Shrouded under the dark cloud of COVID-19 and lockdown in June, Liverpool FC executed a USD 10 million sponsorship agreement with Mauritius through the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) focusing on tourism and economic development.
We do appreciate that globalization, digitalization and the hyper-connected media landscape have accentuated the intrinsic value of top-tier football sponsorship, creating new and exciting strategic and commercial opportunities for football clubs, players and sponsors alike.
As such, below are the key features of the Liverpool FC / MTPA compared with the broader sponsorship between Rwanda and both Arsenal FC and Paris St Germain (PSG).
Mauritius Case: The agreement should in principle benefit Mauritius in terms of Liverpool FC exposure to digital platform, social media and commercial activities were it not for the mere 2 minutes black & white display that goes almost unnoticed due to spectators focusing on the game and short attention span when displays are split into 6 slots @ 20 seconds.
What makes matters worse is the amateurism in handling the advertisement including flagging to a global audience watching the blockbuster Liverpool – Tottenham game (www.mauritusnow;);
Who is accountable for this blunder at the expense of our country’s brand and reputation, unless this is a new Blue Penny moment of notoriety due to the Post office versus Post Paid myth ?
During this current dry tourism season and for the foreseeable future, one wonders about the strike value of such a deal for the country more so that one of the benefits i.e. allocation of tickets to attend football games to selected few has absolutely no bearing on promotion save for costing the taxpayers moneys in terms of travel costs, per diem etc.
As already canvassed, one should not compare with the Blackburn / Air Mauritius deal dating back to 1994 that was more in an analogue era in terms of marketing / social media and foremost a straight Trade Services Agreement (TSA) at marginal costs with the arrangement supported by free tickets on Air Mauritius.
Rwanda Case: Comparatively, as a strategic investment, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) signed a 3-years sleeve sponsorship with the London club, Arsenal FC as official Tourism Partner back mid 2018 for a purported $ 39 million.
High visibility benefits include having the “Visit Rwanda” banner running on the LED screens at the Emirates stadium, a broad range of marketing rights and exposure to global stars and coaches on the post-match interactive interview wall, a feature that is viewed regularly on the social media platform, YouTube, the 2nd most popular search engine after Google.
Also, as part of the partnership, Arsenal players from the men’s and women’s teams will visit Rwanda and club coaches will host camps to support the development of the game for boys and girls in the country.
It is estimated that the return on investment is a whopping 5 times multiplier driven by TV viewership, mainstream media and social media interactions and the fact the Arsenal shirt is seen 35 million times a day globally, not forgetting the expanding replica shirt market too – akin to democratization of the brand.
Doubling down, Rwanda announced end of last year a similar deal with another giant European football club, Paris St-Germain FC worth US$11 million aiming at attracting millions of tourists from France and other European countries.
This engagement that has multiple angles beyond tourism will see “Visit Rwanda” displayed on the sleeves of PSG women’s team, the back of training kits on top of serving Rwandan tea and coffee exclusively at the stadium. First team and retired players will travel to Rwanda and share their experiences through PSG online platforms to millions of its followers with a “Semaine du Rwanda à Paris” event organised to promote Rwandan exports.
What is not visible to many is the fact that Qatar Sports Investment is the owner of PSG whilst in the same token Qatar Airways is actively engaged for a 49 % shareholding in RwandAir and investing in the green field airport in Bugesera, outside Kigali – a project valued at $ 1.3 billion.
In short, Rwanda is by extension getting global coverage not forgetting the direct cross brand ignition by being associated with other sponsors of Arsenal and PSG, the likes of Adidas, Emirates Fly Better, Accor Live Limitless, Ooredoo, Nike…
Rectifier Le Tir: From our end, the arrangement brinks on tinkering and no VAR is required to ascertain that the Mauritius kick and run approach will not yield significant benefits to the country at large.
Such hard earned foreign currency would have been better invested in securing a naming partner for the Cote D’or sports complex whilst still leveraging on the Liverpool International football academy domiciled there.
In any event, many established sponsors have already engaged major football clubs to review their agreement considering the enduring COVID-19 impact and the least one would expect from the MTPA is to do same, as most likely the agreement does not include a pandemic related force majeure clause.
It is also true that the Rwanda deals costed much more than what Mauritius is paying to Liverpool FC, but it is more a question of direct and indirect benefits including return on investment. With a more strategic and all-encompassing approach, one could see the local private sector and even major tour operators selling Mauritius supporting such a deal be in financially or with valuable in-kind contribution.