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SA Tourism’s R900m Spurs deal not a bad idea, but govt must first get its house in order – experts

Tottenham Hotspur players Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.

Tottenham Hotspur players Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.

  • Marketing and tourism experts say the proposed deal by SA Tourism to sponsor English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur is a good idea, but South Africans are not ready to receive it.
  • Load shedding, unemployment and government corruption contributed to SA not being ready for the proposal.
  • The experts say there are other cost-effective ways to promote SA tourism.

The proposed deal by SA Tourism to sponsor English Premier League (EPL) club Tottenham Hotspur is a good idea, but the government needs to get its house in order before it can be well received, say experts.

With millions of South Africans languishing in poverty and joblessness, government corruption, a lack of trust in leadership and rolling blackouts, South Africans cannot be receptive to this proposal, although it can yield significant financial returns for the tourism industry, they say.

SA Tourism is under fire amid reports of a three-year multimillion-pound deal to sponsor the English club.

The deal, worth £42.5 million (about R900 million), which President Cyril Ramaphosa said could not be justified, was proposed to start at the beginning of the 2023-’24 season and end at the end of the 2026-’27 season.

Speaking to News24 on Friday, Professor Ndivhuwo Tshipala from the Tshwane University of Technology, said the sponsorship would put South Africa on the global map due to the EPL’s reach.

Tshipala said:

Tottenham Hotspur is being watched in Africa, Asia, South America, etc. For sure, that would create brand awareness, which is about information and exposure. It has the biggest power to influence and set an agenda. Surely, we would get attention. Our footprint would be in most continents around the world.

He said due to the current state of the country, South Africans needed to be in the mood to receive the proposal.

“We are at a place where everybody wants the most basic things done first. Currently, everyone is thinking about electricity, the cost of living, gender-based violence and crime. Everything that could be of benefit becomes suspicious.”

Marketing expert Dr Beate Stiehler-Mulder from the University of Johannesburg lauded SA Tourism for its creative and innovative marketing idea.

“I’m a big supporter of not doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I will give it to them – they came up with something unique,” she said.

However, she said the current state of the country would not be conducive to the deal.

Stiehler-Mulder said:

It’s a good idea to do it in 2025, not now. The reason for that is our house is not clean at the moment. The deal is not strategically sound, and it is not sensitive to where we are as a country. As much as we want to attract the world, you also want to make sure your South African audience feels proud of what we’re showcasing to the world because we are so much the ambassadors of our country.

Stiehler-Mulder said load shedding was one of the main crippling challenges to marketing tourism.

“Probably in the next month or two if you search on Airbnb, one of the filters will be questions about backup power systems,” she said.

Responding to the deal itself, she said although it could create awareness about South Africa, the visual aspect of marketing was equally crucial in promoting the country.

Stiehler-Mulder said:

We’re not only in a space where we want to create brand awareness. This is what this sponsorship would get. It would get us millions of eyeballs, but we need a combination of a branding and a call-to-action strategy. And this can be done a lot more affordably using, for example, online and television advertisements to show off our beautiful scenery.

“What we need now is to encourage people to book holidays in South Africa (not only making them aware of the country) because we need to save our sector and get out of this Covid-19 slump, and start creating jobs again.”

It remains to be seen if the proposed sponsorship deal will go ahead.

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said although the Office of the President had not yet been briefed on it, Ramaphosa did not think the deal was justified.

SA Tourism spokesperson Thandiwe Mathibela declined to comment on the president’s response, while tourism department spokesperson Steve Motale told News24 he could not respond until the department and Ramaphosa “engaged” formally.

Motale, however, said that there were pending meetings between various government stakeholders, including the SA Tourism board, Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Ramaphosa.

If the R900-million deal falls flat, how else can South Africa spend the money?

Tshipala suggested promoting South Africa through the Southern African Development Community, Brics, embassies and recruiting ambassadors to promote the country.

“It is doable. I think SA Tourism wanted to go for the jugular, but it would have been better at a time when the environment was conducive,” he said.

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