Emirates outlines its sports sponsorship vision

Emirates Airline is fully committed to sports sponsorhip, vice-president for promotions and media relations, Boutros Boutros, explained to Lim Han Ming of Singapore's The New Paper and emphasised why it is an integral part of their overall communications strategy:

"We only started sports sponsorship in 1987 ... focusing on small sporting events in Dubai with international appeal, such as horseracing and powerboat racing ... In Singapore, the airline sponsored S-League club Home United from 2001 to 2003 and is still a big supporter of horseracing's Singapore Derby.

"Singapore is a very important destination. It is our Asian hub," he said. "We used to sponsor Home United, but the problem is that the football clubs in Singapore do not own their stadiums. Hence, we could not get naming rights to the stadium like we did with Arsenal.

"Still, Home United gave us a good deal. But with our sponsorship of the Asian Football Confederation, our brand gets exposure for over 500 televised games. That indirectly covers Singapore ..."

At a time when sponsors are hard to come by, Emirates are extending their reach in the sporting world. Boutros said:

"In terms of revenue, nobody can tell you if we spend one million, we will earn extra revenue of two million. Our research has shown that sports gets us closer to our clients. Seventy percent of our sponsorship money goes to sports. But we choose different sport events that cover big geographical areas and can reach different audiences."

Besides the Dubai Desert Classic and the Singapore Masters, Emirates also sponsors six other golf tournaments worldwide: the Munich Open, the Austrian Open, the Hong Kong Open, the Malaysian Open, the BMW Asian Open and the New Zealand Open. Other than golf, the other sports under Emirates' sponsorship umbrella are rugby, horseracing, tennis, yachting, powerboat racing and Australian Rules football.

However the bulk of their annual US$8 million sponsorship budget goes to football.

"Two years ago, Emirates and Arsenal inked the biggest club sponsorship in English football history, worth some US$100 million, Lim commented. "The deal gives the airline naming rights to the club's new 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium, which will open its doors in August. Emirates will also take over as the club's shirt sponsorship for eight years, starting from the 2006/2007 season But it is Emirates' sponsorship of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany in June which will give its brand name a huge boost. Emirates is the first airline to sponsor the world's premier football tournament, which runs from 9 June to 9 July."

Boutros concluded: "With our expanding business, we need to raise awareness in our new markets. Where we are concerned, sports sponsorship is here to stay."