Chelsea’s Victor Moses fronts Opera’s $100m African expansion

Chelsea’s Nigerian midfielder Victor Moses (L) vies with West Bromwich Albion’s English defender Kane Wilson during the English Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, west Midlands on May 12, 2017. Anthony Devlin / AFP

Football is big money. Big brands love winners. And winners get the attention of corporations. Victor Moses won the English Premier League with Chelsea last week. A week after, Norwegian software company Opera Software unveiled him as the brand ambassador of their popular Opera Mini web browser as they launch a push to regain the lead in the African mobile web browser market.

Moses will be appearing in a series of television campaigns as well as on digital and social media channels. Opera Mini also plan local events in Nigeria. Both the company and the representatives of the player declined to declare the cost of the partnership.

A sponsorship fit. Moses lost his place after spending a season at Chelsea in 2013 and struggled in the loan market wilderness before returning to the pinnacle and playing a key role in Chelsea’s sweep of the title this season. Opera Mini has seen a challenge to its market dominance. What used to be the go-to browser for many Africans who struggled with high broadband costs and low bandwidth speed, the Opera Mini has been overtaken by the more advanced Google Chrome over the last 12 months, according to figures from Stat Counter.

Even though Opera announced in 2016 that it had reached 100 million users in Africa, its market share has actually shrunk as our continent continues to install faster broadband and more Africans are able to afford sleeker smartphones. Stat Counter put the African mobile browser market share in April 2017 as follows: Chrome 35.32%, Opera 30.44 %, UC Browser 12.85%, Android 6.67%, Samsung Internet 5.81% and Safari 4.9%.

In big markets like Kenya and Nigeria, Opera still holds a big lead of between 57.17% and 62.3% over nearest rival Chrome, which has 15.93% and 16.49% respectively. But it is in other markets with large populations like Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire, where they are struggling.
Can Victor Moses, powered by the Chelsea hysteria, help them find a new base of users? Opera is banking on the continent’s mad love for football to push its drive. It will be investing US$100 million (over 31billion Naira) over the next two years as part of its African expansion with new offices planned for Lagos and Nairobi, as announced last week.

A 2014 Nielsen report put Nigeria as the most engaged football market in the world with 83 per cent of the population interested in the sport (even though actual spending pales in significance). As Opera Mini’s largest global market, football is one of the most important ways to reach that key demographic.
Jorgen Arnesen, Opera’s Global Head of Marketing and Distribution, told me in an email this week: “Our objective is to provide unique and engaging news and videos when the user starts our browser. We know that Opera Mini users are in love with visiting sports sites, especially users in Nigeria. Every fourth user checks out live scores and sports news every day when browsing on their phones. Among all the popular sports, football is the most popular in Nigeria. That’s why we particular(ly) are looking into this category.

“Having Victor Moses as Opera Mini ambassador represents a new shift of our product features. Opera Mini browser is not just about providing the fastest browsing experience and saving data with our compression technology. It’s also about providing unique and engaging content. We are looking into developing a novel football experience inside Opera Mini browser, where people can get more personalised, relevant content on their devices without extra efforts to set it up,” Arnesen said.

Moses has shown a knack for attracting top brands. Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, football website Goal.com named him as the top marketed Nigerian player pulling in global campaigns like the Samsung Galaxy 11 where he starred alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He also headlined telecommunications company Glo as well as soft drinks giant, Pepsi’s Nigerian campaigns. He is also endorsed by sportswear giant Nike.
He is the most popular Nigerian footballer on social media with 1.33million followers on Facebook and 806, 354 followers on Twitter. Only a handful of superstar African footballers has more pull.

Moses signed a contract extension with Chelsea in March that would keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2021 unless he gets whisked off to a bigger team, a possibility due to his form in recent days that has attracted speculations from as far as Barcelona. His new weekly pay is estimated to be 75,000 British pounds (more than 30million Naira).

With the Nigerian national team, Moses has an opportunity to grow into a winning leader on the pitch after failure to qualify for the last two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. He helped to tear apart Algeria in Uyo last November. Next month they start their campaign for the 2019 AFCON against South Africa before back-to-back 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Cameroon in August.

Moses needs to be at his best if Nigeria is to reach these tournaments. Another World Cup showing will help his bottom line and put him in line for more lucrative endorsements. And just maybe Opera Mini would also return to the top of the African mobile web browser market.



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