Emirates Airlines Unlikely to Continue Sponsorship with FIFA

November 2, 2011

Emirates Airlines looks unlikely to extend its multi-million dollar sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup following the voting scandal that marred the 2018 and 2022 bidding process.

Boutros Boutros, sale divisional senior vice president of corporate communications and one of the Dubai-based airlines most senior executives, said it has had no contact with the organisation about the crisis and felt it had been “overlooked” by it despite being one of its largest benefactors.

Emirates has now commissioned research into its association with FIFA to see if there has been any long term damage to its brand.

On a visit to Australia to attend the Emirates sponsored Melbourne Cup yesterday, Boutros told B&T: “We are seriously thinking about not renewing our partnership with FIFA beyond 2014.”

In 2006 Emirates signed a record-breaking $195m deal with football’s world governing body to become its partner – the highest level of association a company can have with FIFA – from 2007 to 2014.

The agreement was the largest sponsorship association the airline has ever signed and followed its strategy of sponsoring football teams and major sporting events around the world.

Boutros commented: “We don’t get into politics but we believe the situation with FIFA went beyond an internal problem and became much bigger.

“As a sponsor you expect they will come and write to you in the middle of the issue or at the end of it. To them they act as if it’s nothing for sponsors. For us, in our history of sponsorship, it is the only event that when it happened our clients started writing to us saying ‘why do you support this organisation?’

“You’d expect at certain times that FIFA would send you some assurances so that we don’t read about it in the newspapers or press conferences when you are one of the main partners. We are considered a partner, but if you are a partner in the business I think once a year you owe him a report. And that’s why we felt we were overlooked by FIFA. At the end of the day they were probably too busy, but at the end of the day we haven’t seen any changes. There is nothing telling you these things will not happen again.”

Boutros said he hoped Emirates’ association with FIFA had not damaged the brand, but said it was waiting the results of research before a final decision on its commitment for 2018 and 2022 had to be made by June next year. He added: “With social media when you get negative reports from your passengers questioning why you are supporting FIFA, that has never happened to us before.”