By OJEIKERE AIKHOJE
As another champion is set to be crowned in the Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL), on Saturday, September 24, sportbusinessbrand.com assesses how lead sponsor, StanbicIBTC has changed Collegiate football on and off the pitch, in Nigeria.
Saturday’s crunch HiFL final between Kogi State University’s KSU Steelers and Federal University, Oye Ekiti’s FUOYE Dazzlers will attract the attention of a new band of football crazy enthusiasts.
On and off the pitch, it has achieved remarkable success.
No doubt the HiFL has become the fastest growing sporting event in the country with fans spread across higher institutions in the country.
Organised annually, it has turned out to be the perfect solution to Collegiate football in the country.
Saturday’s final will be live on satellite TV, thanks to the collaborative effort of broadcaster, SuperSport and HiFL.
Truth be told, televised games fueled the dramatic increase in the HiFL’s popularity and profitability.
Since PACE Sports and Media Limited conceived the competition which is sponsored by leading financial institution, StanbicIBTC, it has continued to grow in size and quality.
From 16 institutions in its inception, in 2018 to 60 teams this year, it has turned out to be the biggest unifying factor in Collegiate football.
The presence of two new finalists this year is a confirmation of the growth of the HiFL. No institution has been able to dominate the competition.
Thankfully, University of Lagos ensured the multi sport Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) was organised earlier in the year with University of Ilorin Warriors claiming the football gold medal.
Back to HiFL and its competitiveness showcased as the in form UNILORIN Warriors couldn’t make the finals.
Emerging powerhouse, KSU Steelers halted the Warriors’ dreams of a NUGA and HiFL double, in what was a derby and bragging rights also at stake.
Both sides are no strangers and it was sweet victory for the Steelers.
A clear indication of the on-field success of the competition which no team has been able to dominate.
For the second time, the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN Lions) reached the last four, but couldn’t make it to the final.
Consistency has ensured brand awareness reached an all-time high in a country where the professional leagues lack proper calendar.
On the pitch, HiFL has developed football stars who become celebrities in their institutions.
It has been a huge success off-the-pitch having built a community of followers across higher institutions in the country.
Off The Pitch
The pioneering role of StanbicIBTC, has attracted more commercial partners to highlight its off-the-pitch success.
More importantly, the ability to create big event days to generate buzz around the sport and partners has cemented a perfect synergy between partners and the HiFL.
Today, the HiFL sponsors include Bold Drink, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) and Indomie Noodles.
With the potential of the competition, it is seen as an huge platform to reach a unique market waiting to be leveraged.
The biggest success of the HiFL has to be its Brand Story Telling technique.
Indeed, Brand Story Telling has helped increase brand awareness and recruit fans within and outside University communities for the HiFL.
Digitalization continues to improve its storytelling with several social media platforms.
Team shirts have become memorabilia ready available for fans to buy online.
The success story is summarized by Chief Operating Officer, Pace Sports, Goodness Onyejiaku.
“HiFL 2022 has delivered on its promise which is to unify lovers of collegiate sports across the country.
“We have witnessed some fantastic games across different centres of participating schools and the feedback has been good. We are all waiting to crown the new champion,” Onyejiaku said.
Yabatech Sports Centre takes centrestage from 3:00pm on Saturday, September 24, as a new champion will be coronated again to continue the brand’s story.
With more focus on innovation, technology and relationship-building amongst its growing list of commercial partners, the HiFL certainly has the potential to become Nigeria’s leading sports league.