Dubai's Emirates signs deal with Portugal's Benfica football club

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Dubai's Emirates Airline has struck a three-year sponsorship deal with Sport Lisboa e Benfica (Benfica), Portugal’s most successful football club, the carrier announced.

The agreement will see the Gulf carrier become the club's official airline partner until 2016 and comes two years after Emirates began flights to Lisbon in July 2012.

The announcement was unveiled this week by Hubert Frach, Emirates' Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations West, and CEO of Benfica, Domingos Soares de Oliveira, during a press conference held in Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica.

“We see our partnership with Benfica as an opportunity to connect with football fans in Portugal as well as the 14 million fans of the club spread across the world. Benefica has a growing international reputation as one of the most successful clubs in European football history, and fits in perfectly with our own rapidly expanding worldwide network,” Frach said.

Domingos Soares de Oliveira added: “This day represents a new milestone for Sport Lisboa e Benfica because we celebrate new relationship with Emirates that allows us to partner with one of the most innovative brands in the world. Together, we share the same passion for what we do and I am confident that this partnership with Emirates will help us further connect with all of our passionate supporters around the globe.”

The sponsorship deal gives Emirates brand visibility at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, as well as promotional rights. The airline will also receive player access and interactive hospitality rights.

Benfica is one of the most successful clubs in the world, having conquered several domestic titles, and is the only club to have won all Portuguese competitions. Internationally, Benfica holds two European Champion Club Cups.

Emirates has spent about $100 million on football sponsorship in the past four years to be one of FIFA's six top "partners", London-based Brand Finance estimated earlier this month.

"They have made a very strategic investment, and they are kind of ingrained in the games," Brand Finance sports valuation analyst Dave Chattaway was quoted as saying by The Economic Times.

"You can truly say they are a global brand name."

Emirates sponsors six European premier league teams, including Arsenal, AC Milan, and Real Madrid.

Sports sponsorship has become a central part of the airline’s marketing strategy as it rapidly expands its network.

Emirates also is the top sponsor of the Melbourne Cup and supports the US Open Series, the Formula One, Australian Football League’s Collingwood Football Club, and various golf, cricket and other sporting events and teams.

Front Row Marketing Services senior vice-president Eric Smallwood told The Economic Times he expects Emirates to remain a FIFA sponsor when Russia hosts the next World Cup in 2018.

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