Brand and Stakeholder Relations

12 December 2023 Read time >10 min.
Brand and Stakeholder Relations team: (back row) Aniqah Deers, Colleen Jeftha, Aalieyah Rejaldien, (front row) Aloy Gowne, Bheki Boneni, Nina Taaibosch, Justin Marthinus, Jolene Steenkamp and Khanyisa Lubambo. <b>Photo</b> Lerato Maduna
Brand and Stakeholder Relations team: (back row) Aniqah Deers, Colleen Jeftha, Aalieyah Rejaldien, (front row) Aloy Gowne, Bheki Boneni, Nina Taaibosch, Justin Marthinus, Jolene Steenkamp and Khanyisa Lubambo. Photo Lerato Maduna

The Brand and Stakeholder Relations (BSR) unit is responsible for conceptualising, developing and implementing an integrated plan that engages with the University of Cape Town (UCT) stakeholders to ensure that they are aware of UCT’s initiatives and priorities. In June 2022, the national Department of Health, through minister Dr Joe Phaahla, repealed the national state of disaster, and COVID-19 lockdown regulations ended. The team navigated a steady transition to hybrid and in-person events, as COVID-19 was managed better. The latter part of the year saw only a few of our planned projects being either put on hold, cancelled, or postponed at the former vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng's request due to her sabbatical leave. For the remainder of 2022, we ensured that the stakeholder relations programme and institutional events continued to be effectively executed while upholding the Communication and Marketing Department’s (CMD) mandate of promoting, supporting, and protecting UCT’s vision and reputation.

Completed projects in 2022

In 2022, BSR executed a total of 69 projects (54 events; 4 brand projects; 8 UCT Concept Store projects; 3 Ad hoc projects). The team has also increasingly acted in an advisory capacity to other departments within the university regarding the brand of the university.

Key highlights

VC’s Staff Birthday and New Staff Welcome lunches

The VC’s Staff Birthday lunches were managed by the Conference Management Centre in 2022, with CMD overseeing execution. Five out of 12 lunches were completed for the year. In some cases, there was a doubling up of months celebrated. The remainder of the lunches were cancelled due to the VC’s sabbatical leave. The VC also hosts New Staff Welcome lunches twice a year at Glenara. A total of 52 staff were welcomed by the VC in 2022.

Africa Month event in collaboration with International Jazz Day South Africa: “Language and music as agents of liberation and continental integration”

A key highlight for the year was the UCT Africa Month celebrations, a project CMD collaborates on with the Development and Alumni Department (DAD) and the Faculty of Humanities. This year the concept comprised a beautiful celebration of music and language. The first of two-panel discussions focused on the role of Kiswahili and introduced UCT’s plans to introduce Kiswahili in the Faculty of Humanities’ School of Languages and Literatures in partnership with the Institute for Kiswahili Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam. Professor Aldin Mutembei, the Julius Nyerere Chair of Kiswahili Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam, was among the panelists at this Afrika Day event.

The panel discussion on music was arranged around the theme: “Jazz’s contribution to the struggles for liberation on the Continent: celebrating Miriam Makeba’s legacy”. Makeba’s work demonstrated that it was both possible and worthwhile to harness music’s potential as a medium for unification.

Vice-Chancellor’s Open Lecture Series

The team completed two Vice-Chancellor’s Open lectures in 2022. The third lecture was postponed.

The VC hosted Fred Swaniker, the founder and CEO of the African Leadership Group, in April. He spoke on “The impact of the African youth on the 4th Industrial Revolution”. Vikas Pota presented his talk on “Great change needs great changemakers” in July. Both lectures were hosted virtually and garnered a combined total of 576 views.

UCT Retirees Dinner

In 2022 the annual UCT Retirees dinner was held in-person after two years of virtual recognition due to the pandemic. The then Chair of Council, Babalwa Ngonyama, along with the VC, welcomed 100 guests to celebrate and thank them for their outstanding service to the university.

UCT Staff Annual Awards

The UCT Staff Annual Awards were held in-person – the first physical event in two years. The CMD team put together an unforgettable programme that was enjoyed by all. The event was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in November and catered for 500 guests. Staff were celebrated and honoured while being entertained by UCT’s Little Big Band. Awardees were recognised in the following categories: Long Service, Distinguished Teacher, Alan Pifer, Ad Hominem Promotions and VC’s Excellence Awards.

CMD Professional Awards Programmes

Continuing professional development and benchmarking our outputs in the communications and marketing sectors both locally and internationally assists us to develop and maintain our brand reputation and to strategically position our work among industry peers. The opportunity to compare our work to that of other South African higher education institutions as well as corporate organisations allows us to reflect, improve and innovate while staying ahead of the curve. In 2022, UCT’s CMD received a total of 13 Marketing, Advancement and Communication in Education (MACE) Excellence Awards. The CMD newsroom and video production, brand and stakeholder relations, and media and social media units were honoured in various categories. They reeled in seven Bronze Excellence Awards, five Silver Excellence Awards and one Gold Excellence Award.

BSR hosted several institutional events, including the VC’s staff birthday and new staff welcome lunches, the retirees dinner and staff awards. Photos Lerato Maduna, Je’nine May and Robin Thuynsma.

UCT Concept Store

BSR is responsible for managing the UCT Official Merchandise Concept Store. In 2022 the e-commerce partnership with Takealot was extended. This partnership offered the expansion of retail goods to a larger stakeholder audience and served as a practical opportunity to maintain brand positioning in the market. The store was supported by digital and social media promotions aligned to major activities that took place across campus. Pop-up shops were also established during 2022, being set up at high-traffic events. Three activations were set up throughout the year.

With the campus opening to staff and students early on in 2022, the retail partnership with Protea Store was re-established. This provided a good opportunity to reintroduce the brand to the internal audience (students and staff) after the almost two-year lull due to COVID-19. The response was extremely positive, resulting in a sales value of over R800 000. It was therefore extremely disappointing that in December 2022, we received notice that the company was undergoing business rescue, and the established partnership was therefore ceased, coming to an official close on 5 January 2023. The team is currently reviewing revised sales processes.

Toward the end of the year, the team embarked on an Expression of Interest (EOI) project with intentions of outsourcing the larger project to an existing UCT supplier. Three suppliers were asked to submit proposals of which two were deemed fit to progress to the next stage. Recommendations for implementation will be passed on to UCT finance’s commercial unit.

The range has expanded to include generic merchandise items as well as a gifting range based on research and feedback by stakeholders. The range expanded to cater not only to the primary audience ie, staff, students, and alumni but also the secondary audience ie, prospective students and fee payers.

UCT Vision 2030

UCT’s Vision 2030 strategy was approved in 2020. In 2021, BSR developed its virtual interpretation of the new ten-year strategy in the form of an African decal. In 2022 campaign implementation continued with the roll out of merchandise to staff and other defined stakeholders.

CMD partnered with the sustainability unit on the Khusela Ikamva project to distribute custom and tailored Vision 2030 t-shirts to staff in support of a call for UCT sustainability across the board. The back story include production via BEE, previously disadvantaged women-owned micro businesses and the financial stability that it brought to these SMME’s was promoted via the campaign. A total of 4 566 t-shirts were delivered to staff during the campaign period.

Brand Management

In 2022, the brand unit consulted on 51 requests for UCT brand compliance, creative and/or logo lock-up design requests. Noteworthy brand compliance is to be given to UCT Libraries, UCT Graduate School of Business, UCT Careers, d-school, DAD, UCT Amathuba, and UCT Faculty of Health Sciences units who have all received approval on their revised UCT logo lock-up designs. Having the UCT Brand, Style and Corporate Identity (CI) guides signed off officially by UCT Council will allow for larger brand governance compliance, specifically when it comes to third party and other long-term external partnerships. The lack of long-term, centralised due diligence and protection of the brand from a legal perspective remains an ongoing risk to UCT. Long-term university sustainability necessitates that brand currency, positioning, consistency, and compliance be viewed alongside that of financial, environmental, and social sustainability.


Between 2018 and 2022 the brand unit strategised, managed and implemented a series of major UCT campaigns ie, UCT Waterwise campaign (2018–2019), UCT COVID-19 (2020–2022), UCT Vision 2030 (2020–current) and the ongoing UCT brand campaign. Often these projects require a large resource injection to be impactful but are often under-resourced for maximum impact.

In addition to managing these campaigns, BSR also serves as a consultative body to UCT departments on other long-term projects. Examples of this include the Amathuba project (Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching), the UCT Chatbot web IM service (Centre for Higher Education Development), VC e-Birthday greetings (ICTS), UCT Gender-Based Violence (Office for Inclusivity and Change), UCT Recycling Initiative (Sustainability, Human Resources), Employee Value Proposition (HR), Admissions recruitment (Admissions Dept), Khusela Ikamva etc.

Key challenges

  • A major challenge was managing the UCT Concept Store from a resources perspective. The team has done phenomenally well, managing to successfully implement three of four planned phases in realising the UCT Concept Store in its futuristic format between 2020 and 2024; this despite COVID-19 and the financial and human resource limitations. It is, unfortunately, unable to expand the business model and reach even higher financial sustainability given existing capacity constraints. It requires significant resource backing and partnership to proceed at a sustainable level going forward – particularly now that its retail distribution arm has been forced to a close due to the business rescue process with Protea Store. While the e-commerce arm does a brilliant job from a brand perspective, it is not financially sustainable in the long-term and requires fast-tracked commercialisation support to continue to be sustainable. The loss of the retail arm that also supported with other functions across the brand unit has resulted in a forced insource of this work to an already stretched, small three-person team.
  • The team concluded its recruitment of two new staff members in the third quarter. They have settled in well and have been positively impactful. We have, however, lost a specialist member in the brand unit. New HR policies have made the recruitment process lengthier than anticipated and so we entered the new year, still not at full capacity for intended outputs.
  • Ad hoc projects continue to be a problem, stretching the team and the already reduced budget beyond capacity.

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