Emirates finally sees FIFA as a brand not to be associated with

A succinct 37-word statement issued on November 4 2014 was enough to end Emirates Airline’s sponsorship of the Fifa World Cup, or in Fifa speak, “terminate its relationship as Official Fifa Worldw

Emirates finally sees FIFA as a brand not to be associated with

A succinct 37-word statement issued on November 4 2014 was enough to end Emirates Airline’s sponsorship of the Fifa World Cup, or in Fifa speak, “terminate its relationship as Official Fifa Worldwide Partner”.

“Emirates can confirm that a decision has been made not to renew the sponsorship agreement with Fifa past 2014. This decision was made following a re-evaluation of Fifa’s contract proposal, which did not meet Emirates’ expectations,” it said.

With that, the carrier brought the curtain down on an eight-year relationship, from 2007, incorporating sponsorship of the South Africa tournament in 2010 and the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

The World Cup accounts for the majority of world football’s Zurich-based ruling body’s annual revenue of US$1.2 billion, about a quarter of which comes from commercial affiliates, or some $300 million from companies that see the competition as the ultimate shop window on the world high street.

The controversy over the awarding of both 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, has refused to abate since the vote in 2010.

It seems Emirates finally saw Fifa as a brand not to be associated with as Boutros Boutros, the senior vice president of media relations, sponsorship and events for Emirates Airlines said in December 2013: “… we do not get involved in politics unless it starts affecting our reputation. That’s why I am a bit disappointed with Fifa.

“Maybe we will consider whether to renew our contract when the time comes.”

Becoming a Fifa “partner” is an expensive but rewarding endorsement. This years’s month-long World Cup in Brazil garnered more than 3 billion interactions on Facebook and 672 million messages on Twitter and more than 1 billion people logged on to Fifa’s Global Stadium, Fifa.com’s social, online and mobile hub, throughout the tournament. Those figures do not include TV audiences or the crowds in the stadia.

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“The passion and following of the Fifa World Cup is such that, as long as Fifa does not lose control of the situation – which I don’t see happening – sponsors will be queuing to align themselves with the football festival,” says Rakesh Kumar, the chairman of Firefly Amap, a brand management agency in Dubai. “From a sponsorship point of view there are very few truly global events that can reach as many people, as many eyeballs, as the Fifa world cup.

“Yes, there is a certain amount of bad press but there is also a chance for sponsors to join the conversation with Fifa – as they are ‘partners’ – so sponsorship can help change the dynamic, can help change the fabric of the organisation, which would be very well received.”

Emirates currently sponsors the football teams Arsenal FC (and its stadium); Real Madrid; Paris St Germain; AC Milan; Hamburg; Olympiakos; and the Zain Saudi professional league, spending an average of $100m a year. Emirates, reportedly, believes in football as a medium that can spread its name to the great and the good with little downside risk.

However, with the European football governing body Uefa’s president Michel Platini allegedly receiving a painting by Picasso, fished out of a Russian museum, from president Putin to secure a Russia vote for the 2018 competition, it seems the mercenary nature of allocating venues is ingrained in the system. That is just one claim among many that have tarnished the bidding process for the rights to host the biggest single sports event on the planet.

Emirates declines to comment on why it has stepped away from its exclusive commitment to the showpiece or what its expectations were and how Fifa had not met them.

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