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Friday 31 May 2024

Using sport to sell unsellable travel destinations

Have you ever watched a sporting event, seen a tourism sponsor on a shirt and then decided to visit that destination?

No? Me neither.

Yet there is a growing trend for tourism boards to splash out hundreds of thousands of dollars on logos and patches on football jerseys.

Close to home we have “Tasmania” on the Hawthorn AFL guernseys. It is part of a sponsorship package deal.

In the English Premier League, top team Arsenal has the bewildering slogan “Visit Rwanda” on its shirts.

It is hard to believe it has attracted one Gunners fan to hotfoot it from north London to Africa for their annual holiday rather than Mallorca.

Arsenal maintain their deal is about promoting tourism in a developing country rather than supporting the country's political leadership. Visit Rwanda, however,  is an arm of the Rwanda Development Board which is a government department. 

Visit Rwanda also has deals with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

MSC Cruises sponsors soccer teams including Chelsea, Paris St Germain and Napoli, which makes a little more sense. And AFC Bournemouth has a deal with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association. OK. 

And airline sponsorships, of which there are many, sort of make sense.

But an announcement this week was particularly baffling: a deal between newly relegated English Premier League team Burnley and Visit Detroit. 

Maybe a lot of residents in the small northern English town have an interest in learning about urban degradation. Somehow I doubt it.

As per the agreement, the tourism board’s logo will feature as the Clarets’ main shirt sponsor during the team’s US pre-season. 
Visit Detroit (the city is pictured above) will additionally serve as Burnley’s travel wear partner. 

Since 2020, Burnley has been owned by US investment group ALK Capital, so there is some link, but it is hard to see just why anyone would make Detroit their US travel destination.

Marcus Mellor, Head of Commercial (silly title, that) at Burnley, said: “We are delighted to begin this new journey with Visit Detroit in this remarkable partnership.

“Football transcends geographical boundaries, and I’m pleased that through this collaboration we can strengthen our ties with US communities and fly the Clarets' flag stateside as we celebrate the passion for the beautiful game."

Detroit, for the uninitiated, was once known as Murder City and has had some of the highest crime rates in the US.

And you have to wonder whether Visit Detroit knows the difference between the Premier League, which draws worldwide attention, and the second-tier Championship, which does noe.   

I think they are all kidding themselves.
 the beautiful game.” 

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