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Etihad reap Manchester rewards as sports-sponsorship continues to grow

Etihad reap Manchester rewards as sports-sponsorship continues to grow Emirates is a major player in sports sponsorship

There are unlikely to be many smiles among Manchester United supporters today, as the Premier League crown was snatched away from them in the most dramatic of fashions.

But across town, at the recently renamed Etihad Stadium, there will be nothing but celebrations among fans of arch-rivals Manchester City and proud sponsors Etihad Airways.

With the clock ticking down yesterday, it took two last minute goals – from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero – for City to come from behind, beat Queens Park Rangers and claim their first title in 44-years.

What followed must have been exactly what Eithad Airways had planned when they signed a £400 million sponsorship deal with the club in July 2011. 

Screens around the world were filled with Etihad branding at the players re-emerged onto the field to collect the Premier League trophy, with the carrier seemingly right there in the centre of the success.

It was a magical moment for anybody not in the red half of Manchester.

But the Etihad deal – which includes shirt and stadium sponsorship for ten years – is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the tourism industry’s role in sport.

Etihad Airways is considered the World’s Leading Airline by the World Travel Awards

Premier Players

Yesterday’s opponents, Queens Park Ranges, for example, have seen an infusion of funds themselves, from club owner, Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes.

As a result Malaysia Airlines’ branding appeared on the club’s home kit this season, while Air Asia features on the west London side’s two away kits.

Both airlines are connected to Fernandes.

Manchester United, who relinquished their title to City yesterday, also have their own connections to the aviation industry, having signed a multi-million pound deal with Turkish Airlines in 2010.

Further down the league, Aston Villa recently announced a new partnership with Genting, the leading international leisure and hospitality group. The partnership will run until the end next season, with the Genting Casinos logo featured on the home and away Villa shirts.

Peter Brooks, executive deputy chairman of Genting, explained: “The English Premier League is the pre-eminent football league with a vast international following - while Genting is a leading leisure and hospitality group also with a huge international presence.

“So this sponsorship is a natural fit and marks an important milestone in Genting’s development as we continue to expand our presence both within the UK and internationally.”

Tottenham Hotspur also maintain a relationship with Thomas Cook, which allows fans to take advantage of the best travel options to reach away games in the UK and across Europe.

Emirates sports sponsorship portfolio stretches around the world and includes Hamburger SV


Perhaps the most significant player in the market, however, is Emirates, which maintains an unrivalled portfolio of partnerships. The most famous of these to UK fans is the relationship with Arsenal.

Signed in 2004, the record-breaking 15- year sponsorship deal is worth £100 million and sees Emirates take naming rights for the north-London team’s stadium and act as its main shirt sponsor.

At the time, the deal signed by Emirates and Arsenal was the largest sponsorship agreement ever seen in British football.

But Emirates has similar deals across European football. AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Hamburger SV, Real Madrid, and Olympiacos FC all fall into the Emirates camp, while the airline also acts as an official sponsor to FIFA.

Emirates’ relationship with FIFA began during the World Cup in Germany during, with the carrier set to hold Official Partner status until 2014. The sponsorship will see Emirates hold worldwide rights to all FIFA competitions in this period - including the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014.

Away from football, Emirates also has interests in golf, cricket, tennis, horse racing and just about any other sport one would care to name – seeing it as a vital asset in growing its brand in emerging markets around the world.

“We believe sponsorships are one of the best ways to connect with our passengers,” said His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman, Emirates Airline.

“They allow us to share and support their interests and to build a closer relationship with them,” he added.


But it is not just brands which are keen to gain the exposure available through sporting sponsorship. Destinations, also, are beginning to see the benefits of hosting major sporting events.

Qatar has not been far from the thoughts of sports fans in the last few months, with the Middle Eastern destination granted rights to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup.

The country, which has little experience of football, has thus committed to spending hundreds of millions of dollars to host the event, with the hope the added exposure will result in a boost in visitor numbers in the long-term.

In part to quell concerns over this lack football pedigree, Qatar has also started to boost its profile on the sporting stage, principally through a five-year, £125 million deal with UEFA Champions League holders Barcelona.

The Qatar Foundation has thus joined Unicef as the Spanish team’s shirt sponsor, with the club set to receive €30 million per season from the non-profit organisation.

The arrangement marks the first time in the Catalan team’s 100-plus year history they will be paid to advertise on their jerseys.

Even established destinations, such as London, which will host the 2012 Olympic Games in a matter of weeks, and Brazil, which has secured an unprecedented double with the FIFA World Cup in 2014 to be followed by the Olympics in 2016, are realising the value of sports sponsorship.

Russia, also, has been piling billions of dollars into the new sports facilities at Sochi head of the 2014 Winter Olympics, while Poland & Ukraine are putting the finishing touches to preparations for the UEFA European Championships next month.

Such events offer a destination a chance to showcase its offering to the world – with the international spotlight used to boost visitor numbers once the sporting carnival has left town.