By Dono White, Strategic Planning Director at VMLY&R South Africa
The Springboks’ Rugby World Cup loss to Ireland in the pool stages felt worse than a break-up. I went to bed that night and dreamt in a loop, playing that Libbok kick over, and oover and oooover again. The next day I kept refreshing the RWC app to check if I was living in a nightmare. Even worse was opening social media to see the world calling “SAFFAs” arrogant supporters made me even more depressed.
Why was I hurting so much? What drives our love for the Boks? I turned to BAV (Brand Asset Valuator), WPP’s brand equity measurement tool to find answers.
What makes BAV unique is, firstly, that it’s a brand measurement methodology built by VMLY&R, MIT and Sloan Universities. Secondly it views a brand as being broader than commercial entities and includes countries, sports teams, tournaments, politicians, and celebrities as brands. Thirdly, BAV’s insights are completely localised to a specific country, recognising that, for example, a South African’s view of a brand will be different to that of New Zealanders, Americans or French. The 2022/23 study measured 1001 brands in SA among 12 500 South Africans, representative at the provincial, racial, gender and language level.
Springbok Rugby stronger than Brand South Africa
The 2023/24 BAV Best countries report saw South Africa as a nation brand slip from being the 42nd best country to 46th. Our biggest declines came due to a decline in South African quality of life, power on the global stage, social purpose and agility. Interestingly, our biggest growth came in the areas of Cultural Influence, Movers and Shakers, and Athletic Talent.
It all comes down to brand esteem – and this is what sets the Springboks apart from not only our nation brand, but also its state-owned enterprises (SABC, Post Office, South African Airways, Denel and Putco) in delivering consistent and reliable quality. Sasol was the only SOE on par with the Boks here. In a country where we are constantly let down, brand Springbok has become the symbol for hope since 1995. We can deal with loadshedding of electricity, but we can’t deal with Bok-shedding on top of that.
Springbok Rugby stronger than Bafana Bafana and Proteas brands
Likewise, in the category of sport, the Springboks are seen as natural leaders and stand out ahead of all other sports events and teams across rugby, soccer, and cricket. While the Boks are perceived to be “bold”, “established” and “dependable”, South Africans are indifferent to Bafana Bafana and find the Proteas rather fatigued.
Our national soccer brand is seen as “distant”, “low quality”, “not bold” and “not inventive”. Ouch. Ahead of the Cricket World Cup, our cricket guys are seen as “established”, yet “not dependable”. South Africans feel their sports brand of choice – the Springboks – displays a perfect balance of “Innovation”, “Intellect” and “Playfulness”, which not only drives resonance but also “our preferred brand” status.
Siya Kolisi: A Stronger Brand Than Politicians
Using Brand Asset Valuator’s brand match functionality, Siya Kolisi and the Springboks have an 88% personality match, sharing not only the values of intellect, playfulness, and innovation, but also being bold and spirited.
When Kolisi’s brand equity scores were plotted against the EFF’s Julius Malema and President Cyril Ramaphosa, Kolisi was an outright winner. Should Kolisi pivot into a political career, BAV insights say he would win the elections, with South Africans citing his “leadership”, “visionary”, “dynamic”, “progressive”, “innovative”, “reliable”, “friendly” and “down to earth” brand qualities. By contrast, our current politicians were cited as “fatigued” and, surprise, surprise, “arrogant”.
More than a game
As things slip for South Africa across the board, the Springboks are our country’s most reliable brand, and Siya Kolisi displays the leadership qualities we yearn to see in the people in charge of our nation.
So, when the international rugby community calls “SAFFA” fans arrogant, they need to remember that while they have electricity, post, and public transport, the Springboks are all we have left. And that’s why we will defend them in scrums, stands and online forums.
The latest South African BAV Data for 2023/24 is due out at the end of the Rugby World Cup, so stay tuned.
This article first appeared in Financial Mail.