HOW DO WE TRULY ANALYSE THE CONTROVERSIAL SPURS/SA TOURISM SPONSORSHIP?
In a country that is beset by challenges, the news cycle over the last few weeks has been dominated by something that hardly ever makes the front page in South Africa – a potential sponsorship of a sports team.
The backlash to the proposed partnership between Tourism SA and Tottenham Hotspur (known simply as Spurs) is understandable. Load shedding, crime, unemployment, and corruption are just some of the major issues our country is facing so for a deal that is reported to be worth up to R1 billion to go ahead seems wholly unjustified and has left many of us exasperated.
While the response has been scathing, is there a way to analyse this deal from a sponsorship perspective to truly understand if it is in fact worthwhile?
What struck me initially was how much we didn’t know about the sponsorship. Why has SA Tourism chosen this sponsorship? What audience data have they based it on? How does it fit into their wider plan? What have they spent previous marketing budgets on? Out of context, this deal sounds overpriced and concerning but without a full understanding of how SA Tourism generally operates with their international marketing and their objectives and targets for the next three years, it is very difficult to determine the impact (both positive and negative) of the deal.
There are a few things however that we can conclude. One is that from a PR point of view, spending so much money on one very high-profile sponsorship was always going to be difficult for the South African public to accept. SA Tourism must have seen this backlash coming when the country’s socioeconomic and Gini co-efficient is considered?
An interesting comparison has been made with “Visit Rwanda” who have a similar, multi-year partnership with Spurs’ closest rivals Arsenal.
Some might think that the money spent by the central African country vindicates SA Tourism’s decision. It is however important to understand the contexts of the two nations. Following the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the country needed to make tourists aware that visiting the landlocked nation is a viable and attractive option.
This however is not the case for South Africa. Our country has long been famous as a top holiday destination, ranking in the top 25 most popular destinations in the world according to the World Tourism Organisation and right now the challenge isn’t awareness, it is further down the sales funnel at consideration and conversion. We as a nation need to keep convincing tourists to come here despite all the issues we have, not make them aware we exist. With a partnership that focuses so heavily on awareness and exposure, SA Tourism, in my opinion, has missed the mark.
After this PR nightmare, one would hope that common sense prevails, and SA Tourism looks to other avenues to promote our country that drive consideration and conversion rather than awareness but no matter what this case has truly shown how important clear objectives and proper planning are a non-negotiable whenever brands big or small take the step into sponsorships. Let’s hope it’s a lesson we all as an industry can heed.