As the International Associations of Athletics Federation World Cross-country event that was held over the weekend unfolded, there was so much noise about what could have been done to promote it even better than we did. The event falls under the sports tourism section that Uganda neglects when it comes to promoting what the country offers.
An event of such heavy magnitude brings so many nations in one country with some of the biggest media houses camping in the city to get ready for the final day. Away from covering the city with Ugandan flags like we do during independence week, what more could have been done?
Maybe most people do not understand how PR is for events and marketing, but without it most campaigns are not relatable to the masses. Well planned PR strategies give a human face to whatever you try to market. Sheilah Nduhukire, a journalist with NTV Uganda, remarked on Saturday how it is important to not assume the media is an extension of your PR department. If you do not make effort to reach out and give them a storyline, how are they going to help you create a big cloud of publicity? You do not put up banners, billboards and street pole advertising for a big event just days to the d-day.
Journalists are there to carry 10% of your marketing but you are supposed to do the heavy lifting. The PR plans and how to execute them should be something worked on for months before the campaign kick-starts. Do not expect journalists to be there ready to take whatever you throw at them, they have many companies and issues in the country to cover.
The whispers and meeting about the IAAF event started at around December 2016, although the actual planning started in January 2017. Yet, it didn't look as well planned. According to someone involved in the planning, the event was a battle of wills of who of the major bodies is above the other when it comes to execution. With cards held close to their own offices, how do you expect to jointly use a huge event to promote the country when everyone wants to take individual credit.
When you looked at the track where the athletes were running from, all you saw were placards of the Ministry of Education And Sports, Tourism Uganda to mention but a few. Everyone knows that sports fall under the Ministry of education and sports so why not put up well branded pictures of what the sector has done to promote sports in the country? Happy children running track in a stadium or maybe the cranes playing ball? Something that speaks work and the brand the ministry is supposed to advertise. Instead of Ugandan Tourism banners, why not throw in beautiful pictures of the scenery. The commentator subtly promoted Uganda more than most Ugandans did at the event. This is evident in most of the international events that Uganda hosts, we have not become creative with branding yet we have so much to play with.
We usually use these huge events to promote our vast cultures with the Ndere Troupe always ready to show some Kiganda/ Kigisu or Kikiga dance for the guests; but why not go even further by promoting the other artistry? The ushers could have been dressed in something sporty made by one of our designers in the country. If you had looked closely you could have noticed the beautiful ladies handing over medals to the guests were dressed in gorgeous heels. Why weren't those ladies wearing some of those well made heels with Ugandan fabrics on them? Some of these small things people pick up on when looking at the TV when the event is dragging.
Yes we are very good at showing people around our country but we need to do a well planned tour for the visitors. When most people travel to new countries, some of the first things they want to try out is the local cuisine. Yet, the athletes were being sent fast food restaurants when the local food ones were just in close proximity.
If the athletes can't make it to the countryside to see the animals plus the lush greenery of the hills. Bring it to them, all those beautiful visuals of the country would have worked well around the track.
How can a country that has such a rich history neglect cataloguing and taking care of it. The Uganda museum is now a place you don't want to sit in for longer than 20 minutes. Most of the beautiful relics are dusty and left to rot while the toilets leave you wishing you didn't drink all that water. We can do better than just blankets and wine at the Uganda Museum. It should be part of our most valued sites in the country, it should be respected and protected.
That being said, congratulations to Jacob Kiplimo for that Gold win. You made history.