Rwanda has made a big leap in marketing itself all over the world as a tourism and business hub by signing a deal to market itself on the shirt sleeves of London-based football club Arsenal.
For the next three years, sleeves of jerseys worn by Arsenal’s first-team players will have the words “Visit Rwanda” emblazoned on them. The same will apply to Arsenal’s women and youth teams.
Kenya has over the years been struggling to market itself as a key tourist attraction.
“We’ll have a sleeve sponsor on our shirts from 2018/19 – we’re pleased to welcome our official tourism partner,” said part of a tweet posted by Arsenal on Wednesday morning.
Arsenal said on its website: “The Rwanda Development Board, through their subsidiary, the Rwanda Convention Bureau, has become our first official sleeve partner as part of the country’s drive to become a leading global tourist destination.”
Part of the deal will see Arsenal players from both the men’s and women’s teams visiting Rwanda.
Arsenal’s chief commercial officer Vinai Venkatesham said the team’s shirt “is seen 35 million times a day globally”.
“We are one of the most viewed teams around the world. We look forward to working with the ‘Visit Rwanda’ team to further establish the country as a leading tourist destination,” he said in a report on the club’s website.
In its history, Arsenal has 46 honours, the third biggest by any club in the English Premier League (EPL). It has a remarkable following world over, including 13.5 million followers on Twitter.
Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame is an outspoken Arsenal fan. Earlier this month, he was among the fans voicing their opinions about the change of guard at the manager’s seat, after legendary coach Arsene Wenger left his position that he had held since 1996.
“The coach is leaving and club trophy-less it was long coming! I am still a committed fan going forward. Blame the owners,” he tweeted. “We still need Arsenal to go back where it belongs — up there among the best in the game!”
Barely two hours after Arsenal tweeted about the Rwanda deal on Wednesday, the club announced that former Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery would be taking over as the manager.
In its announcement, Arsenal described Rwanda as being one of the fastest growing economies in Africa “with a booming tourism sector that has seen the number of visitors double in the last decade”.
“The country’s national parks are attracting record number of tourists due to growing numbers of wildlife including black rhino, lions, zebra, chimpanzees and the famous mountain gorillas. Rwanda is also attracting new hotels and lodges across the country, making it easier to experience longer, unique and memorable vacation,” said the statement.
The statement also quoted Rwanda’s Development Board chief executive officer Clare Akamanzi asking investors to visit the country to see for themselves why the World Bank has ranked the country the second easiest place to do business in Africa.
“Investors in Rwanda are able to register their businesses in only six hours and prepare to enjoy the opportunities accrued from the free trade agreements that we’ve signed with over 50 countries,” Ms Akamanzi said.
From next season, “Visit Rwanda” will also feature on the LED screens during games at the Emirates Stadium and on backdrops used for interviews.
Brands that have recently appeared on shirt sleeves of EPL clubs include Angry Birds on Everton jerseys and Nexen Tyres on Manchester City shirts.