Is Nike Kicking Nigeria In The Backside Over Sponsorship Issues?

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Nike is believed to be reviewing its partnership with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), although details of why this is happening is unclear, with Local media widely blaming review on the bad run of results by the men’s national team.

Nike reportedly sent a letter to the NFF on Thursday “asking the federation to furnish them with some facts.”

Nike stepped in to provide kits for the Nigerian national teams, signing a partnership deal with the NFF scheduled to run from April 1, 2015 to 2018 after Adidas decided not to renew their deal with the NFF following uproar over the banning of lesbians from Nigerian football.

At the time the Nike-NFF deal was agreed, According to Insideworldfootball wrote about “the reputational risks the company, which markets itself as a great supporter of gay rights in the USA, runs in sponsoring a Federation whose head of Women’s Committee, and recently appointed deputy Chair of the Committee of Ethics and Fair Play, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, is on record as saying “Yeah, we don’t tolerate lesbianism and we always discuss it whenever we meet. We always warn clubs and club chairmen, to please tell their players to desist from it, because any player that we pick for national competitions, and we hear a little story that is involved in that, we disqualify the player.”

This issue is not discussed in the Nigerian press who speculate that the review “may not be unconnected with the ratings of the Super Eagles, the senior national male football team, which is NFF’s major selling point.”

There was controversy in Nigeria over the terms of the Nike-NFF contract, largely as people were kept unaware of the difficulties of persuading a major brand to sponsor open homophobia. However the US-based company is understood to be proving kit worth $750,000 in the first year and $1million in the years 2017 and 2018.

Chairman of the Marketing and Sponsorship Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation, Chief Emeka Inyama said at the time the contract was signed that “It is also a white lie to say that there is no fee in the contract. There are bonuses and products, and payments that are open to negotiation when our teams do well at international tournaments. At the appropriate time, we will publish the contract agreement for all to see.”

The “appropriate time” has apparently not yet arrived, but it seems likely that Nike have a break clause built in. The current review may provide an opportunity for Nike to consider whether the risks attached to the deal still make commercial sense for a company which claims to be “deeply committed to diversity, inclusion and unleashing the potential of all athletes” with Nigeria having slipped to 66th in the FIFA World Ranking.

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Abideen Owolabi

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