• Across the five major football leagues in Europe, 25 clubs have signed partnerships with a tourism authority
• The deals also follow the trend of club owners signing deals with their country of origin
Research has proved that sports fans are keen travellers and with sports events taking place all over the globe, the synergies between sports and travel are clear for all to see.
This was witnessed last year when Kenya hosted the SportPesa Super Cup in Nakuru. Statistics indicated that Tanzanian tourists where the second most to have visited the country as three of their teams; Yanga, Simba and Singida, were taking part in the competition.
It is therefore no surprise that the travel and tourism sector has among the largest sponsorship outlay in sports. A number of countries have become prominent spenders with Azerbaijan, Malaysia and Qatar topping the list. The countries reportedly spend millions of dollars on multiple sports rites annually to market themselves.
Airlines, global hotel chains and other tourism companies have also increased their sponsorship spend. However, the most noticeable trends over the past few years remains the emergence of tourism boards partnering with sports rights holders. From cash-rich destinations, such as Qatar, to smaller provinces such as Trentino, destinations are embracing sports by forming strategic alliances that go beyond hosting events.
Across the five major football leagues in Europe, 25 clubs have signed partnerships with a tourism authority. Champions League clubs PSG (Qatar Tourism Authority) and Manchester City (Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority) boast the largest deals, which is unsurprising, given the size of their fanbases and the global exposure both teams receive.
The deals also follow the trend of club owners signing deals with their country of origin which is becoming increasingly common as the rise in foreign businessmen invest in European football clubs. Neighbours Tanzania and Rwanda have already followed suit, with Rwanda spending a whopping Sh2.6 billion (€20 million) on adverting the country on the jersey sleeve of the English Premier League side, Arsenal.
Tanzania also pumped money through Sunderland. Kenya can also count itself in, thanks to SportPesa, which, through it's vast sponsorships in foreign countries, has put the name of its origin country, on the global map. SportPesa is currently the main sponsor of EPL side Everton and Championships side Hull City, but also has stakes in Arsenal and Southampton.
In Italy, the gaming company, which began its operations in Kenya in 2015, sponsors Serie A side Torino. They have ventured into the Spanish La Liga as well, not to mention their presence in the South African top league through Cape Town City FC and last week, they unveiled their latest sponsorship deal; an estimated multibillion shilling arrangement with Formula1 team Racing Point, which will now be referred to as the SportPesa Racing Point Formula 1.
For destinations, it is no longer just about hosting major events; governments and tourism authorities now understand the power of sport and the effectiveness of sponsorship as a marketing tool to enhance the economy, image and quality of life for their residents. Their sport tourism and wider commercial strategies must now include strategic alliances and a calendar of events that keep visitors coming back year after year.
Qatar Tourism Authority is a prime example of an authority that is using a host of marketing tactics to achieve their ambition of becoming a world-class tourism and hospitality hub through sport. Their sponsorship of two of the biggest European clubs; Barcelona and PSG, is helping to drive high levels of awareness worldwide, in particular throughout Europe, which is a key target market for the authority.
In recent years, Qatar has bid for the two biggest sporting events in the globe, the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. Despite only winning the Football World Cup bid, they also have the rights to host smaller events such as MotoGP, handball, tennis and golf, which are all events that will keep federations, players and fans returning to the country each year.
Despite negative publicity around the FIFA World Cup 2022, there is no doubt the event will be a phenomenal showcase for Qatar and will give the country an incredible opportunity to deliver a legacy for the tourism and events sector. Hassan Al Ibrahim, director of strategy at the Qatar Tourism Authority claims their target is to attract 7 million visitors a year by 2030, an ambitious target that is more than feasible with the strategy they have in place.
Similarly, Azerbaijan has been exploring a combination of avenues to establish itself as a sporting power. In January 2013, the Republic of Azerbaijan signed a deal with La Liga Champions, Atlético Madrid for Sh1.4 billion (€12 million), a fraction of the cost of Qatar and Abu Dhabi’s astronomical deals with PSG and Manchester City respectively.
Not only did the deal include shirt sponsorship, which has promoted the Baku 2015 logo and their slogan 'Land of Fire', the agreement saw the Atlético Madrid players and staff travel to the country to train young Azerbaijani footballers and has provided a global platform to promote the image of Azerbaijan.
The country’s capital city, Baku, has also submitted bids to host global events such as the Olympic Games, F1 and hosted the 2015 European Games. Azerbaijan and Qatar are two destinations with a clear vision.
When branding a city to a global audience, it is vital there be a strong vision and the right resources, infrastructure and legacy plans in place to successfully host the games and deal with the influx of visitor’s pre, during and post event.
The London Olympics demonstrated how a country’s tourism can benefit from hosting a major sporting event. In 2012, the UK welcomed 31 million overseas visitors and a further 33 million in 2013.