Business of sport: Airline's branding will appear at 15 races this season, as part of a five-year deal with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said to be worth $200m.
Emirates Airline in five-year partnership with Formula One
Emirates Airline yesterday announced a five-year partnership with Formula One, taking its total sponsorship spending to Dh1 billion (US$272.2m) this year.
The announcement marks Emirates’ first foray into elite motorsport for seven years and will result in the airline’s branding appearing at 15 races this season. It excludes venues where existing airline sponsorships are in place, such as Abu Dhabi.
“Our message to motor racing fans is ‘fasten your seatbelt, and we are joining you for the ride’,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline & Group.
The value of the agreement was not disclosed but is understood to be worth as much as $200 million.
“Motor racing fans will see our branding for the first time at the Malaysian Grand Prix,” said Sheikh Ahmed.
“If you look at the Formula One calendar for 2013, it reads almost a like a list of Emirates destinations, from Sao Paulo in the west to Singapore in the east.”
Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive of F1, said the partnership with Emirates made sense for the sport.
“It is the kind of brand that should be with us and we should be with them,” he said. “Everywhere I fly, I see Emirates. I was sat in the A380 the other day and I thought if I retire, I’m going to live in an A380.”
Sheikh Ahmed said the deal marked “another big step” for Emirates as a brand.
The 82-year-old F1 boss said the partnership was worth millions of dollars but would not be drawn on an exact figure.
“I was told very early on that a gentleman never speaks about last night or money,” he quipped.
Mr Ecclestone has dominated the sport for more than 30 years and had been planning an initial public offering of F1, which has since been delayed until market conditions improve.
“We postponed the IPO because at that time we were told it would be the wrong time,” he said yesterday. “Let’s wait and see.”
Abu Dhabi and Bahrain have both invested substantially in F1, with each hosting an annual grand prix on a custom-built circuit.
This latest deal with F1 cements Emirate’s position as one of the most visible brands in global sport.
In 2004, the airline signed the biggest sponsorship deal in English football history with Arsenal, in a partnership that included naming rights to the club’s new stadium.
Emirates is also involved in major horse racing events such as the Melbourne Cup Carnival and the Dubai World Cup. It is also associated with several other international events across tennis, cricket, sailing, rugby and golf.
Such sponsorship deals have been a key part of the airline’s growth strategy, which has helped annual sales to grow to more than $18.4 billion.
It carried more than 34 million passengers last year, transforming Dubai into one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs.
The airline currently operates some 187 passenger jets, and has at least a further 202 on order worth about $73 bn.