English Premier League football team Arsenal announced a partnership with the Rwanda Development Board, with the latter becoming the EPL club’s first-ever sponsor to be featured on the sleeve of their iconic red jersey. On all first team, Women’s shirts, and Under-23 shirts, a “Visit Rwanda” logo and caption will be featured on the left sleeve beginning August of 2018.
Clare Akamanzi, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) publicly expressed her delight regarding said partnership, indicating that the sponsorship will further showcase “the vibrancy and beauty” of Rwanda. While most people remember the country because of its brutal civil war that took place in the 1990’s, the nation actually hosted 1.3 million tourists in 2017, who came to visit the country’s natural wonders that include its rainforests and national parks filled with a variety of exotic wildlife. For example: over 94,000 tourists saw the country’s biggest national parks like Nyungwe and Akagera, while other tourists will pay as much as $1,500 each to obtain a license to see some a number of the endangered species still living in Rwanda.
In early 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that Rwanda has the third-fastest growing economy in Africa, even though the nation still struggles with the aftermaths of its political turmoil, and is still embroiled in some controversy around the restriction of free speech. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been at the centre of such controversy, and the fact that it’s no secret that Arsenal is his favourite football club brings some level of uneasiness to this joint venture.
Further, many fans were already less than thrilled when Arsenal added a faint red band of colour along the left sleeve a little while back. So when the “Visit Rwanda” logo was emblazoned upon said red line, it only exacerbated those disgruntled fans.
To combat that, Arsenal’s Chief Commercial Officer released a statement on the club’s website affirming the power of the sponsorship, stating the fact that the Arsenal shirt is seen “35 million times a day around the world,” and can bring a massive amount of positive exposure to the relatively-tiny African nation.
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While the financials around the partnership have yet to be revealed, the amount of money it costs to be featured on the team’s jersey can be somewhat approximated by the fact that Emirates, the biggest long-haul airline in the world and Arsenal’s main sponsor, pays the club upwards of $40 million each year to have its logo featured on the front of the jersey.
Whatever the RDB is investing in the partnership, they’re hoping they can bring back revenue that exceed the investment made by a 10-fold margin. Some Rwandan officials believe that the sponsorship deal could result in as much as $440 million in additional revenue from foreign nationals, and could substantially build upon the 90,000 Rwandans who are employed because of the nation’s tourism industry.
According to renowned consulting firm Deloitte, Arsenal is the 6th-largest football club in the world, only a few spots behind world superpowers like Manchester United and Real Madrid.