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Volume 21 No. 1
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Tanzania’s ‘tentacles’ reach Seattle

An unlikely sponsor is drawing attention to its product with advertising in Major League Soccer and the English Premier League: the United Republic of Tanzania.

Seattle Sounders FC last month signed a one-year partnership with Tanzania, the East African country with a population of more than 43 million. The recent start of the EPL season marked the third consecutive year Tanzania has had a one-year advertising package deal with six clubs in that league. This season’s deal gives Tanzania in-stadium advertising with Sunderland, Newcastle, West Bromwich, Stoke City, Norwich City and Southampton.

Tanzania has put its pitch in front of Sounders fans in Seattle and has deals with six EPL clubs.
“We are extending our tentacles,” said Aloyce Nzuki, managing director of the Tanzania Tourism Board.

The relationship with Sounders FC started two years ago, when Kurt Schmid, an assistant coach and scout with the club, attended training sessions of the Tanzanian national team in search of talent. Schmid, whose father, Sigi, is the head coach of the Sounders, invited Tanzanian forward Mrisho Ngassa to Seattle to train with the team. Ngassa’s trial with the Sounders was visited by a delegation of Tanzanian leaders, including Khamis Kagasheki, the country’s minister for natural resources and tourism.

“The trip opened our eyes,” said Nzuki, who was part of the delegation. “Most of our advertising in the United States was in the East, and our visitor profiles told us that most of our tourists were from there, so we wanted to branch out. We figured a partnership with the Sounders meant our reach in the West would not just be in Seattle, but by visiting fans and on TV in some of the major regions of their opponents, like Portland, Vancouver and Los Angeles.”

After assessing the impact of their Premier League advertising the last two seasons, the Tanzania group decided to experiment with a short-term deal in Seattle.

“We love to cast a wide net for sponsors but never planned on casting it this wide,” said Ron Jenkins, Sounders vice president of corporate partnerships. “It’s an example of how different areas of a franchise — in this case, team operations and sponsorship — can come together to benefit the team.”

Said Sounders co-owner Joe Roth, “We’re providing a visual reference to a country with unprecedented natural wonders. It’s also an opportunity to access a key region in the global market.”

The country has signage at the team’s stadium, CenturyLink Field, and training facility, Starfire Sports Complex. In addition to two scoreboard messages and rotation on LED panels along the sideline of the pitch, there are two large murals at the stadium’s northwest and northeast tunnels that highlight Tanzania’s tourist attractions, including Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti and Zanzibar. The murals debuted at a friendly last month against Chelsea and will remain at CenturyLink Field for all Sounders, Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington football games played at the stadium through next July.

The Seahawks, owned by Sounders co-owner Paul Allen, share staff and stadium management with the soccer club. The murals’ visibility at Huskies games is value-added.

According to Jenkins, the Sounders have 33,000 season-ticket holders and the Seahawks have 61,000, but there is an overlap of only 2 percent. Fan indexes compiled by both clubs revealed that many of their season-ticket holders like to travel overseas.

Said Jenkins, “We were able to tell the tourism board, ‘You’re fishing where the fish are.’”

While it is too early to gauge the campaign’s impact on Seattle’s tourists, Tanzania Tourism has heard from several tour operators from the Pacific Northwest. Nzuki said he is already considering a longer-term sponsorship with the Sounders.

The Sounders and EPL contracts are Tanzania’s only sports deals. Financial details were not available.

In the EPL, Nzuki and the tourism board opted to go with a six-pack of smaller clubs instead of one deal with a powerhouse like Manchester United or Liverpool FC. Teams in the mix have changed from year to year.

“We understand that teams like Sunderland and Stoke City are not the biggest ones, but our sideline LED messages reach a lot of people at the stadiums and on television,” Nzuki said. “That includes fans of the big clubs.”