Top 10 biggest airline sponsorship deals in football history
Some big football clubs have signed massive deals with these airline companies
Football is a sport driven by sponsorships and endorsements from big investors from around the world. These agreements not only provide financial stability to clubs and athletes but also assist companies in increasing their visibility and reaching a larger audience. Aviation and sports are more related than one might think. Indeed, some of the world’s largest airlines indirectly derive a relevant share of their revenues from sponsorship deals, most of which involve sports teams, predominantly football.
The rationale behind investing in multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals derives from the possibility for carriers to enhance their brand awareness and link their names to prestigious sports entities. The airline sector is responsible for some of the biggest deals in sports sponsorship, with brands such as Emirates Palace and Qatar Airways having secured enormous deals with some of the world’s most popular soccer teams. Here are the top ten biggest airline sponsorship deals in football:
10. The Spanish National Team and Iberia: $4m
While not directly sponsoring a football club, Iberia’s sponsorship of the Royal Spanish Football Federation includes the company serving as the official airline of Spain’s national men’s and women’s teams. The deal lasts until at least 2026 with a total value of $26m.
9. The German National Team and Lufthansa: $4m
Lufthansa’s agreement with the German Football Association and its national teams is both the most valuable partnership between an airline and a team local to its home country and the biggest deal for an airline not based in the Middle East. The German National team and Lufthansa’s partnership is going on for a long time and it will last until at least 2026. Both sides are happy with this partnership and probably they can extend this for a few more years.
8. Benfica and Emirates Airlines: $12.5m
The only Portuguese club in this list, SL Benfica are one of the biggest clubs not only in Portugal but in the whole of Europe. Since its inception in 2015, the prominent sponsorship of the Primeira Liga club was initially set for three years and subsequently extended for another three years in 2018. However, starting from 2021, the sponsorship has been renewed annually, and as of now, it is slated to continue until 2024.
7. Olympique Lyonnais and Emirates Airlines: $21.7m
This five-year sponsorship was announced in 2020 and saw the airline return to France’s Ligue 1 as the shirt sponsor of Lyon. The deal includes a range of other marketing and ticketing opportunities, such as heavy branding for the airline across Lyon’s Groupama Stadium.
6. AC Milan and Emirates Airlines: $32m
AC Milan are the only Italian club on this list. They have had this relationship with the Emirates for quite a few years. In 2007 Emirates Airlines for the first time became the club’s official airline. AC Milan’s current agreement with Emirates will bring the relationship over the 20-year mark by continuing until at least 2029 and totals around $185m, bringing the entire value of the partnership to almost $450m over its lifetime.
5. Atletico Madrid and Riyadh Air: $43.9m
The Roje Blancos and the Airline from Saudi Arabia are a very new deal. They only signed their agreement in August 2023, prematurely terminating the club’s existing shirt sponsorship contract with crypto platform WhaleFin. Despite being agreed upon in the nascent stages of the airline’s existence, the sponsorship of the LaLiga team is set to continue until at least 2027 with a total value of just over $175m.
4. Arsenal and Emirates Airlines: $64m
It’s reaching the point now where it’s becoming quite difficult to disassociate Arsenal from Emirates Airlines. They have held the stadium naming rights ever since Arsenal left Highbury and it’s increasingly hard to imagine an Arsenal shirt without ‘Fly Emirates’ on it. Their agreement was then extended in 2012, 2018, and 2023, with the North London club frequently boasting their partnership as one of the biggest deals in football.
3. Manchester City and Etihad Airways: $68m
The tie between the airline and the British football team is long-lasting. Over a decade, the airline has flown the team worldwide, dedicating two special, striking light-blue liveries to celebrate the team and its many triumphs, such as winning the European Championship last June. That deal between Etihad Airways and Manchester City has since been extended multiple times up to the 2023-24 season, taking it to over $800m in total value. It is likely to continue in the coming years.
2. Real Madrid and Emirates Airlines: $68.1m-$70m
In October 2022, the airline and the football team renewed the sponsorship deal, which dates back to 2011, until 2026, furthering Emirates’ role as the team’s main sponsor. Additionally, the club’s dealings with the United Arab Emirates also include a tourism sponsorship agreement with Visit Dubai.
1. Paris Saint-Germain and Qatar Airways: $80m
Qatar Airways’ logo appears on the team’s jerseys of the men, women, and youth professional teams. Following the sponsorship deal, the Qatar Airways Privilege Club has become the official frequent flyer program of the Parisian team, which is a solid example of how a sports sponsorship can be leveraged to enhance brand loyalty.
Since being purchased by the Emir of Qatar and Qatar Sports Investments, the team has had a close relationship with many of the country’s national brands. As part of the deal, Qatar Airways Holidays designs and sells travel packages, including return flights to Paris, accommodation, and match tickets.
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