MIAMI — Now that the FIFA World Cup has kicked off, let’s celebrate the partnership between airlines and sports with an exclusive focus on football (or Soccer!).
The Middle-Eastern super connectors mostly dominate the professional football sponsorship game.
According to the SportsBusiness Group, Emirates leads the way with the most active deals including marquee sponsorships of European clubs Arsenal (€33M), Real Madrid (€27M), Paris Saint-Germain (€25M), and AC Milan (€17M).
The next most active airlines include both Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.
In fact, Etihad has the most significant active partnership of all airlines with Manchester City at (€45M) when the annual values of both shirt sponsorship and stadium naming rights are combined.
They have extended their reach far beyond Europe by sponsoring Melbourne City FC in Australia.
FIFA World Cup With Qatar Airways
Also, now having flights to several major American cities, Etihad serves as the official airline of Major League Soccer (MLS) for a more modest sum estimated at roughly (€3) annually. Yet, the focus for the next few weeks will be on Qatar Airways as one of seven companies serving as official partners for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The deal is worth an estimated (€26.5M) annually according to the SportsBusiness Group.
The Doha-based airline was undoubtedly motivated by the agreement because it runs through 2022 including the next World Cup in which Qatar will be the host nation.
In the lead up to this year’s cup, the airline has been promoting exclusive travel packages to both Moscow and St. Petersburg including match tickets.
Qatar has also been the most active airline of late, inking deals with three major professional football clubs within the last several months.
After losing their FC Barcelona sponsorship nearly two years ago, Qatar has signed on as the upcoming shirt-sleeve sponsor for Germany’s famed football club, Bayern Munich.
The airline also recently made a big splash by becoming the shirt sponsor for AS Roma of Italy worth an estimated (€40M) annually for the next three years, securing the largest partnership the club has ever had.
To cap things off, Qatar Airways highlighted its South American growth strategy by becoming the shirt sponsor during the upcoming season and beyond for Argentinian football club Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires.
Lastly, as we celebrate the international competition, it is important not to forget that national teams often receive sponsorship support and value-in-kind services from their home-based airlines as well.
One of the important marketing associations leading up to the cup has been Icelandair’s sponsorship of the national team.
Who can forget this Cinderella team that captured the world’s attention by making it to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016, upsetting England along the way?
The team topped that accomplishment this year by helping Iceland becoming the smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup finals.
As a primary sponsor, Icelandair has capitalized on the excitement by promoting free 90-minute stopover excursions, the length of a football match, inspired by team members.