Q5: Bhekani Bright Ndebele on making space for women’s sport [interview]
Q5: First, tell us your story: what drew you to the world of sport, and women’s sport in particular?
Bhekani Bright Ndebele: It’s quite interesting how everything came together. Growing up, I dreamed of becoming a football coach or sports physiologist. In matric, when my parents asked me what I wanted to study, I said sports science — and they said I should choose something else. I ended up studying BIS Information Science at the University of Pretoria, and it changed my perspective about the digital information world.
In 2017, I started blogging about sport — [mainly] women’s sport, because I wanted to be known for my knowledge in a specific niche. People on Twitter started liking what I was writing about. But blogging was just a hobby at the time. A few months [into it], I approached a friend (Thabo Sengwayo, now the strategic director at Sports Mvt), to design a logo for what I then called Sports Movement. He said that he saw great potential in what I was doing, especially the focus on women’s sport, and that he would help me realise its potential if I made him an equal partner in the business. I agreed, and Sports Mvt was born.
Q5: You’re passionate about coverage of women’s sport. How would you score the current state of affairs in South Africa? In which areas should we be looking to improve?
BBN: What I can say is that there is potential for women’s sport in South Africa to be at its peak. Judging from our work, it seems to be [well received] by the general public and, if everything [was] well executed by the sport federations, it [could] grow exponentially, because women’s sport is inspiring.
We should be looking at improving digital presence, social media presence, information accessibility and the execution of digital projects related to women’s sport, while sponsorship should come as a cherry on top of the ongoing work that has been produced.
Despite having to dig deeper into yearly budgets, the lockdown has brought about innovative ideas, such as the rise of virtual participation, to increase the ROI for sports sponsorship. An example of this is the recent launch of the SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge. Participants from in and around South Africa can participate in the virtual challenge set to take place on 26 September. This is a replacement for the [regular] SPAR Women’s Challenge due to the covid-19 pandemic. It will give passionate runners a platform to come together, while SPAR Grand Prix maximises their social media usage and strengthens their digital presence.
Q5: Tell us more about Sport Mvt: what is the scope of your work, and where do you want it to go?
BBN: Sports Mvt aims to address the critical barriers that have restricted the exposure of sportswomen in South Africa. These barriers, such as socio-cultural and economic ideologies, have given people the perception that sport is a masculine activity. Myths, such as “sport is a potential impairment to female fertility”, is a psychological barrier for many women, and neglects the fact that physical activity in itself has plenty of benefits.
Other than changing legislation within the sports landscape to address these barriers, we believe that, in this digital age, the creation of engaging content and a strong brand presence will enable sportswomen, or women in sports as a whole, to get more exposure, and encourage more women to participate in sport. Although this is a global issue, we have seen ways in which we, with the help of South African sport federations and other sporting organisations, can bring about change.
Our work is digitally focused. The services provided to clients range from content creation to social media strategy and personal brand development for athletes (including male athletes), and advisory services. The vision? We see ourselves [becoming] a multi-award-winning digital sports media and entertainment agency. The awards we aim for are The Loeries, Cannes Lions and Sport Industry Awards. But, more importantly, we want to play a huge role in the digital development of South African sports and athletes alike.
Q5: What have one-to-two highlights been to date for Sport Mvt?
BBN: Our top two highlights are:
- Working with the amazing Moonira Ramathula (vice president of the Gauteng Sport Confederation and Futballing Girls founder) for two successive years (2018 and 2019) in the execution of the Ekurhuleni Women in Sports Awards, as a social media partner.
- The growth of our social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, which focuses exclusively on the coverage of women in sport, as well as the positive feedback we receive for our Woman in the Spotlight feature. This is where we look at women who are excelling in the sport industry, from physios to marketing and sponsorship managers, as well as agency owners, just to name a few.
Q5: You mentioned that one of your focus areas is personal brands for athletes. What are the two most-important things to keep in mind when building a personal brand for a sports person? How can these be applied for people looking to build their own brand outside of the sport scene?
Identity and consistency of your messaging or tone are the most-important things to keep in mind. These [should] be applied in [such] a way that you are able to sound genuine, tell a story, create a positive image of yourself and let other people [share] your story.
Regarding a sportsperson specifically, one needs to understand the sheer amount of financial, professional and personal gains they can attain due to how sports and other industries, such as marketing and advertising, have integrated to give athletes opportunities to better themselves on and off the pitch.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with over a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diverse fields.