x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sport used to put the UAE on the map

The National takes a look at how companies in the UAE use sport to get themselves seen and heard.

Soccer has the largest profile with multi-billion-dollar firms falling over themselves to be associated with the top teams. Etihad, aside from the new shirt deal with Manchester City, is already involved in a sponsorship deal with Chelsea as the team's official airline. It is not the only firm to have its name emblazoned across the chests of English Premier League teams: Emirates Airline has the same tie-in with Arsenal. The club's home is the 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium. Emirates also has a number of lucrative sponsorship deals with international clubs such as the Italian giants AC Milan, the German team Hamburg SV, French club Paris St Germain and the Greek team Olympiakos CFP. It also sponsors the Asian Football Confederation and a two-day pre-season fixture, the Emirates Cup. According to recent figures, Emirates spends 2.7 per cent of its total budget on marketing. The telecommunications provider Etisalat signed a four-year, US$16 million (Dh59m) deal with the Spanish club FC Barcelona in February.

Emirates Airline has also been keen to raise its profile among rugby fans, backing a series of international tournaments.

The airline co-funded the construction of a purpose-built stadium in Dubai, to host the 2009 World Cup Rugby Sevens tournament, and has announced plans to back the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The firm will also sponsor the International Rugby Board (IRB) referees and match officials, the Sevens World Series and International Sevens Teams and the Western Force, a rugby union team based in Perth, Western Australia. In July, 2007, Etihad announced that it would become the main sponsor of the London-based Harlequins rugby club in a deal that saw the east stand of the team's home ground, the Twickenham Stoop Stadium, renamed the Etihad Stand. The agreement also saw the Etihad logo painted on the roof of the stand, which is on the flight path of Heathrow airport.

With the large number of workers from India and Pakistan and the sport's large and dedicated fan base, the UAE has backed several international and domestic cricket fixtures, with Emirates Airline signing several large deals for international cricket.

The firm is the official sponsor of Cricket Australia, formerly known as the Australian Cricket Board, which is the governing body for professional and amateur cricket in the country. It also pays to be linked to the Lord's Taverners, an English charity dedicated to the promotion of cricket among young people, and is the title sponsor of the Pro ARCH Trophy, an annual competition between six English county sides. It is also the major sponsor of the King's XI Punjab cricket team in the Indian Premier League, the largest Twenty-20 cricket tournament in the world.

The UAE has in recent years taken a keen interest in motorsport and has looked for tie-ins. In the summer of 2005, Mubadala Development Company, the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi Government, bought a five per cent stake in the Italian sports car manufacturer Ferrari and became a key sponsor of the firm's F1 team. Mubadala became the first non-financial institution shareholder, other than Fiat and the Ferrari family, to own a stake in the firm.

A condition of the four-year deal ensures the Mubadala logo features on the Ferrari F1 cars competing in the World Championships as well as on the caps of its drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. Etihad also agreed a three-year deal with Ferrari in March last year to become a title sponsor of Ferrari, with the airline's logos appearing on F1 cars' rear wings, on their turning vanes and on the drivers' helmets. The company is also a key sponsor of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, along with the Abu Dhabi-based developer, Aldar Properties.

Aldar is also active in golf sponsorship, having signed a deal in April 2007 with Britain's Paul Casey, one of Europe's leading golfers and winner of the 2007 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. The firm is also behind big-budget projects such as the UAE-based Ferrari World theme park and the Yas Marina Formula One race circuit, specially designed for this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Emirates Airline also sponsors a dozen golfing events around the world including the Dubai Desert Classic, the Dubai Ladies' Masters, the Malaysian Open, the Hong Kong Open, the BMW International Open, the Austrian Open, the Volvo Masters of Asia, the Hero Honda Open, the Australian PGA Championships, the Africa Open, the Volvo China Open, and the HSBC Champions. India's top professional golfer, JM Singh, is also sponsored by the course development firm Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Leisurecorp, a subsidiary of the Dubai Government's investment wing, Dubai World, announced in November 2007 that it would put in US$10m annually for the European Tour Order of Merit golf competition, to be renamed The Race to Dubai. The group also announced that it would sponsor the inaugural Dubai World Championship, the world's richest tournament, with a $10m prize fund, which will be held in November.

As befits a seafaring nation, Emirati companies back several watersports teams and events. Emirates Airline sponsors Emirates Team New Zealand, which has enjoyed success in the Americas Cup, as well as the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship. Sharjah-based Air Arabia sponsors the Bahrain sailing team. Horseracing receives big investment, with Emirates sponsoring the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Godolphin Stables and the Australian Jockey Club, as well as races such as the Dubai World Cup, Melbourne Cup, Champion Stakes, Newmarket, Yorkshire Cup, York, and The Singapore Derby.

Dubai Duty Free is the title sponsor of Newbury's important two-day Spring Trials, while in polo, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi sponsors the Habtoor Polo Cup. Emirates has also moved into the world of Australian Rules Football with its sponsorship of the Melbourne team Collingwood. Not to be outdone, Etihad Airways sponsors the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Hurling is an outdoor team sport of ancient Gaelic origin.

The banking group Emirates NBD has sponsored events including the Dubai Tennis Championship, the Al Ain Squash Tournament and the Abu Dhabi Women's Volleyball Tournament.