Airline sponsorship worth an estimated $737m to sports industry, according to GlobalData

  • 85 airlines are currently engaging in sport sponsorship arrangements with 273 deals estimated to be active in 2021
  • UAE carrier Fly Emirates stands as the most committed airline with an estimated $218m in sponsorship
  • Gulf airlines account for well over half of sector spend on sport sponsorship, at $394m, driven by Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways

With $737m worth of sponsorship agreements, the airline sector represents one of the most lucrative partners for the sport industry. With high revenues and marketing budgets, some of the largest deals in world sport have been struck between sport’s biggest properties and the world’s most distinguished airlines, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Some of the largest deals include Real Madrid’s front of shirt partnership with UAE airline Fly Emirates, worth a reported $82.34m per annum, and Delta Airlines $50m per annum deal with the 2028 Olympics and the US Olympic Committee.

Patrick Kinch, Sport Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Over the past few decades, the airline sector has represented a reliable partner for the sports industry, with airlines attaching their branding to numerous sports teams, stadia and events around the world, for huge fees in some cases.
“Emirates, which has its name attached to widely known stadia, events, and teams, is the airline most committed to the sports industry in 2021, with 27 deals reaching an estimated $218m in value, with nine deals among top 20 most valuable sport partnerships in the airline sector.”

The majority of the $737m is driven by the gulf airlines of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways. The region has heavily invested in sport over the past 10 to 15 years, and the region accounts for over $394m in sponsorship agreements, which is more than any other territory. Airlines from this region typically focus their engagements on more internationally recognised sport properties, from the FIFA World Cup to Formula 1 and the UEFA European Championships. This contrasts to the airlines in other regions, whose efforts in sport sponsorship are driven towards their domestic market.

Kinch continues: “The majority of European airlines are committed to partnerships within their domestic market, or at least within the continent, similarly North American airlines are most active within the USA’s big five franchises, attaching their name to NFL, NBA and NHL stadia such as the American Airlines Centre. The gulf airlines have over the past 10 years, used sport sponsorship as a marketing push for the region. With the major carriers in Qatar and the UAE acting as key tourism drivers, as they seek to promote themselves as viable destinations for global sporting events, with next year’s World Cup a key moment for the region.”

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