The Saudi Tourism Authority has just kicked off a new global marketing campaign, featuring the world’s most decorated football player, Lionel Messi. After refusing $429 million (€397 million) a year to join Saudi Arabia’s soccer club, Al Hilal, the Argentine forward struck a deal with the country’s tourism board on 1 January 2021, for up to €22.5 million over three years. Since the launch of the new campaign is over the previous 3-year contract, it might indicate a new deal has been reached.
Launching across key target markets in Europe, India and China, the “Go Beyond What You Think” campaign is anchored on consumer insights, which revealed there are still common misconceptions about Saudi Arabia as a tourism destination and invites audiences to experience the cultural transformation taking place across the country.
Addressing common misconceptions, the campaign features Messi breaking down metaphorical ‘walls’ of various stereotypes about the country. The video showcases Saudi’s diverse locations, weather and terrain – from Riyadh to the Red Sea and the coastal city of Jeddah to the lush green mountains in Aseer and snow covered Tabuk. In particular, the campaign highlights the Diriyah E-Prix, Riyadh Season’s theme park rides, AlUla’s hot air balloon flights and MDL Beast music events.
The campaign also places a spotlight the importance of inspiring young Saudi women to reach their full potential, showing the footballer passing the ball to a girl, as a nod to the Saudi Women’s National football team.
Bagging the world’s most famous football players for its tourism promotion seems to be the latest Saudi trend, with Cristiano Ronaldo and his partner Georgina recently praising on social media their stay at the Banyan Tree AlUla resort.
The country has been heavily investing in tourism, part of Crown Prince and de facto ruler of the country, Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030”, a plan to diversify the country’s economy from oil by attracting business and tourism. Among other endeavours of the Saudi Vision, the country launched a new national airline in March 2023, Riyadh Air, with the ambition of tripling its air traffic to 330 million passengers by the end of the decade. Riyadh is also being transformed with several mega projects, all due for completion by 2030, when the capital will be showcasing the fruit of the Vision at the World Expo 2030.