Photography by Jeremy Glyn for Playmakers Sponsorship & Marketing  in May 2017.
Getting to Know: Seishane Leshaba

The newly-appointed Managing Partner of Playmakers Sponsorship has been promoted from her position as Head of PR & Social Media at the Johannesburg-based agency, and previously held PR-related positions at the likes of Tsogo Sun, Yum! Restaurants, and Mondelez South Africa.

Q: As Managing Partner, what do you regard as your primary focus and areas of responsibility?
A: My primary focus is growing our core sponsorship business and building relationships with existing and potential clients.

Q: How did your previous role as Head of PR & Social Media at Playmakers prepare you for your new role?
A: Looking after an ‘always on’ business like PR and social media has prepared me now more than ever in understanding the importance of effective communication, whether in relation to media, rights-holders or sports fans. I have been fortunate that I have always worked very closely with senior leadership teams that conceptualised and implemented sponsorship briefs. The new role is an extension of what I enjoy doing the most, which is building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, as well as creatively finding ways to solve business needs in challenging environments.

Q: What do you regard as your ‘big break’ in the sports industry?
A: After a couple of years of working and growing in a traditional corporate environment, I think the opportunity to return back into an agency environment was a defining moment in my career. I was a lot more intentional about where exactly I wanted to be from a growth and entrepreneurial aspect. Playmakers has created a platform for me to expand and do both, which I am grateful for.

Q: Do you have a favourite sport and favourite team, and what’s the history behind your support of this team?
A: Locally, I am an Amakhosi fan and have been since I can remember. We grew up as Kaizer Chiefs supporters at home and the club always evokes great memories of watching the game with my dad as a little girl. The Kaizer Chiefs brand has also managed to evolve and remain relevant to all supporters – young and old! Internationally, not a team, but I have the greatest respect for the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal. I love the sport, but love what Nadal has achieved in his career even more – from his entertaining delivery to his respect and dedication for the game of tennis.

Q: You’re one of the few black women with a senior role at a South African sports agency. Do you believe the South African sports agency industry is sufficiently transformed?
A: I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done in this regard. There is an opportunity to start exposing young black girls to more than just playing sport. It’s even more important to invest and expose young black girls to educational programs such as the European Sponsorship Association (ESA) Diploma qualification or internships that touch on the business of sport. Laying the right foundation will ensure generations to come will not be asked the same question.  

Q: How would you summarise the impact COVID-19 has had on Playmakers and the sports industry as a whole?
A: COVID-19 has highlighted how powerful storytelling is for connecting emotionally with fans on and off the field. With a new appreciation for sport during lockdown, the agency has been hard at work, working on existing briefs and finding proactive solutions to tackle our client’s business challenges. Our teams executed great production work for Absa around the former Absa Premiership. Brands hardly have an opportunity to say goodbye to the fans in a positive way and we used the ‘Absa Thank You Series’ to do exactly that. This gave Absa the platform to reflect on and celebrate their 13 years of sponsorship on the biggest football property in the country. A great segway into the new local season after 12 months of  planning, we managed to build what the DStv Premiership sponsorship campaign will look like for the broadcasting giant. With the new season on our doorstep, we look forward to bringing the new sponsorship to life through the Babize Bonke campaign – a call to get everyone together around the beautiful game of football.

Q: Once sport in general is back up and running fully, post-COVID-19, do you anticipate change, in terms of how it is run, consumed, commercialised etc?
A: We have already started seeing the shift. The industry has had to find new ways of commercialising their products, as well as rights-holders have had to find new ways to fulfil contractual elements for brands. A few ‘low hanging’ examples include access to tickets and branding opportunities. With no fans in the stadium, we have seen across multiple sports  the opportunity for brands to use that space as a dynamic virtual branding environment or as interactive methods to still continue to engage with audiences during live games. Fans more than ever want to get even closer to their favourite teams and brands have had to think of innovative ways to dial up these experiences for fans through technology via digital media and broadcast channels.

Q: As a former PR practitioner, what’s your view on content and the role it plays in the commercial operations of a sports organisation?
A: Storytelling remains at the heart of what we do in the sponsorship and PR environment. Fans connect with stories and memories and it’s up to us as sponsorship consultants to continue to leverage sport in a compelling way, whether it’s through short or long format content opportunities. Great content and effective distribution strategies help brands build new and bigger audiences and ultimately deliver on their commercial objectives.

Q: Which sports organisations – either local or international – do you believe are getting it right, in terms of marketing and commercialising their product, and why?
A: ESPN is an example of a sports organisation that has done some incredible work in integrating fans in the game. The organisation has embraced the made-for-TV aspect of the production in a number of ways by adding additional camera angles, audio and incorporating effective elements such as mics and fan noises, which are all driven in real time, giving fans the feeling of  truly being part of the action. Another good example is UFC – the organisation built their own fight island (with all COVID-19 precautions taken), to ensure fans can continue to enjoy the sport they love. The organisation has seen exponential growth in terms of their linear and digital viewership on ESPN since the mixed martial arts promotion’s returned amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some of their incredible stats included four of their events since restart averaged 1.17m viewers on ESPN and ESPN+.

Q: Where would you like to see Playmakers in 10 years’ time?
A: Like most agencies, the pandemic has fast-tracked a lot of digital offerings to adjust to the new normal. Sports and eventing has possibly been one of the most impacted industries in the last few months and it’s only natural that we have all had to review and reflect. As one of the leading agencies in the country, we believe now more than ever that we need to continue to embrace the opportunity to build and grow strategies for the digital and physical world. Our ambition remains to be a leading business in the sporting and lifestyle arena in the country and on the continent, known for world-class sponsorship, media, content and experiential solutions for our clients.

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Related posts