Funke Fasanya, popularly known as Nabila Fash is a woman entrepreneur, a Public Relations strategist, and a social media influencer, whose passion for football has seen her venture into a business which is known to be the terrain of men in Nigeria.
She’s into football branding business and despite the odds, the terrain is now exciting as she has given Nigerian footballers a new lease of life outside the pitch.
“The problem is that in the Nigerian market, a lot of companies focus on the entertainers, musicians, actors and actresses, they are not looking the way of our sportsmen and women, and more importantly, our former players; I mean our legends, after they end their careers, many of them have nothing going on because they failed to do enough branding while they were playing. I used to tell people that football is more than the game on the pitch, what about things happening off the pitch. Off pitch activities are something that can sustain the player when he or she is done with his or her career in football,” says Nabila Fash, who is married to Oritshe Femi, a Nigerian singer-songwriter and performer in an interview.
According to her, some of Nigeria’s legends are unable to keep the same standard of life after football because they can never sustain it.
“Sometimes they need help, a lot of the time, we have heard that one player or the other needs help, then you begin to wonder what they have done with the wealth they earned during their active days. That is why the need to have other income coming in outside whatever they are receiving as wages from the clubs they are playing for.
“If we look at David Beckham, he is a good footballer, but the Brand Beckham is what is bringing the money in. Ronaldo is making so much money from branding even if he decides not to touch his football salary, he won’t even get broke for a day.
“I believe that branding is also part of their career, and that branding is part of their life not just being a footballer on the pitch”.
Despite the fortune inherent in branding, Nabila Fash says some of the players were reluctant to sign up for branding that will give them more wealth.
“It’s crazy because some of the players felt that they did not need branding, for them they feel that I am already popular, everybody already knows me, I don’t need public relations, but I now told them that the only reason a foreign player earns big money than our player is branding. It is not that such a player is better. I must confess, a lot of our players are better than these foreign players, but what separates them and why those players’ transfer fees and weekly wages are on the high side is just branding.
“At the beginning, it was difficult because I needed to convince them of the importance of branding in their careers and what they stood to get in the short and long run from branding. You can see how difficult it is to convince someone who is thinking that you want to make money out of him. But I keep insisting that I am here to add values to their careers,” she emphasizes.
Nabila Fash says she had dreamt about settling down to be branding footballers, but she could not initially face the challenges of working on her own until the period government declared a lockdown due to the spread of Covid-19 in Nigeria.
“I have been on this for over a decade, but I was not fully settled in Nigeria then. I was living abroad doing some PR things, being somebody’s personal assistant, doing website development for people, and some other petty things around branding. Few years ago, I started but being in full employment really hindered my progress. So, it was like side hustle for me, I could not put all my effort on it.
“But last year, I decided to take the bull by the horns because this is my passion, this is what I had wanted to do. So, I set up my own company, of course, I had registered the company over 10 years ago, working with the name but I did not have a physical office.
“So last year, during the Covid-19 lockdown, for me, I do tell people that the pandemic period was a blessing in disguise because while we stopped going to the office and we started working from home, my eyes got open to a lot of things and how best I could handle the vision and more importantly, how I could work for myself instead of working for someone else,” she smiles.
Immediately she started, she was able to secure brand ambassadorial deals for some Nigerian internationals such as former Nigerian captain, Joseph Yobo, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Odion Ighalo, Ogenyi Onazi.
“I just signed deals for Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi and Victor Osihmen. Just recently, I brokered a deal between a brand and Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). Dettol called me that they wanted to have relationship with the Super Eagles, they asked how do we go about? I set out to work on this and now the deal has been signed,” she says.
“What we do here is not just about branding, we don’t just help them to make more money, we also educate them on things that the players can invest their money on. We partner with investment banks, real estate people so that we have different options to present to these players for them to invest their money on. It is not good putting money in the banks or shopping with their money, they need something valuable that will yield returns for them. I am so proud of our players; they understand what investments mean. Players such as Ahmed Musa, Odion Ighalo and others, are doing great when we talk about investments,” she hints.
Though the road is rough with a lot of challenges, Nabila Fash is thankful to God for her husband, Oritshe Femi who gave her the courage to jump fully into the branding business.
“Of course, there were challenges especially when you are trying to convince a brand to use a talent, a footballer for that matter. At times, the brand would say this player is earning so much per week, are you sure we can afford him? This kind of question usually comes up when we are trying to pitch a brand with a player. The players on their own would ask how much this brand will offer me, will it not be peanut? What I always tell them is that for me I don’t talk about money first, I talk values. It is the values the brand is adding to you as a footballer and the values the footballer is adding to a brand that matter for me.
“Another challenge is seeing a woman do this job. I see only me in the whole of Nigeria doing this branding job in our football for now. Talking to players to see branding as part of their career and telling brands to make sportspeople their number one priority. At the family level, you will see how tough it would be for a woman to be doing this, having to be around men all the time to talk business, schedule meetings, and again taking care of the home front. It is not all that easy.,” she concludes.