NIRMAL KUMAR BETCHOO

Graduate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK)

The countdown for the next ‘Jeux des Iles de l’Océan Indien’ to be held in the early weeks of August 2019 has begun. Despite an anticyclone with cold and breezy winds spoiling the inaugural event, there appears to be a little fervour in the middle of this awesome winter. From the organising committee, the COJI, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Government of Mauritius to athletes engaged in the regional games, it is wonderful to experience early signs of engagement and patriotism with respect to a great event hosted for a third time by Mauritius; the earlier ones being 1985 and 2003.

Starting modestly in 1979 in Réunion Island, the ‘Jeux des Iles’ have emerged as a symbol of unity and diversity with uprising talents in the Indian Ocean. Despite some rivalry with top contenders like Réunion and Madagascar, the regional sports event has gained momentum over the years and been considered as a ‘mini Olympics’ for the Indian Ocean. Also, although football remains prominent in the search for the ‘graal’, the desired single gold medal for a whole team, other sports have also drawn attention from the Indian Ocean community namely athletics, swimming, judo and others. Nice to see that ‘handisports’ were part of the all-inclusive package of the games recently. There is also the commendable effort from the press and the audio-visual media to cover extensively in live these beautiful games. Earlier, a commendable effort to telecast the games regionally as from their inception was undertaken by the Association de Radio Télévision de L’Océan Indien (ARTOI).

The marketing concept

The ‘Jeux des Iles’ have evolved with time with changes in locations and corporate branding. From the initial logo of the erupting ‘La Fournaise’ in 1979 to Mr Eyasim’s Mauritian logo in 1985 with a sega dancer, basic marketing was undertaken. Stickers were sold and made available to the public in such instances and these remain small souvenirs to commemorate the glorious past. The author till recently owned Mr Eyasim’s landmark logo.

Today, marketing is a widespread tool in any area of business and social life. The one-year countdown put the initial momentum with the games mascot ‘Krouink’ already charming hundreds of Mauritians. Infrastructure to welcome the games namely with the setting up of an international standard complex at Côte D’Or already sets the pace for a really upgraded sports event that will please both athletes and the public. We seem to be miles away from rudimentary infrastructure like painted walls and refurbished material replaced in stadiums. The up-to-date infrastructure already spells out the relevance of branding the ‘Jeux des Iles 2019’.

The public must participate as it was the case in 1985 and 2003 because this is the support that the games will need and the fervour expected from the nationals could be a booster to the success of the event. If financial plans, sports events planning and preparation are on the agenda already, what about marketing?

Licensing the merchandise

To make the ‘Jeux des Iles’ a memorable event, merchandising is a core part of its corporate branding. Just imagine the ‘FIFA World Cup Russia 2018’ without it. Consider the devout interest of football aficionados to collect stickers from Panini. Live the World Cup through the FIFA balls for the occasion, those numerous national team T-shirts, those small gadgets, those key rings and evidently the ‘fanions’ and related gifts around the event. Could you imagine just living the World Cup through television broadcast images? Never, today, merchandising is a must.

At the Mauritian level, merchandising should be part of the corporate branding. A list of merchandising ideas is suggested below including a countdown time. These are suggestions not prescriptions but it is hoped that they just contribute to something concrete.

Official merchandising

All merchandise must be officially recognised by the COJI or any related official organisation. Be it mugs, bags, t-shirts or key rings, the products must be licensed only through these organisations. Fake or counterfeit merchandise should not be tolerated as they undermine the key principle of good business and governance. All products to be sold must be listed in the sales list proposed by the organising committee. Definitely, third quality jerseys or T-shirts should be removed out of the market or say ‘black market’.

Valuing ‘Krouink’

The games mascot ‘Krouink’ looks altogether nice with different presentations for different events. The concept might be transformed into small effigies with sufficient detail to add value to the ‘Krouink’ concept and sold in packages for collection by sports lovers of all ages. Their presence in supermarkets and stores will help.

The ‘red and white’ jersey

The Club M’s official colour is red and white plus other combinations for ‘away’ games. Club M’s t-shirts or jerseys are rarely sold to the public and even declined as a symbol of national unity. It is hoped that for the ‘2019 Jeux des Iles’, these national shirts should be proudly worn by Mauritians but be genuine products either made locally or by an international manufacturer. The price must be reasonable to allow Mauritians wear a decent official outfit for the event.

Luxury is not a sin

With branding comes in a bit of luxury. It sells whether one likes it or not. We are not dreaming of a ‘Louis Vuitton’ level but that dint of luxury that adds to the secret charm of the forthcoming ‘Jeux des Iles’. Think of corporate gifts like ‘Parker Pens’ or even the ‘Cross’ Pen. Think of having a few good watches branded the Jeux des Iles logo; I guess this might be difficult. Think of luxury cars coming to the market with an insignia of ‘Jeux des Iles 2019’ under limited edition. Imagine some luxury cutlery in the same way and why not some ‘Adidas’ and ‘Nike’ outfits with the official logo.

Branding through the national airline

Have you travelled in Emirates Airlines recently and observed the marketing of the ‘2020 Dubai International Event’? It was also warm and welcoming to see all our Air Mauritius ‘airbuses’ heralding the Golden Jubilee logo commemorating the 50th anniversary of our Independence. We could suggest the national airline to have inscribed the ‘Jeux des Iles 2019’ temporarily in our carriers in 2019 so that the public recognises the value and importance attached to the ‘Jeux des Iles’.

Timing is important

Corporate branding is tough but a success if it is well-timed. This cannot take place instantly and be too much ahead of the starting time. Effort might be wasted as well as time and money. Ideally, a suggested timeframe could be the symbolic 12th March 2019 with a countdown of six months ahead to really get the vibes from the public. The interest will just keep growing up until the D-day of the event. Through effective promotional campaigns namely outdoor media, the written press and particularly the Internet through its virtual banners, Facebook and related applications, advertising on television and related media, corporate branding can expect a synergistic effect.

Well, we are all in a patriotic mood to welcome the ‘Jeux des Iles 2019’. We want the event to have just a speck of the international dimension of the FIFA World Cup but we should also know that such events are rarely hosted by Mauritius; just thrice to date and they cost a lot in terms of financial, human and creative involvement.

Then with time, marketing and branding are more than a reality today. They cannot simply be left apart or neglected. We now have university faculties promoting marketing, we sell Mauritius as the ‘Iles Vanille’ concept, we are so much used to glossies in the press, billboards, publicity, promotion and so on.

This leaves us to say that corporate branding for the much-awaited ‘Jeux des Iles 2019’ must exist. We should give a try, sell ‘official’ merchandise, bring a souvenir, big or small, to every household and make ‘Krouink’ fulfil our hearts. Also time is money, isn’t it? Let the spirit of corporate branding be part of the game then!