By John Ngabo
Interrupted only by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwanda has been reaping big in its sponsorship deal with Premier League giants Arsenal Football Club.
The three-year deal worthy £30m a year between Arsenal Football Club and the Rwanda Development Board was signed on 23 May 2018 with the agreement that Visit Rwanda would be Arsenal’s official tourism partner. In a first of its kind for an African country, it was a stroke of marketing genius.
Let’s step back a bit and see some of the very good ramification of this partnership. #VisitRwanda would be won on the shirtsleeves of the club’s playing kits. This is visibility at an elite level. According to the RDB: By October last year, the number of tourists from England alone had climbed by 5 percent compared to the previous period.
“Before the partnership was signed, 71 percent of the millions of Arsenal FC fans worldwide did not consider Rwanda a tourist destination, at the end of the first year of the partnership, half of them considered Rwanda a destination to visit,” remarked Belise Kariza, RDB Chief Tourism Officer.
“Based on TV viewership and social media, the overall value of the partnership is estimated at €36 million euros according to statistics by Nielsen, Blinkfire Analytics and research agency Hall and Partners,” Kariza says.
The value of the deal in terms of visibility is something you can’t easily quantify, fiscally but which is equally as important as the income the country already is reaping from the partnership. From the hashtag #VisitRwanda dazzling around the pitch side advertising board at the Emirates Stadium – Arsenal’s home ground – to having real global football super stars donning kits with the Visit Rwanda logo printed on their shirt sleeves every match day, one just sees what a good thing Rwanda has going.
It goes beyond that. There also is the Visit Rwanda logo featuring prominently on Arsenal’s official website, to having it printed on thousands of match day programs every match day. Football fans keep these match day programs as souvenirs, thus ensuring that Rwandan tourism will continue to reap the benefits decades after the expiry of this partnership. This kind of visibility is extended to countries that Arsenal visit every pre-season tour.
What one may call the “fringe benefits of the deal” is that with the Arsenal FC partnership, young Rwandan footballers benefit from opportunities to be trained by Arsenal’s coaches – real legends of the game. We have seen Arsenal coaches Simon McManus and Kerry Green conduct coaching clinics at the Amahoro Stadium. It is also in the deal that Arsenal get to send their legends past and present to do various tourism and charity work. Former Gunners’ club Captain Tony Adam and former Arsenal Ladies Captain, Alex Scott were here for the Kwita Izina ceremony. Arsenal center back David Luiz was here to do some tourism work. Afterwards he took to celebrating goals by mimicking the silver back gorilla’s trademark chest thumping during matches.
It is against this backdrop that Rwanda has attracted investment in high-end top class hotels in Kinigi and Nyungwe forest. Hotels suitable for the particular test of that wealthy tourist who would not blink while paying US 1,500 for a gorilla tracking permit. Amongst the high profile visitors to come to Rwanda so far are; tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero and Odell Beckham Jr. wide receiver for American football outfit the Cleveland Browns. An unequivocal endorsement of Rwandan hospitality.
The more one looks at it, this deal has succeeded beyond expectations.
Post Covid-19, expect even greater successes.