Why developing countries use football clubs to improve their image and attract tourists?

During this year, two countries which are very insolvent have become multimillion sponsors of two famous European football clubs. One of them is Puerto Rico, Caribbean country and the largest unincorporated territory of United States, and the second is the Republic of Chad, situated in northern Central Africa, and is considered to be one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.


Recently, Puerto Rico has become a multimillion sponsor of one of the most famous Spanish clubs FC Sevilla, and Chad has become a sponsor of French Ligue 1 team FC Metz.


is debt-to-GDP ratio of Puerto Rico

dollars is Chad's GDP Per Capita

„This is undoubtedly the most significant sponsorship deal in the 126-year history of Sevilla. We are proud that we have become ambassadors of Puerto Rico in Spain and the World“, Jose Castro, Sevilla’s president.

“Sevilla FC is one of the most important football teams worldwide with followers in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia. This provides Puerto Rico with an unprecedented international scope. We are confident that this partnership will result in a significant increase in visitors to the island and even more potential opportunity for investors to Puerto Rico, not only from Spain but worldwide, which will result in a major contribution to the economic development of the island”, Ingrid Rivera Rocaford Executive Director of the tourist board of Puerto Rico.

FC Sevilla is one of the best Spanish clubs and one of the best in the world. Andalusians clinched three consecutive UEFA Europa Leagues, and they are participating in European cups every season. Recently, Sevilla signed the biggest sponsorship deal in 126-year-old club’s history.

They signed a lucrative contract with a state-owned Portorican company „La Compania De Puerto Rico“ whose goal is to promote this Carribean state around the world. Since the game against Sporting Gijon (1:1) Sevilla wears a sign „SeePuertoRico.com“ on the front of their kits.

The value of the sponsorship was not officially published, but, according to unofficial sources, Puerto Rico will pay Sevilla €7 million for the 18-month sponsorship deal. So, according to those sources, Sevilla will get €4.6 million per year to wear the name of Puerto Rico’s promotional website.

That lucrative contract has created lots of controversy within public since Puerto Rico currently experiencing a financial crisis. For the third time in last eight months, state did not pay the debt to creditors, and their debt-to-GDP ratio is about 68%.

According to estimates of Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, the Executive Director of the tourist board of Puerto Rico, this deal is worth $27 million per year of publicity to the Caribbean island with 3,4 million inhabitants.

Puerto Rico is not the first country that sponsored Sevilla. Two seasons ago, Sevilla wore a sign „Visit Malaysia“ on front of their shirt. The sponsorship contract was worth €2 million per year. But, after Sevilla won their second consecutive UEFA Europa League they made an estimate that their TV viewership has increased by 163% and  the value of their kit sponsorship has doubled.

Tourist agency from Malaysia could not cope with that, so in 2015/16 season Sevilla did not have an official sponsor on their shirt. But, Puerto Rico was able to meet the requirements of FC Sevilla and they became the second country which one of the clubs with the longest tradition in the world will promote.

Puerto Rico is a very beautiful island. We shall see in the coming years how will this sponsorship improve their image and how will it affect their tourism. For such a small country, investing in a famous football club can be much more cost-effective than investing in expensive advertising campaigns.

The second example of the country which became the official sponsor of a football club has started even more controversies back home. The Republic of Chad has become a multimillion sponsor of French Ligue 1 team FC Metz. The quote „Chad: Oasis du Sahel“ („Chad: Oasis of the Sahel“) will be inscribed on FC Metz kits.

The problem with Chad is that it is one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries struggling with the notorious terrorist group Boko Haram. „Around half of the country’s rural population live below the poverty line and are faced with food shortages due to difficult desert conditions“Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa


The sponsorship has mostly attracted criticism in that Central African country saying „It’s sheer madness“ and „money could have been spent on developing our football instead of promoting others.”

But, Betel Miarom, Chadian minister of sports said to the eminent Parisian L’Equipe that this sponsorship would „erase“ the negative image of Chad in the world, stimulate its tourism sector and help to „intensify the economic ties“ between Chad and France.


“Sponsors are looking for value for money and getting such a big audience for your product is an immense advantage. The hope is that a certain proportion of those who constantly see the name Malaysia as they watch a match on Sky TV or whatever will be tempted to take a trip there. The likelihood has to be that they will do so.” – Keith Moragn, an international accountant.

“The UAE state sees sport as a key strategic tool where friendly media coverage is almost guaranteed. The UAE hosts richly rewarded events in a huge number of sports” – Ed Thompson, financialfairplay.co.uk.

“In just one year, we have been able to project the image of Azerbaijan for the world and promote bilateral relations between our countries.” – Enrique Cerezo, Atletico Madrid’s president.

There are several other examples of globally unpopular countries who sponsored football clubs in recent years. Besides Sevilla, Malaysian tourist agency sponsored FC Cardiff City and FK Sarajevo. The reason for that is Cardiff’s and Sarajevo’s owner – Malaysian Vincent Tan who saw a great opportunity in football to promote his birth country.

Then, we have Qatar Airways and Fly Emirates (airlines from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) which sponsored world’s biggest football clubs (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan, Arsenal, PSG…) promoting not only their companies but also their home countries.

For two and a half years, former Soviet republic Azerbaijan was a sponsor of Atletico Madrid, 10-time Spanish champion and 3-time runner-up of the European Cup/Uefa Champions League (1974, 2014 and 2016).

Before the Plus500 became the new official sponsor of Atletico Madrid, the sign „Azerbaijan – land of fire“ stood at the front side of Atletico’s kits including the 2014 UEFA Champions League Finals with estimated viewership of more than 200 million people all over the world. What a great promotion for „only“ several million dollars per year!



So, why would globally unpopular countries with bad image invest millions of dollars to become sponsors of football clubs? Well, because promotion through sport is considered to be the purest and the most positive type of promotion.

Football is by far the most popular and most dominant sport in the world. Big football tournaments and competitions attract hundreds of millions of people. Before someone decides they want to visit your country or invest in it, they have to hear about it first. Certainly, sports promotion is one of the most popular and the most far-reaching promotional channel.

Since countries like Puerto Rico, Chad, Malaysia, Qatar or Azerbaijan will probably never have national teams that will compete for the gold medal at the football World Cup (they certainly won’t have a club which will compete in UEFA Champions League Finals 🙂 ), then deciding to invest in European football giants is a great way to inform the global public about themselves. And, if that club has quality results, it will reflect that positive image to the sponsor country.

Investing a few millions dollars in a football club, even for the poorest countries in the world like Chad, can be very cost-effective in the long term.

Do you agree with Puerto Rico’s and Chad’s government initiative to invest in famous European football clubs? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.



Niko Rukavina

Niko Rukavina

Overtime Sports Marketing

If you have any questions about sports marketing, be free to contact me at niko@promoovertime.com

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