By Temigunga Mahondo
Upland FM is a small community radio station (CRS) located in Njombe, some 700 kilometers southwest of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Like most other stations in the country, its expectation was that advertisers would be lining up at their gate with cash. But this has not happened, save for the odd spot shared occasionally.
The owners’ dream is to expand the station’s transmission and the local customer base. The challenge has been how to make this happen in an environment where economic activity is limited.
After returning from an Internews organized Media Owners Forum in Dar es Salaam in September 2019, Humphrey Millinga, the station’s director set out to try one of the novel marketing ideas he had picked up in the discussions. He decided to start a soccer competition, hoping it would attract sponsors and advertisers.
“At first, we were worried that the idea would fail, for lack of local business support; but we decided to try it anyway, consoling ourselves that after all, we had nothing to lose. We introduced Upland Super Cup soccer competition and to our surprise, the results in terms of local sponsorship were positive,” said Millinga.
He said the success of the competition in generating income for the station, has encouraged him to try more local solutions, saying many radio stations including Upland, fail financially because they look for big advertisers, which are not easy to get. He said the forum has opened his eyes and hopefully those of his colleagues to the available opportunities.
“The soccer competition not only has drawn our audience closer but is also a source of income through local sponsors,” said James Swale the managing director. “I can proudly say this is a baby of the forum held in Dar es salaam.”
Upland FM plans to launch several media campaigns this year focused on youth education, financial and medical help for poor families, local sports and music.
Wisdom Anderson, the station manager, said despite organizing the event on a short notice, they got seven big local sponsors and a few small advertisers who paid the radio station handsomely.
“The income generated enabled us to pay salaries on time and take care of other office expenses.”
He said some of the advertisers are attracted by the number of people attending their activities, and think it is the best way to interact with their consumers. “We charge them for their posters on the location and sponsorship adverts on radio,” said Anderson.
Philemon Samson is the head of the digital platform. His job is to make sure the local advert digital content in the station is designed and widely shared on social media platforms. Despite the challenge of some local advertisers not believing in this form of advertising, he thinks they will join in when they see digital advertising gaining ground.
Internews’ work in Tanzania is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).