Let’s Brand Destination Zim Through Sport

The Visit Zimbabwe campaign launched by President Mnangagwa this week is a milestone in the tourism industry which should build on branding sports teams as an important part of marketing the country.

Until now, Zimbabwe was not deliberately leveraging on the popularity of sport to help with branding the nation as the best tourist attraction.

Yet, sport can play a big role in helping build Zimbabwe as a tourist destination of choice, and starting with cricket is a good move because of the popularity of the game and the fact that in major Test series and world events, millions are watching on television and having your name on the shirt can get your name known.

The Visit Zimbabwe campaign seeks to leverage on the popularity of sport to market the country as a premier tourist destination.

As part of the initiative, national cricket teams will wear branded merchandise inscribed, “Visit Zimbabwe a World of Wonders,” and will begin with the forthcoming tour of Pakistan and the ICC T20 World Cup.

It is imperative that the authorities start exploring ways of extending the same branding to all national teams so that as many prospective travellers as possible are captured through the campaign.

Other sporting activities like football can have millions of viewers watching, especially when the senior national team plays big guns like Algeria, which they clash with early next month in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

The team can use branded merchandise to market the country during the match which is expected to be watched by millions in Africa and beyond.

We have already seen Rwanda roping in English Premiership side Arsenal, where the east African country is sponsoring the jersey’s sleeve with the “Visit Rwanda” logo.

The “Visit Rwanda” logo is just like a billboard, except that it is viewed by millions of English soccer lovers throughout the world.

In fact, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe said he believed tourism streams from the sector would double from more than $400 million to $800 million by 2024 because of the branding.

This shows the power of branding tourism through sports teams, just getting your name out there.

The strategic incorporation of sports into destination branding is the way to go, as it can leave lasting impressions on viewers of games who are likely to be attracted by the advertisement.

The main aim of the branding remains to convey a positive image of the country, so it would be incumbent upon the players who are going to advertise the country to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner.

All the efforts can actually go to waste if the players do not reflect that positive vibe.

In this increasingly globalised world, sports events can be viewed live throughout the world, thereby reaching a much wider audience.

This is an opportunity that should be sustained and the authorities should ensure it does not become a one-match event.

Zimbabwe is actually moving with times through using sports to brand the country because sporting events are increasingly being used as marketing tools for tourism.

This comes in the light that travelling is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the world, explaining why trillions of dollars are being made globally through tourism.

There are many benefits of branding tourism through sport.

These include increasing awareness of the destination, enhancing the visibility of the destination, attracting potential partners in tourism and stimulating the prioritisation of the destination.

Ultimately, tourist arrivals will increase, creating jobs and earning the country the much-needed foreign currency.

In fact, it can be considered a misnomer that the country was not all along taking advantage of its popular sports teams to market the country.

The new normal under Covid-19 calls for innovation, and branding tourism through sport is one such example.

But this does not mean discarding the strategies that have been used before in attracting tourists, branding tourism through sports is just a complimentary.

The communication strategy for the tourism sector should continue to be emphasised, including all other efforts that were being done before to attract tourists.

Sporting administrators should ensure there is investment in sporting facilities so that the country can leverage on sports tourism.

Supporters of foreign teams usually hesitate to accompany their players to a destination where the facilities are not perfect.

This is why the renovations taking place at the National Sports Stadium, and other smaller pitches in different parts of the country, are welcome.

Another important factor is that the branding of the tourism sector through sports augurs well with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy that was launched recently by President Mnangagwa to help resuscitate the sector.

This was after the realization that tourism had been ravaged as a result of Covid-19 which resulted in travel restrictions, thereby going for months without tourist arrivals.

As the world begins to relax Covid-19 restrictions, sporting activities are returning, hence Government’s priority to use sport to market the country.

The momentum should be maintained beyond the three one-day internationals against Pakistan, which will be part of the inaugural ICC Cricket World Cup Super League.

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