By Edison Jefford
How a non-traditional Guyanese company became the leader among traditional corporate entities that
support sports here must be a negative reflection of the business community, and the obvious dynamism of telecommunications giant, Digicel Guyana Inc.
That a foreign company was able to penetrate the Guyanese market so-much-so that the ‘foreign’ tag is now merely for moot purposes, exposes the vulnerability of corporate support for sport and distinguishes Digicel as a leader among the current status quo.
Next February will mark a decade since the arrival of Digicel in Guyana and since then the group has been able to not just support sports financially and otherwise, but also lay the foundation for long-term development through significant initiatives.
For instance, the Digicel Schools’ Football Championships has revealed endless possibilities that force the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) and all of Guyana to be forever grateful. The contest brings together school teams from every ‘nook and cranny’ in Guyana annually, and has a budget of in excess of $40 million.
The Digicel Schools’ Football competition is a major financial and administrative undertaking, but yet for the past six years, the company has been able to maintain its direct management of the event, balancing that with its other functions.
The tournament is the most prominent junior football competition in Guyana and provides a base for the GFF to see talent that it can transition to the senior level. Apart from that, it stimulates the competitive sports programme for some regions that would have otherwise been undiscovered on a national basis.
Guyana’s football agenda will have an extensive positive impact as a result of the overwhelming work Digicel has put into its schools’ football programme. The National Schools’ Championship is no different. Digicel showed its intention early in its arrival in Guyana when in 2010 it signed a three-year multi-million dollar contract for the Schools’ Championships.
Digicel became and remained the title sponsor along with the Ministry of Education and Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU). The support from the telecommunications giant allowed ‘Nationals’, as it is commonly known, to evolve from just ‘school sports’ into a marketable national product that now has facets akin to international best practices.
In a clear sign that Digicel is committed to the development of student-athletes, another marquee project on its annual calendar is the National Schools’ Basketball Festival (NSBF). The company is again the major sponsor of this nation-wide Championship.
Digicel was also the primary sponsor of the inaugural Aliann Pompey Invitational at the National Track and Field Centre and the eight-year-old Boyce/Jefford Classic in Linden. Notwithstanding, these are just a few of the major events that Digicel funds annually.
It also took on the Inter-Guiana Games this year. When you add the Digicel Golf, Digicel Cancer Awareness Cycle Race, Horseracing and Squash, you get a company that spends over $200 million every year on the development of local sports. This does not include the other forms of sponsorship the company dolls out to organisations, events and individuals.
The sum translates to US$1M annually, exclusive of cricket. If you put in what Digicel disburses to cricket, you could very well get another US$1M. The analysis shows that Digicel is unrivalled when it comes to its corporate responsibility to sports. There is no other company that budget in excess of US$2M to fund local sport annually.
The amusing aspect of this single-handed corporate movement is that a lot of women actually do the work. Jacqueline James is the Head of Marketing; Louanna Abrams is the Events and Sponsorship Executive; Ulex Smith is the Marketing Executive, and Vidya Sanichara is the Communications Manager.
These four women form the nucleus of what Digicel Guyana Inc. manages to produce for sports in Guyana every year, and it is a truly remarkable effort. Guyana needs 10 more companies with the vision of Digicel for its sports product to become the best in the world.
James coming from a Jamaican background, which is undoubtedly an influence in her being able to understand what is required to raise the level of sports here, is certainly piloting her marketing team at Digicel to historic levels of corporate support for sports.
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