The $10bn Formula One circus already has a strong presence in the Middle East, with the Abu Dhabi and Bahrain F1 races firm fixtures of the 2013 season. With Emirates Airline now added as a global sponsor, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is widening his ambitions in the Gulf, and the possibility of a regional team or a third race could still be on the cards.
Formula one supremo Bernie Ecclestone is certainly known in the industry for his unique style. From the trademark fringe, the billions he has earned and isn’t ashamed to flaunt, to a dogged negotiation style and a cheeky wit that has made him one of the most controversial and charming business leaders around.
“I was told early on a gentleman never speaks about last night or money,” Ecclestone says as he relaxes in front of a gathering of the Middle East’s press pack to announce the Formula One group’s latest multi-million-dollar commercial deal.
“I’m not saying I’m a gentleman, incidentally,” he adds, raising the first of many laughs of the day as the ringmaster of world motor racing entertains the crowds.
The F1 boss is in Dubai to officially sign a sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline, a deal which will see the airline become a global partner and join the ranks of other big-name international brands such as UBS, Rolex, Tata and LG.
Figures batted around the press conference range from $10m to $2bn, but while Ecclestone is coy on how much will change hands over the five-year contract, the general assumption is the deal is worth in the region of $200m.
What is certain though is the latest sports sponsorship deal pushes Emirates’ total investments in the area this year to AED1 billion ($272m).
Starting at the Grand Prix in Malaysia on March 24, the contract will cover fifteen of the nineteen races on the current 2013 schedule. The Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Monaco and Melbourne races will not be included as they already have major airline associations.
As part of Emirates’ Formula One Global Partner agreement, branding will be displayed on circuit bridges and associated ground signs and the airline will make full use of the infamous Formula One Paddock Club, Formula One's corporate hospitality organisation, which provides a luxury area for VIPs and sponsors for the Grand Prix weekend.
“Emirates has a first-class international reputation and I’m very pleased to welcome such a prestigious company as a global partner of Formula One. With considerable overlap between their priority markets and our own I look forward to many successful years working on this important partnership together,” Ecclestone says.
“This is an exciting global opportunity to align two world-leading brands. The ambition, cutting-edge technological standards and worldwide reach of Formula One go hand in hand with Emirates’ vision and ambition,” adds HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline & Group.
Article continued on next page...