The Marketing Manager, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, Abiodun Ayodeji, in this interview with Uchechukwu Nnaike, highlights the impact of the Cowbellpedia Secondary School Mathematics TV Quiz Show on students and how the country is benefitting from it
One of Promasidor’s major CSR initiatives is the Cowbellpedia Secondary School Mathematics TV Quiz Show. What informed the involvement of the company in this project?
For Cowbell and Mathematics, the journey started about 21 years ago as a Lagos-based initiative. Presently, it has become a national affair. In 2016, we brought all Cowbell interventions in mathematics under an umbrella, Cowbellpedia, which is a brand asset of Cowbell Milk to provide a platform to reward excellence in the subject area of mathematics, irrespective of where you come and social strata. This is in line with the essence of the brand – providing affordable quality nutrition to every Nigerian child.
What do you think is the essence of mathematics to the brand and the nation?
No nation can truly develop without a conscious investment and effort in science and innovation, and mathematics is the bedrock of these two. Mathematics promotes reasoning as it helps the mind to organise complicated situations or problems into clear, simple and logical steps. Experts also believe that since the foundation of science and technology, which is the basic requirement for the development of a nation, is mathematics, the subject therefore plays a vital role not only in human development, but also in nation building.
Also, you will agree with me that a lot of students have a phobia for this subject area, and with the Cowbellpedia platform, we have been able to stimulate the interest of many students in mathematics.
What are the components of the Cowbellpedia initiative?
Cowbellpedia has three major legs: Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools TV Quiz Show, Cowbellpedia Radio Maths Class, which is a five-minute class on radio; and Cowbellpedia Mobile App that can be downloaded on Google Play Store on android devices and App Store on Apple devices.
Why did Promasidor take this Cowbellpedia route?
Investment in education has assumed an entirely new frontier, requiring both the government and corporate organisations to raise their commitment to building capacity in mathematics, which represents a concrete pillar in modern development. It is interesting to note that this commitment to mathematics has been demonstrated by Promasidor Nigeria Limited in the last 21 years. More importantly, stakeholders in the education sector agree that the initiative has helped to arouse and re-awaken the interest of students in mathematics at the secondary school level, which has further reinforced the importance of the subject.
In fact, during a media interaction at the 2018 finals in Lagos, NECO’s Director of Examination Development, Mr. Mustapha Abdul, who represented the acting Registrar, Mr. Abubakar Gana, commended Promasidor for the Cowbellpedia initiative and pledged the council’s continued technical support for the project.
He described the project as a laudable mission, which enables students across the country to compete openly. He even added that the company deserves a national award for promoting scholarship through this Cowbellpedia initiative over the years.
Why are you so convinced about this approach?
It is important to demonstrate to students that mathematics is easy and fun to learn, it will help a lot of them who have phobia for the subject. That is what Cowbell has done to demystify mathematics. We figured out that if we could let our students become more interested in mathematics, our country Nigeria can truly become the giant of Africa. Even in commerce, if you are doing a “profit and loss” statement, you need to be able to add and subtract. Everything is around mathematics. If an average student has an interest in mathematics; he would excel in science, commerce and all the spheres of life.
Has the competition been able to meet its stated objectives?
Yes, it has. The objectives are to awaken the consciousness and interest in mathematics amongst junior and senior secondary school students in Nigeria; improve students’ performance in mathematics across Nigeria; create a credible platform for identifying outstanding students and encouraging excellence in mathematics; provide a creditable platform that will reward excellence in the subject area of mathematics. Student enrolment has been increasing on a yearly basis and in 2019, we have the highest in the history of the competition at over 56,000 students. Also, the brand’s top and bottom line has moved in sympathy with this direction.
What has been the highpoints of sponsoring the competition over the years?
It has been a symbiotic relationship; the brand and the Nigerian child have gained a lot. In terms of high point, an example is Master Ayodeji Akinkuowo, the student that won in the senior category of the maiden edition of the Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics TV Quiz Show. He got a government scholarship to Russia, studying Aeronautic Engineering. This was possible, because he made his life’s dream of becoming an aeronautic engineer known during the competition.
Another high point is Munachi Ernest-Eze, who won the junior secondary school category in 2015. Two years later, he won the senior secondary school category. It shows consistency.
The 2018 edition produced another hero in Faith Odunsi, a student of The Ambassadors College, Ota, Ogun State, who set a competition record in speed and accuracy by answering 19 questions in the ‘60 Seconds of Fame’ segment to advance to the semi-finals in the junior category.
Faith’s feat shattered the record of 17 questions in that segment set in 2017 by Emmanuel Mebude, a student of Ogunlade Memorial Secondary School, Surulere, Lagos.
Last year, in celebrating the 20 years relationship between Cowbell and mathematics, we added some new dimensions to the Cowbellpedia initiative. We had the Cowbellpedia Academy in partnership with some foreign universities and professors, aimed at driving support and interest in mathematics by exposing selected students and teachers across the country to various teaching and learning techniques in achieving, sustaining and managing academic feats especially in mathematics.
Also, we did a documentary, ‘Milk of Kindness’ which focused on the lives of Cowbellpedia participants and the impact the brand has had on their lives and families.
What do you think is responsible for the upsurge in the enrolment figure for the competition this year?
I will like to thank our partners, the schools and parents who have encouraged their wards to take part in the competition. The state ministries of education have also been of significant help. Secondly, continuous improvement to raise the bar every year in terms of the call for entry, conduct of examination, TV quiz-show format, among others.
Secondary school owners now use Cowbellpedia as an important marketing tool for enrolment of new students hence, the interest shown by schools. Also, we have increased significantly the total prize money in the last five years, the prize money is now N2 million for the winner in each category and there are other cash prizes at each stage of the competition for students and teachers.
What has been the impact of Cowbellpedia on the brand?
There are ways we measure impact. Cowbellpedia is a platform that makes dreams come to reality, a case in point is Ayodeji Akinkuowo, who won the 2015 edition in the Senior Category who is now studying Aeronautic Engineering in Russia. Every year, Cowbell increases its footprints in many households through the Cowbellpedia platform and families have been reciprocating by buying Cowbell fortified with VitaRich. This is coming through in our numbers and brand health measures. When you promote a good cause, it is about the long-term value of the consumers
Are you considering support for the arts and humanities too? Or, is it only mathematics and science?
Cowbellpedia is presently focused on mathematics and if there are opportunities in future, the company may consider, but not necessarily under the Cowbell brand.
When you talk about Promasidor, what comes to your mind?
Promasidor is about providing quality nutrition to the Nigerian people. This has been since inception in 1993 that we pioneered powdered milk in small portions in sachets at affordable prices that made milk a good source of protein accessible to most Nigerian homes and families.
Also, we immersed ourselves in the lives of consumers to understand how milk is consumed and we launched Cowbell Chocolate and Cowbell Coffee. These are convenient three-in-one propositions that the only task required of a consumer is to add water and have a complete beverage.
What is the philosophy behind your brand and marketing?
Our guiding principle is understanding the consumers’ pain points and helping them to solve them through our products and brands. There are some major nutritional deficiencies in Sub-Saharan Africa which are iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, folate and protein, and Promasidor products fortification strategy has been along this direction.