Interview with Nausherwan Effandi, Chief Commercial Officer, Peshawar Zalmi.
MAMUN M. ADIL: According to Nielsen Sports, in 2018, Peshawar Zalmi was cited as ‘Pakistan’s biggest sports franchise’ in terms of brand value, estimated at $40.5 million. On what basis was this assessment made?
NAUSHERWAN EFFANDI: On the basis of the mileage we give our sponsors. Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that we have been in three consecutive PSL finals, and every time our players are on the pitch, TV ratings go up due to our fan following. One of the biggest contributions Peshawar Zalmi have made to the tournament is the fact that they were the first team to bring top-tier international players to Pakistan. Before recruiting a player we are very clear that if they are not willing to come to Pakistan they will not be selected.
MMA: How do Peshawar Zalmi differentiate themselves in terms of sponsorships compared to the other PSL teams?
NE: By saying no to money. What I mean is that we only say yes to the right kind of brands – those that complement us. In the last few years, we have been very picky about whom we partner with. Our sponsors have included Haier, Huawei, McDonald’s, Sprite, MG and TCL – they are multinational brands and many of them are also involved in sport overseas. For example, TCL’s brand ambassador overseas is the football player Neymar Jr.; similarly, McDonald’s sponsor FIFA.
MMA: What are the challenges in terms of securing sponsorships?
NE: It was difficult to attract premium brands in the beginning because the initial reaction was: “You are in Peshawar and we are global brands.” This had a lot to do with the fact that Peshawar has always been overshadowed by larger cities in Pakistan. Furthermore, when PSL began in 2015, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was in a state of turmoil (the Army Public School massacre had taken place less than a year ago). Despite this, we are now the only franchise with such a roster of premium brands.
MMA: How was this achieved?
NE: Brands know they will receive a level of professionalism and fan following and that although we represent Peshawar, we are a team that is known globally. For example, we have an initiative called Global Zalmi – which consists of ‘fan branches’ in over 30 countries including Austria and Korea. Most of the members are expatriate Pakistanis who are fans of Peshawar Zalmi. In addition to being fans, they participate at the Global Zalmi Tournament, which was initiated four years ago by Javed Afridi, the owner of Peshawar Zalmi and CEO, Haier Pakistan. The first two editions were held in Ajman and the third in Pakistan, and we are planning a fourth edition also in Pakistan. No other team has taken such initiatives.
MMA: How do you leverage Zalmi’s fan base in your marketing initiatives?
NE: One area is co-branding. For example, McDonald’s introduced Zalmi Meals in every one of their branches in Pakistan (despite the fact that they only have one branch in Peshawar and nearly 70 in other cities) and TCL were selling Zalmi branded TVs. So we brought the two brands together and created an offer whereby every time someone buys a Zalmi Meal for Rs 300 to 400, they can then enter a draw to win a Rs 60,000 to 70,000 TCL Zalmi TV. This is how you create a sports economy; and that is what we did and as a result managed to stand out.
MMA: Are most of your fans from Peshawar?
NE: The fact that we are from Peshawar ensures that we have a strong Pakhtun fan following that is relatively easy to retain and engage because they are so passionate about our team, so our focus has been on increasing our fan base among the non-Pakhtun community. As a result, whereas you will find Peshawar Zalmi fans in Lahore and Karachi, you will not find a Lahore Qalandars or Karachi Kings fan in Peshawar.
MMA: How have you achieved this?
NE: One way was by concentrating on retail. For example, Zalmi Perfume is available at Asghar Ali stores. We decided to partner with them for two reasons; firstly, they are an international brand and secondly, they have a store in every major mall in Pakistan. We also have an online store and our clothing line is doing very well. We have Zalmi TV (not the TCL branded TV I mentioned earlier) which is an OTT media service where fans can watch exclusive sports content on YouTube. We are working towards opening a café in Peshawar as well – there are already three or four Zalmi Cafés in Dubai and Lahore which were established by our fans. Zalmi Coffee is on the cards. Most of the royalties from these products go towards the Zalmi Foundation.
MMA: What does the Zalmi Foundation do?
NE: Charitable work is very important to Javed Afridi and he is UNHCR’s ambassador in Pakistan. The Foundation works closely with the UN to achieve their SDGs. The Foundation has organised several events aimed at empowering women (such as organising a football tournament for girls in 20 villages near Hunza) as well as promoting interfaith harmony. For example, we conducted an activation with our team to engage the Sikh community at the Kartarpur Corridor a few years ago and we also work with the Christian community. We have worked in other cities in Pakistan, India and South Africa. We have a Zalmi School League and a Madrasa League in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In 2018, we sponsored the Pakistan team at the Hockey World Cup in India.
MMA: The Dawn Media Group is your exclusive media partner. What does this partnership entail?
NE: The Dawn Media Group is our voice. We have worked with DawnNews for the last three years and have a very good working relationship with them. This year, the entire Group is our media partner, and we love the content they create and how they celebrate the partnership with us. We chose them because we need vehicles to communicate with our fans and The Dawn Media Group’s properties help us do just that.
MMA: Are brands getting it right in terms of sports marketing?
NE: A lot more needs to be done other than placing sponsors’ logos on the teams’ uniforms. More activations should be organised to engage fans. For example, there is something called a ‘match day experience’ overseas. Fan zones are established at venues by participating teams and concerts are held to draw in people. Such elements are important because they create priceless experiences for fans and help them connect with the players. All PSL teams, including ours, need to do more on this front.
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