“Corporate social investment can’t begin and end with a company announcing their involvement in a community project and writing out a cheque. Authenticity is important,” says CEO of RCS Regan Adams.
The RCS Rising Star Tennis initiative – in partnership with global French bank BNP Paribas and Tennis SA – aims to drive inclusivity, youth empowerment and social cohesion using sport. The programme has been introduced in collaboration with Tennis SA (TSA) and has attracted South African tennis star Kevin Anderson as its ambassador.
The partnership was officially launched on Tuesday 23rd July at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto. The countrywide initiative aims to provide tennis training to children, targeting hundreds of primary schools across the country, including schools in historically disadvantaged communities.
PARTNERING WITH KEVIN ANDERSON
South African international tennis star Kevin Anderson will be the face of the initiative, which aligns with his long-held desire to develop tennis in South Africa and make it accessible for all. Anderson, a US Open and Wimbledon men’s singles finalist in 2017 and 2018 respectively, will, as the brand ambassador of the Rising Star Tennis challenge, be heavily involved in the programme, and is promising some exciting developments as the initiative progresses.
“I have always been extremely passionate about giving back to the game at home, and I strongly believe developing future South African tennis stars needs to begin with a grass-roots revolution. Together with BNP Paribas, RCS and Tennis South Africa, I want to achieve just that, as every child at primary school level should have the opportunity to play and fall in love with tennis,” added Anderson.
“This is a fantastic initiative to increase the profile and legacy of the sport in South Africa, and I can’t wait to witness the discovery of some amazing tennis talent.”
EMPOWERING WOMAN COACHES
The mentorship programme has gone from strength to strength and has doubled in size thanks to the ongoing support of BNP Paribas, with 58% of the 2019 intake of coaches being women. One such coach is Lindiwe Shiba, an educator at Tshebedisanong Primary School in Central Western Jabavu, Soweto.
“I’m thankful to BNP Paribas and TSA for the opportunity to be one of the chosen black female coaches. Coming from a black location, we didn’t have any equipment and facilities. Whatever we did, it was from our own pockets. Now, I can at least say tennis is growing in the location and the kids love tennis because of what we’ve been getting from BNP Paribas and Tennis South Africa,” said Lindiwe during the launch.
“A round of applause for BNP and TSA for choosing me. They have seen the potential in me and didn’t even give up on me, so I won’t give up on myself. I will go on teaching tennis in the location. I will still be in a black location upgrading tennis from the grassroots until I see one of the top players play in the ATF,” she added.
The announcement by BNP Paribas and RCS to sponsor the national schools’ championship serves to deepen their existing support of tennis in South Africa. “In May 2018, BNP Paribas became the headline supporter of the TSA coaching mentorship programme – which aims to widen the diversity of registered coaches in South Africa by creating more sustainable opportunities for both black and female coaches” says Vikas Khandelwal, CEO of BNP Paribas.
CREATING MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG SOUTH AFRICANS
Speaking at the tennis launch, Richard Glover, CEO of Tennis SA, said that RCS and their holding company BNP Paribas are exemplary corporate citizens. “One of the things that has impressed me the most about working with RCS and BNP Paribas is the fact that they are totally committed to this partnership. Some sponsors opt to say ‘here is the money, put our brand on it and we’ll see you in three years’; with these two companies it’s completely different. They are totally committed; RCS and BNP Paribas are (100%) involved in this project which is what makes this initiative very exciting,” says Glover.
“Sports like tennis enable young South Africans to rise above their circumstances and achieve their full potential,” concludes Adams. “By creating more playing opportunities for young South Africans where they are needed the most, and by taking tennis to the people through this partnership, the initiative exemplifies our philosophy to be positive agents of change. Our involvement in the Rising Stars initiative is about nailing our flag to the mast and demonstrating that we are committed to building a better South Africa.”