James Shikwambana | Different sides to the reported R1bn Tottenham Hotspur deal with Tourism SA

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The South African government plans to sign a nearly R1 billion deal with English Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in the hopes of attracting tourists to the country.
The South African government plans to sign a nearly R1 billion deal with English Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in the hopes of attracting tourists to the country.

The news that SA Tourism, through Brand SA, was considering a sponsorship deal of close to R1 billion with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur have been met with mixed reactions.

The sum of R1bn will not solve even 1% of the multiple crises that the country is faced with, but is enough to give a sizeable proportion of communities clean water.

So, it was expected that such news would not land well with the millions of South Africans.

With the current economic climate, high rate of unemployment, high inflation, high fuel price, ridiculous electricity tariffs, a lack of basic services in certain areas and the current load shedding pandemic, a decision to plough the little resources we have into the coffers of an English Premier League club might be viewed by some as insane.

However, the role of Tourism SA is not service delivery but to lure tourists to the country.  

Recently conducted research by consulting company SPORT+MARKT has found that the English Premier League (EPL) boasts an annual TV audience market share of 4.7 billion worldwide.

The EPL and its member clubs count almost a billion followers on social media. Undoubtedly, EPL is the most followed football league globally.

Last season, Tottenham pipped their North London rivals, Arsenal, to the champions league spot by two points. Though the club has been blowing hot and cold this season, they do stand a chance to make it once more into the Champions League.

Unverified statistics claim that Tottenham Hotspur is supported by 3 million people in the UK and over 20 million worldwide.

This could present SA Tourism with a massive opportunity to market the country globally.

Brand SA could gain global exposure through matchday branding at the stadium and a broad range of other marketing rights associated with football branding.

SA Tourism has the mandate to provide for the effective marketing of South Africa as a domestic and international tourist destination.

Sport - football in particular - is a good vehicle to help fulfil that mandate.

As Roman comic dramatist Titus Maccius Plautus once said in his play: “You have to spend money to make money”. Whether he was right or wrong, SA Tourism needs to spend money to lure tourists and investors to the country by using different strategies.

However, they need to take the public into their confidence and share the details of the sponsorship deal. To just pump money without a proper strategy and a clear projected return on investment would be a futile exercise.

To amplify ROI for South Africa, there should be a clause that compels the EPL giants to conduct coaching clinics in schools, townships and rural communities.

The Rwanda Development Board reported in 2019 that tourists from England had climbed by 5% compared to the previous period and that was attributed to the “Visit Rwanda” sleeve sponsorship deal signed between Arsenal and the Rwandan government.

Just like the SA Tourism reported deal, President Paul Kagame’s decision to inject cash into the Gunners’ coffers was met with huge criticism but his country’s tourism sector is now reaping the rewards of that investment because he had a clear strategy and a long-term vision.

One billion rand equates to €42,5m and this is clearly a short-term goal which may not bring the desired returns.

How much exposure will South Africa get out of this deal?

I personally do not see anything wrong with the deal given the mandate of SA Tourism, perhaps it is the timing which is not right.    

* James Shikwambana is the managing director of MSG Afrika Broadcasting, which is responsible for Power 98.7 and Capricorn FM  commercial radio stations in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. He writes in his personal capacity.

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