By: ELIAS MAKORI
With Kenyan athletes dominating the global races, it’s hardly surprising that many banks and financial institutions are battling to snap up athletes’ accounts.
The lenders’ move is aimed at shoring up their customer base while benefiting from the foreign exchange the runners rake in.
The banks have initiated several sponsorship and programmes to attract the athletes, who mainly come from the North Rift.
The lenders sponsor road races, cross country championships and track meets as well as social gatherings and talent development programmes especially in Eldoret, Kapsabet and Iten, the hotbed of the world’s top distance runners.
Earlier this month, Family Bank, for the ninth year, sponsored an annual half marathon race on the streets of Eldoret with a budget of Sh10 million. The event mainly attracts upcoming athletes.
The bank’s founder, Mr Titus Muya is a regular competitor in the veterans’ category of the annual 21-kilometre race. The bank’s chairman Mr Wilfred Kiboro ran in last year’s edition.
“Our interest is in developing and nurturing talent and supporting a sport that has a huge following and passion so that we connect with our customers,” says Mr Peter Munyiri, Family Bank managing director.
The bank’s Sh10 million sponsorship this year is double the 2014 amount.
The elite athletes are also entrepreneurs and philanthropists in the North Rift.
At its Iten branch, which is near completion, Equity Bank plans to set up an “athletes’ banking hall” where champions will have tailor-made services.
“We are in agreement with the Elgeyo Marakwet County Government that athletes are making a huge contribution to the economy of the county,” says Mr Albert Kipkoech, Equity Bank’s Iten branch manager.
“Devolution has played a big role in boosting local investments and our focus is on encouraging these athletes to invest locally in real estate and other commercial investments,” Mr Kipkoech adds.
Kenya Commercial Bank has also been a regular sponsor of track and cross country competitions in the North Rift.
The ABC Ban invests over Sh10 million annually to sponsor the Baringo Half Marathon race organised by former world marathon record holder Paul Tergat in Kabarnet.
“We have made a deliberate decision to keep growing our investments across sports disciplines and mainly rugby, football, athletics, motorsports, chess, volleyball and golf. We believe business is not only about profits but also touching the lives of all the people we come into contact with, in this case athletes” says Mrs Judith Sidi Odhiambo, KCB head of corporate and regulatory affairs.
“Other than giving them an opportunity to compete, we also offer them sound financial advice to ensure that they invest well for their future.”
The Bank of Africa has been organising viewing parties for the World Marathon Majors races in Kapsabet, Eldoret in Iten. The athletes gather to watch the races and receive banking and investment advice from the bank.
During the viewing, known as “World Marathon Majors Viewerthons” for the Berlin and Chicago marathons in Kapsabet and Eldoret alone, the bank opened about 45 new accounts for athletes.
Bank of Africa has ‘Mwanariadha account’ dedicated to athletes.
“The North Rift is majorly the source, home and city of the champions that run marathons. It was a natural choice because there is no greater gift for the locals than watching fellow athletes, friends, family, sons and daughters cross that finish line,” says Ms Josephine Njuguna, Bank of Africa’s Product Development and Marketing Manager.
The Bank of Africa, he said, has been a title sponsor of the Bamako International Marathon from 2011 to 2014 and has been taking athletes from Kenya to the annual race.
BIG CITY MARATHONS
Uasin Gishu County Government trade executive Mr Philip Melly said Uasin Gishu County is an economic hub that gives the athletes a good return on investment.
“But while targeting athletes, the banks should not only think about offering them loans, but rather look at how to engage them in long-term partnerships,” Ms Njuguna said.
In the last one month alone, Kenyan athletes have won over 90 per cent of the big city marathons, including the most prestigious Berlin, Chicago, Amsterdam and Toronto races.
Last month, Eliud Kipchoge won the Berlin Marathon, taking the winners’ $45,152 (Sh45.5 million) prize money with compatriot Gladys Cherono clinching the women’s title.
Kipchoge is on course for the $500,000 (Sh50 million) World Marathon Majors Series jackpot awarded to the male and female athletes who top the six-race series which comprises Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York marathons.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION