InterviewsMTN

Interview with Somdev Sen, on MTN Kampala Marathon Relevance to Ugandans

MTN Kampala Marathon has evolved into the biggest sporting event in the country —raising over UGX3.5 billion from sponsors and participants (runners) to complement government efforts in pertinent sectors.

MTN Uganda has for the last sixteen years organized the MTN Kampala Marathon which has evolved into the biggest sporting event in the country —raising over UGX3.5 billion from sponsors and participants (runners) to complement government efforts in pertinent sectors such as health, education and ICT.

This year the Marathon won’t be held due to the Covid-19 Pandemic where Social Distancing is highly required as one of the required SOPs. However, with that aside, to learn more about the MTN Kampala Marathon on how the proceeds are raised, distributed and why the event won’t happen this year, we spoke to Mr. SOMDEV SEN, MTN Uganda Chief Marketing Officer.

What is the motive of the MTN Kampala Marathon?

As a corporate citizen, we believe that part of our responsibility is to improve the lives of the people in the communities within which we operate. MTN Uganda believes there is a limit to the impact a single company can create and as such, the marathon was born out of the idea that together ‘we can’ do more therefore creating it to be a platform where individuals and corporate organizations could come together to contribute, ideas, solutions and funds that would help address many pressing socio-economic needs across the country.

How does MTN mobilize these funds?

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Funds are raised through corporate companies who come onboard as sponsors like Vision Group, Huawei, Stanbic Bank, Rwenzori, Spedag Interfreight as well as through individuals who chose to participate in the in the run. Over the years the marathon has attracted an average of 20,000+ individual runners and with the sponsors raised a good amount of money to address given challenges in the communities.

What does it take for one to be a sponsor or individually participate in MTN Kampala Marathon?

Any individual, company or organization that is interested in partaking in charity can make a donation of any amount or sign up for a sponsorship package as an official partner of the Marathon.

So far how many people’s lives has the marathon touched?

It is quite hard to quantify the number of lives that the marathon has touched over the years. Let me say that in the past sixteen years, very many people in different communities have benefited from the proceeds of the event. As a matter of fact, the marathon has raised over UGX3.5 billion that has all been spent on various charity projects across the country in a conscious effort to enable the country achieve the sustainable development goals in the areas of health, education and ICT.

Tell us about the projects that have been undertaken using the marathon proceeds so far?

In terms of projects, we have done quite many. We started with supporting mothers in Internally Displaced People’s camps with Mama kits, moved on to providing safe water in Amuria and Karamoja, constructed biogas toilets in KCCA schools, reduced cancer exposure among school children by replacing asbestos roofing with iron sheets and currently, we are complementing government efforts in maternal health across the country. Each of these projects have lasted a couple of years.

So how much money does the marathon raise annually?

Again, that varies from year to year, based on a number of factors. But in a nutshell, the proceeds have been increasing progressively over the years. For instance, when we started in 2004, we raised UGX20 million from 1,500 participants. Six years later when other corporate companies came in to sponsor the event, we were able to raise UGX190 million. In 2015, we hit the UGX500 million mark and for the last two years, the marathon has raised at least UGX600 million in both the years.

What was the motive of MTN Uganda extending the Marathon to other regions in the country?

As you may be aware, the marathon has evolved into the biggest athletic event in the region. As such, the numbers of participants had outgrown our capacity in Kampala yet the need for services was still immense in the communities. Therefore, in order to give more Ugandans a chance to participate in this philanthropic event, we introduced the regional runs, which I’m proud to say have been well-received. The beauty about these races is that they are rotational so every major town out of Kampala eventually gets to host the MTN Kampala Marathon.

MTN Uganda Ag. CMO Sen Somdev speaking to reporters at the launch of the 2019 MTN Marathon at the MTN Uganda offices in Nyonyi Gardens in Kampala on Tuesday 15th, October 2019.
MTN Uganda Ag. CMO Sen Somdev speaking to reporters at the launch of the 2019 MTN Marathon at the MTN Uganda offices in Nyonyi Gardens in Kampala on Tuesday 15th, October 2019.

What happens now that we won’t have the marathon this year, what’s the way forward?

Yes. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided, with a heavy heart, not to have the Marathon this year. The Ministry of Health guidelines require social distancing and no crowd gatherings yet based on the previous crowds, it is evident that it will be impossible to enforce social distancing and the other SOPs. As such, we have decided to call it off this year. Hopefully if the pandemic is no more by the same time next year, we shall organize the Marathon as we have done for the last 16 years.

What is the future of the MTN Kampala Marathon?

Even though we have seen progress over the years, there is still more to be done in the socio-economic services sector in the communities. We recognize the fact that government cannot do this on its own. Therefore, as a company that is in the business of connecting people, we are willingly still committed to connecting communities to better socio economic services through mobilizing fellow corporates, individual and organisations to help make a difference in the communities. Once the pandemic is behind us, the Marathon will come back in a much bigger and better way.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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