Where would you be likely to find the industry’s most memorable (legendary?) characters from the last 40 years? Try a Martin Nefdt function – especially a special occasion like his 70th Birthday party.
At the recent birthday party at Kelvin Grove in Cape Town, organised by his friend former adidas marketing director Gavin Cowley and family members, colleagues and former adidas MDs (Tex van Beuge, Alain Ronc, Tony O’Hagan) and PUMA’s former (Ron Rink) and current MDs (Luke Barrett-Smith), retailers from as far as Port Elizabeth, fellow agents, sporting greats, family and other friends gathered to celebrate this milestone.
Rugby Springbok H.O. de Villiers, world record holder March Fiasconaro and cricketer Trevor Quirk were there, Schalk Burger donated the wine and Corne Krige sent his regrets that his travels prevented him from attending. Lambros Koutsoudis of The Footballer came from Port Elizabeth, Braam van Huyssteen from George/Cape Town and Sportsmans Warehouse co-founder Dave Stewart from Cape Town. Among the agents, Richard Michael came from Durban, his long-time friend the boertjie Pine Pienaar from Bloemfontein and many others from the Western Cape.
It was an evening of laughs and banter as the many hilarious stories about the escapades and generosity of Martin Edward Charles Nefdt (as he liked to introduce himself) were recounted. It was like reading a book about the lighter moments in the industry – and Gavin Cowley indeed presented everybody with a copy of his book A Lifetime of Friendship, in which he recounted and illustrated 70 stories about his great friend.
In the book he recounts how intrigued former adidas MD Alain Ronc was when he visited Port Elizabeth in 1986 and ‘Marty’ greeted everybody on the streets – not realising that Nefdt did indeed know all these people. To top it, they parked in the mayor’s parking bay. Dubbed the unofficial mayor of PE Nefdt now received a birthday message from the official mayor of PE, Atholl Trollip, who was unable to attend his party.
Ronc, now based in Paris, had played a major role in several brands that became part of the adidas stable in the previous century: he was asked by Horst Dassler to launch the French swimwear brand Arena, he was international director for Le Coq Sportif and when he left South Africa at the end of the 1980’s he moved to the US as head of Pony.
Throughout the years he had remained friends with Nefdt and a champion of South Africa’s re-admittance to international sport, about which he had written an article for Sports Trader in 1995. The sports boycott probably cost his friend a cycling Olympic medal as he was a strong contender before the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, from which South Africa was barred.
Former adidas MD Tony O’Hagan (below), who had also been a speaker at Nefdt’s 50th and 60th birthdays, had plenty of anecdotes to share about ‘Marty’ always up for a challenge to sneak into a sporting event without a ticket, or how he loved to shmokkel … for example when he brought his friend ‘Braampie’ (Braam van Huyssteen) to adidas head quarters to buy all the clearance styles, at a discount of course. That was in the early days, before Tekkie Town and Braam became household names (see ‘Will TT 2 succeed’?)
But, apart from providing entertainment, Nefdt also delivered the sales goods and were the top adidas SA sales agent several times.
Some of the stories about Nefdt are unpublishable – all are very funny. Ron Rink (below), who pursuaded Nefdt to join PUMA in 2003 when he left adidas after 18 years, followed suit, and described how “Marty was always fun, always laughing and has a passion for adidas, PUMA, his German family heritage, family, especially his grandson and his passion for friendship is second to none.”
Barrett-Smith, the current PUMA MD, recounted how he and Rink had played a trick on Nefdt when they pretended that PUMA had been evicted from the sales conference venue at Fancourt and Nefdt frantically tried to pull out all the stops to prevent this … until the bus turned into Shamwari Game Reserve, where Rink greeted everybody with a sucker lolly.