By Andy Sambidge
UAE airline says Etihad Stadium is key to building brand as it looks to expand in Australia
Etihad Airways said on Wednesday it has signed a new multi-million dollar agreement to extend to 2019 its naming and marketing rights for Melbourne's Etihad Stadium.
The five-year extension was announced in Melbourne by James Hogan, president CEO of Etihad, and Ian Collins, chief executive of the Melbourne Stadiums Limited.
Etihad Airways became the stadium's naming rights sponsor on March 1, 2009, the same month it started non-stop flights between Melbourne and Abu Dhabi.
By 2019, the Abu Dhabi-based airline will have sponsored the stadium for 10 years.
Hogan said: "Placing the Etihad name on this world class sports and entertainment stadium, as well as activating our marketing and hospitality rights, has provided Etihad Airways with a solid platform to build our brand across the state of Victoria and the whole of Australia.
"The partnership with Melbourne Stadiums Limited gives Etihad Airways unparalleled exposure in Australia, one of the most important routes in our network, and we are delighted to extend the naming agreement for Etihad Stadium until 2019."
Collins added: "Renewing the agreement is in many ways more exciting than when it was first signed in 2009 as it demonstrates how successful the partnership has been for Melbourne Stadiums Limited and Etihad Airways."
More than 150 AFL premiership season matches have taken place at the stadium since 2009, as well as 39 football matches, which included internationals against Serbia, the English Premier League's Fulham and David Beckham's LA Galaxy.
The stadium has hosted three cricket matches, seven rugby league games and three rugby union matches including the Bledisloe Cup between Australia and New Zealand in July 2010.
On the entertainment front, Etihad Stadium has hosted 11 concerts by some of the world's biggest acts including AC/DC, U2, Bon Jovi, George Michael and Eminem.
Etihad announced last month that revenues rose by 31 percent to $1.25bn in the second quarter, helped by a 34 percent rise in passengers to 2.55m during the same period.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline cited its growing network of codeshares and strategic partnerships as a major factor behind the results. It said that recent deals had helped add 800,000 passengers to its network, contributing $281m.