and succeeding. In future, we can always expand.


Would you share the fixtures of the matches in the mass media so fans can visit match venues and follow the games?

We will do a lot of uploads online and in a few days, our website for the tournament will be active, We will also have radio jingles and TVCs on an ongoing basis to keep fans and our consumers well informed. We will also have digital adverts and you will definitely be well informed.


Will the Nigerian Football Federation and the Nigerian Referee Association be part of the tournament?

We have representatives of the Nigerian Referee Association here today, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, and Joseph Yobo, an ex-international and ex-captain of the Super Eagles. We are not doing it alone for sure.


What are some of the rules guiding the tournament?

You do not have to be a professional footballer to participate in the tournament. Anyone who has the passion for the game, above the age of 18 can go into any of our accredited bars, make enquiries and register to play if you qualify.


Apart from the use of football, in what other ways are you connecting with your consumers and customers?

We are very big on events like festivals  across the different communities we operate in and at the grassroots levels. There are different festivals that are celebrated in the different communities and we always actively support them. We also have the various CSR projects we have executed over the years.


What CSI initiatives have you put in place for these communities besides football and entertainment?

Apart from grassroots football, we have touched communities by providing solar-powered boreholes for communities where potable water is lacking in Ogun, Oyo and Osun states and renovated sanitary facilities for primary schools in Osun State. We have also provided water, equipment and renovated primary health care centres in Ogun and Osun communities and so on.

Some of the ways by which we have touched our communities are via the support we provide for entrepreneurs through the Kickstart programme. This programme is aimed at instilling an entrepreneurial culture among young Nigerians by encouraging them to develop big ideas that can transform into sustainable businesses, through the provision of financial and material support. The support includes business development skill training, business mentoring or coaching and provision of grant for business start ups and expansion. We are a very socially responsible organisation.


How do you relax?

I love relaxing in a variety of ways. Top on the list is spending quality time with family. If I am not doing this, I can be found reading, writing, speaking, coaching young start ups, ideating or dancing.


How would you describe your fashion style?

Minimalistic, comfortable yet unique.


What is the title of the last book you read?

I recently finished ‘Born a Crime’, the story of Trevor Noah. I also finished ‘The Everyday Store’- the story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. I love reading about real life people- their successes and failures, trends, businesses and marketing generally.


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