Etisalat has signed a marketing partnership with FC Barcelona, a leading European football club, the company said yesterday. The four-year agreement, which makes Etisalat the "official international telecom partner" of the team, is the latest example of fast-growing Gulf companies entering the European sports sector. Etisalat did not disclose the value of the deal.
"Etisalat's association with FC Barcelona will accentuate our global profile and brand, that is already creating excitement around the world," said Essa al Haddad, the chief marketing officer at Etisalat. "Etisalat will also line up a number of initiatives that will enable our customers to enjoy their favourite game and experience the season from the best digital seats," he added. Besides advertising and branding rights, the telecommunications operator will be able to organise two international matches with Barcelona in the location of its choice, against nominated teams. This opened the possibility of bringing the team to the UAE, a statement from Etisalat said.
Barcelona won the Spanish league in 2007 and the European Champions League in 2006. The Etisalat deal will enable the telecoms operator to bring football action to its 80 million customers in 18 countries, which the company hopes will provide an extended worldwide fan base to FC Barcelona in relatively newer territories. "The aim of FC Barcelona is worldwide presence and this agreement will allow us to strengthen our image and presence in the Middle East, Africa and Asia," said Joan Laporta Estruch, the president of FC Barcelona.
According to the Deloitte Football Money League rankings, FC Barcelona is the third-biggest revenue earner in the world, generating £244.4 million (Dh1.28 billion) during the 2007-2008 season. Real Madrid topped the chart with £289.6m and Manchester United was in second place with £257.1m. The telecoms operator had earlier sponsored the Etisalat Football League, the UAE-Brazil football match and other tournaments locally and internationally.
Last year, Saudi Arabia-based Saudi Telecom signed a five-year marketing agreement with UK-based Manchester United. As part of the deal, Saudi Telecom is featured on the company's website and inside their main stadium, and sends 70 Saudi students for football training in Manchester each year. Last year, Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, a company controlled by a member of the royal family, took over Manchester City from the former Thai premier, Thaksin Shinawatra.
In 2007, Etihad Airways signed a three-year deal to be a major sponsor and official international airline partner of Chelsea Football Club that included potential team tours to the UAE and the Far East. Emirates Airline and London-based Arsenal Football Club have also signed a sponsorship worth £100m. The agreement gives the airline naming rights to the club's new 60,000-seat stadium. Arsenal has set up a football school in the UAE as part of the partnership agreement.