November 23, 2010


Sony Aims to Help Combat Social Problems in Africa Using the Power of Football(Soccer)

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.98 (October 2010)
"Towards a Sustainable Japan -- Corporations at Work" (No. 96):

Combining Social Action and Watching Football Games

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was held from June 11 through July 11 in South Africa, a first for the African continent, and many people around the world enthusiastically enjoyed watching the football matches. Sony Corporation, as an official partner of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), planned some social contribution activities using the attraction of football as an opportunity to bring more public attention to Africa, and launched a project called "Public Viewing in Africa" in 19 locations in Cameroon and Ghana, which were both participating countries in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

This project was meant to provide opportunities for people to enjoy live broadcasts of the World Cup games together on giant 200-inch screens set up in public places, in areas where most people would have been unable to watch the matches due to low rates of television ownership. Sony positioned the public viewing project that made use of its visual technology as part of a campaign to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and worked in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Cameroon, and with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Ghana.

The background of the campaign is the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a serious social problem in Africa. According to the development education handbook on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) published by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of HIV carriers worldwide has reached about 42 million, of which 22 million died of AIDS. It reports that about 70 percent of HIV/AIDS-infected people live in sub-Saharan Africa, and that AIDS is the cause of the dramatic decrease in the average life expectancy of Africans. The MDGs are eight international development goals, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, and reducing child mortality. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases is also one of the eight goals, and various organizations, including the UNDP and JICA, are working to provide people with knowledge about such diseases so that they can protect themselves.

UN Millenium Development Goals

In order to disseminate accurate knowledge on HIV/AIDS, more effective approaches are always expected. In this project, Sony's imaging techniques attracted a large number of people to the public viewing sites.

According to JICA, the trial run of public viewings co-organized by Sony and JICA in Ghana in 2009 delivered impressive results, as the number of people who took an HIV test increased threefold, compared to HIV/AIDS educational events held by JICA alone in 2006.

In this project, Sony selected public viewing locations, not in cities but mainly in rural areas. Hidemi Tomita, general manager of Sony's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Department, says, "It's rather easy to attract people to the site when we plan an educational event in a city. But we heard that it's difficult to encourage people to participate in an event in other areas. That's why we organized public viewing events in rural areas where residents have few opportunities to watch matches on TV, despite the widespread popularity of football."

Sony's CSR activity has three core bases: to take advantage of Sony's technologies and products; to cooperate with other organizations; and to engage its employees. Tomita says that this project in Africa fulfilled the three bases to the full extent.

Public viewing events were arranged in Cameroon and Ghana, from June 14 to June 24, 2010, and June 13 to July 11, 2010, respectively. Sony employees worked on everything from installation -- setting up weatherproof systems that included large screens, projectors, and waterproof speakers -- to operation.

At the public viewing sites, the UNDP and JICA each held events before and after the games or during halftime, such as skits or quizzes about HIV and AIDS, singing or poem-reading contests, and free distribution of condoms. About 24,000 people participated in the public viewing events (5,350 in Cameroon and 18,650 in Ghana), achieving double the target number. Among the participants, the number of people that took an HIV test also increased by 2.5 times, to about 4,800 (1,800 in Cameroon and 3,000 in Ghana), from the target number. After the football tournament, most of the equipment used for the public viewing events was donated to the countries, to be used for future events to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Did the Trial-and-Error Projects Pay off? Experiences in Africa Shed Light on Intrinsic Needs

Although technical concerns were eliminated by conducting trial operations prior to the events, there were problems with video frames skipping during the game, because the audiences would run around excitedly and step on cables when their team made a goal. Yet, the troubles eventually decreased as the operators gained experience, and the set-up procedures began to run more smoothly.
(See pictures of public viewing events at

Operations ran smoother in Ghana, as trials were conducted beforehand and the Sony employees could communicate in Japanese with people from JICA, the partner organization. In Cameroon, on the other hand, it was the first time for Sony and the local UNDP partner to work together, and the difference in language was a barrier. Tomita recalls, "Although it was hard to facilitate the public viewing events with the local staff, the UNDP's community-based activity enabled us to try various approaches. We were actually able to appear on a radio program early in the morning of the event days to promote the event and spread information, thanks to the UNDP's decision to use radio broadcasting, a major medium in the country."

Sony staff worked at each public viewing site for three to four weeks, on average. In addition, they had to struggle through tough late night work, as each game kicked off at midnight. "In spite of it, staff returned to Japan with various insights drawn from this experience," says Tomita. "We realized what was really expected and what we really are able to do for people living in a totally different world from ours. The fieldwork in these African countries taught us more about their actual needs, and gave us very good insights from the business point of view. I especially enjoyed seeing children gathering with great interest around the equipment we brought. I realized that children's curiosity is the same everywhere in the world."

Dream Goal 2010: Sony's Technology Contributes to Society through Football

Since Sony was founded in 1946, right after the end of the World War II, when Japan was at the point of starting its recover from the ashes of war, the company has made efforts to contribute to the educational sector. Now that it has grown into a global company, Sony aims to apply its technology to approach education in unique ways to address global issues. The core ideas of the approaches it uses are based on the eight Millennium Development Goals. Tomita says, "Sony brought a new lifestyle to the world by releasing innovative products such as the Walkman, the famous portable music player. I believe that Sony's own contribution is introducing innovative approaches to society." The Public Viewing in Africa project is expected to spread wider, in cooperation with other parties, including other businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international authorities, etc.

Besides the public viewing events, Sony offered three other social contribution projects under its Dream Goal 2010 program: the "Ticket Fund" to invite South African children to watch football matches at the stadiums, the "Designing Original Balls" project to donate balls to children in the African continent, and the "Siyakhona 'We Can Do It'" project to provide Sony equipment for capacity building to NGOs around the world that drive positive social developments through football. These projects are being uniquely undertaken with the cooperation of Sony's staff and using its advanced technological capacity.

For example, under the "Designing Original Balls" project, Sony developed more durable material to make balls designed to last longer on playing fields that are not very well maintained. Sony also set up a website, offering one ball to Africa for every 1,000 clicks, using a per-click fundraising system, or for each sale of Sony's memory media products such as memory sticks equivalent to ten gigabytes. As of now, a total of 3,372 balls are to be donated to Africa.

In the 2010 FIFA World Cup, six African countries except Ghana lost at the first group stage. However, having the host country on the African continent for the first time must have given hope to the people there. The hope was supported by various people, such as those in other African countries, international authorities, NGOs, and businesses including Sony.

Regarding the future prospects of Sony's social contribution activities using the power of football, Tomita emphasizes, "Although Africa was the main field of activity in the Dream Goal 2010 project, as it was the host of the World Cup, the Siyakhona project is targeting NGOs in other countries, not only in Africa. Just watching football matches is not sufficient as a CSR activity, so we will continue to look into other local problems and work on them as our future challenges."

Written by Yuko Kishikami

See also: Seeking Sustainability with Unique Ideas and Influence -- The Story of Sony Corp.