Research has proven that sports fans are keen travellers and with sports events taking place all over the globe, the synergies between sport and travel are clear for all to see.
Prominent spenders in sports tourism in the world include Azerbaijan, Malaysia and Qatar who spend billions of dollars on multiple sports rights annually to market their nations. Airlines, global hotel chains and other tourism companies have also increased their sponsorship spend.
However, the most noticeable trends over the past few year’s 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 sport by forming strategic alliances that go beyond hosting sports 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 fan bases and the global exposure both teams receive.
Neighbours Tanzania and Rwanda have already followed suit, with Rwanda spending a whopping Sh2.6 billion (20 million sterling pounds) on adverting the country on the jersey sleeves of English Premier League side Arsenal.
Tanzania also pumped money through Sunderland. Kenya can also count itself in, thanks to SportPesa, which through its vast sponsorship portfolio in foreign countries, has put the name of the country where it originated, on the global map.
SportPesa are currently the main sponsors of English Premier League 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 league through Cape Town City FC.
POWER OF SPORT
Recently, they unveiled their latest sponsorship deal — a multi-billion 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 now understand the power of sport 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, just as the case seems to be with the now Magical Kenya Open golf.
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, but in particular throughout Europe which is a key target market for the authority.
The writer is a sports marketing consultant