AIM grad is cricket captain of a different kind

17 February 2003
SUNDAY, February 9, could not have come soon enough for UCT Graduate School of Business AIM graduate, Nomsa Chabeli, the marketing director of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

While the rest of South Africa basks in cricket fever akin to the glorious days of the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the 29 year old Chabeli anxiously awaited her judgement — a judgement passed not only by the watchful eye of a nation, but that of the entire world.

“The world will judge us after March 24, the day after the finals. It is only then that we will see how successful the 2003 Cricket World Cup really was,” said Chabeli of her 14-month long task of developing the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup into a marketable and recognisable brand. The competition got underway in Cape Town after an opening ceremony staged at Newlands on February 8.

“The biggest challenge was to develop this brand from scratch. Although daunting at times, it was really exciting to take a strategic direction in our campaign and develop an event marketing plan which took into consideration all the stakeholders' interest, both on the corporate and political side,” Chabeli commented. She has a team of about 15 reporting to her and heads up a group of six advertising agencies.

“We had to realise that this World Cup not only needed a straightforward marketing campaign, but one that incorporated the politics around sport in this country,” she observed.

“Sport is political, our history of sport sanctions serves as evidence of this. Even more so, the present situation in Zimbabwe is another example of how our marketing plan, although aimed at meeting its commercial imperatives, is one influenced by the external factors at play in our environment.”

Chabeli added that the marketing campaign for the Cricket World Cup also had to take into account longer term goals. “We are marketing South Africa as a destination of choice for world-scale events. The objective is not only to increase tourism in our country, but it is also to solidify the 2010 Football World Cup bid.”

She continued: “We are telling FIFA and international investors that not only do we have the infrastructure and capabilities of hosting an event of this scale, we also have the backing of the government and legislation in protecting sponsors' rights, which comes as a major plus.”

Chabeli joined the ICC after two years as the marketing director of Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS). This experience helped to give her the necessary insight into the political and commercial dimensions of an event such as the Cricket World Cup. Chabeli added that the AIM programme had also given her a “well-rounded knowledge of the business environment”.

On graduating from AIM in 1998, Chabeli received three awards from the GSB: the Best Bursary Research Report award, a merit award and an award for academic excellence. She also graduated in the top three percent of her class.

For future academic challenges, she is contemplating an MBA at the GSB next year. Chabeli feels the expertise gained from her studies makes her job at the ICC “just that bit easier”, even though there are days when she feels “absolutely crazy for accepting this job”.

“But perhaps if the Proteas win the tournament it will all be worth it. We are crossing our fingers and are 110 % behind them. Maybe this year it will be different and for the first time a host nation will bring home the cup,” she quipped.

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