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Emirates World Cup women show how central sport is to the airline's international image


By Noel Young | Correspondent

July 15, 2014 | 4 min read

You could hardly miss them: Elegant uniformed flight attendants distributing the hardware to the winning Germans at the World Cup presentation. It was a sign how central sports has become to the marketing strategy of Emirates Airline, Bloomberg has pointed out.

Emirates flight attendants on parade

"From horse racing to cricket to pro tennis, Emirates has spent lavishly on becoming one of the world’s biggest sponsors of sports."

Spending on soccer—with the global spectacle that is the FIFA World Cup every four years—dwarfs all other sports.

The Dubai-based airline sponsors a half-dozen European clubs, including Arsenal, AC Milan, and Real Madrid.

“Emirates has arguably become one of the most prominent brands within football,” the company says. The airline flies to all but 10 of the 32 countries in the World Cup.

Emirates spent about $100 million over the past four years to be one of FIFA’s six top “partners,” said Bloomberg: "a well-heeled group that included Adidas , Coca-Cola. Hyundai , Kia , Sony , and Visa", according to an estimate from London-based Brand Finance, which works with corporate marketers.

“They have made a very strategic investment, and they are kind of ingrained in the games,” says Dave Chattaway, a sports valuation analyst with Brand Finance. “And seeing them at the World Cup… you can truly say they are a global brand name.”

Such heavy spending by an airline speaks directly to its central goal said Bloomberg: continued international expansion, particularly in Europe and North America.

"Emirates’ explosive growth has siphoned passengers and profits from a bevy of European carriers, led by Germany’s Lufthansa, and has drawn sharp complaints from airlines on both sides of the Atlantic that it is subsidized by its home government in Dubai. "

Emirates’ large orders of Boeing jumbo jets has also been an issue in the current debate over whether Congress should reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Four years from now, when Russia hosts the World Cup, Emirates is likely to retain its premier sponsorship role, predicts Eric Smallwood, senior vice president of Philadelphia-based Front Row Marketing Services, a unit of Comcast (CMCSA), noting the dearth of major Russian companies as sponsors in the recent Sochi Olympic Games.

The airline is far from alone in putting ever-more dollars behind marquee sports events, said Bloomberg.

Adidas on Monday said it would pay at least $1.3 billion over 10 years to replace Nike as the uniform supplier for Manchester United . Nike said last week that the economics of a future contract did not work for its shareholders.

The size of the deal for one club “just shows you the growth of football worldwide,” Smallwood says. “And I don’t see it slowing down in any capacity.”

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Emirates is an airline based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The airline is a subsidiary of The Emirates Group, which is wholly owned by the government of Dubai's Investment Corporation of Dubai.  

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