BY DENNIS TIROP
Product and brand endorsements don’t come bigger than Nike. The Oregon based multinational textiles giant which produces footwear, apparels, equipment and accessories has a star studded retinue of brand ambassadors from football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Ronaldinho to golfer Roy Mcllroy, Tennis legends Naomi Osaka and Maria Sharapova just to name a few. Add the living legend, Eliud Kipchoge to that accomplished and exclusive list. The Kenyan marathon power house stands tall among, if not taller than most, of the above mentioned.
Nike is just but one of the many multinationals that depend on Kipchoge to push their brands. Others include Ineos (owned by Britain’s Richest man and which sponsored his successful 1:59:40 challenge), Isuzu, Maurten, NN Group among many others. According to Hookit.com, Eliud Kipchoge isn’t just popular, but great value for money as well. The company places his promotional effectiveness at a whooping 83%. Promotional effectiveness measures the increase in sales in relation to marketing dollars spent.
Clearly, Eliud is a valuable and effective partner to have. So how did he build his brand to such staggering heights? It doesn’t come by default but rather it takes an incredible amount of hard work, discipline, consistency and an able team to fuse all these into a desirable image. It is on record that Eliud Kipchoge does a whooping 40Km daily run, on his off days. That should give us a clear perspective on how much hard work goes into ensuring that his body is in tiptop condition to perform on race days. He also watches what he eats and drinks preferring traditional foods low on fats and artificial additives.
Unlike many of his running Kenyan peers, Kipchoge has never appeared on any tabloids on accusations of infidelity, drunk driving, love triangles, drunk and unruly behavior etc. He’s rarely even seen on the town partying or being obnoxious. This is in no way meant to paint him as perfect, be he avoids trouble when he can. I’m reminded of a former world champion who’d dish out 1,000 shilling notes to anyone who positively identified him in the streets of Eldoret town in Uasin Gishu County, the City of Champions!
Kipchoge spends most of his free time with his wife Grace and three children at their farm in Nandi County. He’s also known to be philosophical and as such you’ll find him reading a lot of books to broaden his knowledge and polish his language skills further. At interviews, the gentleman, unlike many Kenyan athletes, will express himself in impeccable English, fluent Swahili and even deep Nandi. He’s a meticulous planner as well, with stories abound of how he manages his finances by tracking every cost. Internet users were amused when at the end of 2019, Kipchoge posted a bundle of not less than 15 filled up notebooks from the year. Fifteen!!
Eliud is humble to a fault, preferring to let his prowess on the track do his bidding. Remember how he sneaked back into the country without fanfare after achieving what is arguably mankind’s greatest ever feat since the moon landing? He doesn’t cause commotion nor drama. In fact, he outright abhors it! Kipchoge has also invested in the correct professional management teams who handle and carefully nurture his image and professional associations online. He comes across as quite agreeable to a diverse group of online followers. It is no mean feat especially in this age of social media excesses.
All these characteristics have been brewed to produce a perfectly mature brand that is a darling to the media, the corporate world and general public. The consequence of this is the numerous interviews, talks, sponsorship campaigns and multi-million dollar endorsements that he’s achieved. You can bet on both your kidneys that this will continue deep into retirement.
Eliud’s career on and off the field should serve as a good example to Kenyan and by extension Afrikan (yes with a K) sportsmen and women, especially Kenyan athletes, on how to earn from one’s talent. Kenyans have relentlessly dominated the world’s mid and long distance tracks for eons, and it is disappointing to see such a small return in terms of domination off them. The country’s athletics association should take it upon itself to train athletes on sound financial and image management practices so as to ensure that they eke out a living that their incredible talents can and should afford them.