The deal will see the business use the Premier League club’s merchandising, hospitality and content rights in Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda.
It will also be the official mobile operator of the 2012 Arsenal tour to Nigeria later this August.
In return, Arsenal will support Airtel’s annual Rising Stars programme, a grassroots initiative that offers young children the chance to be mentored by UEFA-trained coaches.
The North London club will use the initiative to build on what it claims are its 42 million fans across the continent with promotions such as a competition for Airtel consumers to win match tickets for its pre-season tour as well as offers to receive team content and news direct to their handsets.
Head of global partnerships, Vinai Venkatesham, says the move, the club’s second in the region following its tie-up with Malt Guinness, “underlines the depth of our following in Africa and how the profile of the club continues to grow internationally.”
Arsenal is looking to follow in the steps of fellow football club Manchester United, which has been forging links with telecommunications sponsors overseas to boost their fan base. In February, the club signed a deal with Globul, Bulgaria’s second largest mobile operator.
It is likely the club will use the opportunity to capture data on fans in the region as part of wider efforts to place CRM at the centre of its marketing activity. CRM is fast-become a key battleground for Premier League clubs looking to become global sporting brands. Indeed, Liverpool, Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers are all treating their pre-season tours this summer as an exercise in data capture to create additional value for potential sponsors.