- by Oni "Guarantor" Afolabi
As the media officer of the team, my job was to pass useful information about the team across to Nigerians through the members of the sporting press. But at the Afrobasket championship, my job was just more than going about with a laptop and camera to write stories and capture unforgettable moments. Personally, I never knew I could outshine the Dr. Rafiu Ladipo led Nigeria Football Supporters club.
From game 1 to 8, I forgot my `exalted and revered` position as the media officer of the team as I shouted myself hoarse just to provide a psychological support for the team. If any of my colleagues had seen me running, jumping and shouting all over the gallery, they could have been disappointed and petitioned SWAN and AIPS to revoke my membership. At another point, I became the team`s equipment manager as I had no choice but to carry the team’s cooler from one point to the other. At other times especially during the hostile semifinal encounter with the host Mali and the final against Senegal, I became a bodyguard just to ensure the smooth passage of the girls around the match venue.
Despite a prior engagement with the former Nigeria Rugby Football Federation, being with women this time around was a different ball game. Their modus operandi was totally different from what I was used to dealing with men. This story will be reserved for another day.
With the determination to focus more on the players, send daily reports back home, take photographs, interview players amongst other jobs of the media department, I had no choice but to make friends with all the players. This was difficult for me as I was one who liked to maintain his space but I had to do what was needed to do get the job done.
The role of the media officer who wanted to make a statement with my job and operating amongst ladies who were always on my neck requesting for their photographs never came on a platter of gold. But at the end of the day, I felt fulfilled after the Afrobasket victory despite not appearing in many pictures. I felt satisfied when my colleagues back in Nigeria were full of praises for the job I did with the daily posts of interviews, audio clips, press releases and pictures before or after each game. Some basketball stakeholders have since been walking up to me to say “Well done” following the media frenzy created during the camping exercise and competition proper.
The media campaign started with the foreign-based players coming down to Nigeria for the final 2-week camping and the awareness created by the media team which I lead, many people turned up daily to watch the girls train, with many developing a special affinity for the team. Fans easily identified the players during their interaction at training and it was easy for many of them to stay glued to their TV and monitor the games online through various social media platforms as put in place by the NBBF media department, organizers of the event and other media outlets. The fans followed their team from Mali to Lagos and Abuja as team supporters turned up at the airport in their numbers to welcome their true and deserving champions.
Now, it’s easier to market the D’Tigress to many brands because of the improved visibility. It is a whole lot easier to check online and get information, pictures, videos, and other useful information about the team than before. No wonder, when the Ministry of sports appointed me as the representative of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria on the NBBF board, they were so excited because of what I showed them I could do.
The mission is to ensure basketball stories are in the news at least 4 times in a week and become a brand that will compete with football for investors’ attention. It’s true that any would be investor would always want the media mileage that will be commensurate with their investment, and that is what the media department of the NBBF will be delivering in the next 4 years.