By Ali Hammad
Total investment in sports marketing in Dubai alone has reached $1.7 billion
The Middle East is widely recognised for its deep-rooted equestrian heritage, which goes back thousands of years, and continues to thrive to this very day.
The region is renowned for its presence of world-class, prestigious equine, something that is cherished and fostered by affluent individuals in the Arabian Peninsula. It is therefore no surprise that financial institutions support popular equestrian sporting events, including sponsorship and naming rights, in an effort to engage with wealthy, corporate clients.
The region had initially pioneered the practice of utilising horses and other livestock for transportation and in battle, to what has now evolved into a highly competitive sport, watched by millions around the world.
The Arabian horse, an animal of such mythic qualities, was the subject of various religious tales and Bedouin folklore, engraving its prominence in the Middle East’s rich tapestry.
As a prominent pillar of the Middle East’s transformation and a signifier of the region’s rich traditions, the horse has always been valued greatly by the ruling families as well as by individuals of great affluence, in the Arabian Peninsula.
Equestrian-based activities and sporting events were therefore extremely well-funded, in an endeavour to position the Middle East at the fore of the global equestrian map.
Likewise, large international institutions, such as banks and airlines, played a prominent role in the financial backing of these sporting events, due to the positive impact they had on their positioning and reputations in the region, and beyond.
This type of connection often translates to a more robust brand identity, which has a direct effect on the institution’s financial health. According to Deloitte, the total investment in sports marketing in Dubai alone has reached $1.7 billion, and the economic impact of the sport industry amounted to $670 million.
For some, the contribution of financial institutions to the funding of sporting events is perceived as purely monetary. However, taking polo, or ‘The Sport of Kings’, as an example, these sports and sponsorship relationships serve as a gateway to attract exposure to affluent individuals who are deeply entrenched in the legacy of such activities.
This approach is widely used in the United Arab Emirates, given the high number of high net-worth individuals and international, prestigious sporting events.
From a purely financial standpoint, executives who implement a structured and comprehensive approach to gauging the impact of their sponsorships can increase returns by as much as 30 percent.
Additionally, various revenue streams can be created through the sponsorship of these sporting events or sports teams, such as merchandising, partnerships and so on.
Specifically, in the UAE, polo maintains a valued position amongst the royal family, as the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan founded the UAE’s first polo club, the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club, in 1994.
Currently, four active polo clubs are present and operational in the country.
Since then, the UAE has served as the ideal destination for polo and other equestrian sports in the region, as thousands of international players and spectators flock to attend them.
The Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series was founded by Mohammed Khalaf Al Habtoor, CEO and vice chairman of Al Habtoor Group in 2009 and is comprised of five tournaments including the most prestigious Gold Cup (Dubai Open).
The Series is recognised by the World Polo Tour (WPT) and is proud to have this exclusive accreditation in the GCC and MENA region, ranking it among the best polo tournaments worldwide.
Being a part of the Series invokes a strong sense of pride and prestige to those involved, as several of the world’s foremost teams will congregate in the region to compete against one another in the coming weeks.
The Dubai Open, on its 11th year, is proudly sponsored by Standard Chartered. The tournament is regarded as one of the most competitive and esteemed equestrian sporting events in the world and is now internationally acclaimed as the Middle East’s premier polo event. The tournament belongs under the WPT Championship Cup, on a par with the tournaments held in Argentina, United Kingdom, United States and Spain.
Mohammed Al Habtoor said: “We succeeded in our goal of bringing the most anticipated polo events to the Middle East, for more than a decade. Our role as pioneers of polo in the region is the result of our hard work and the continued patronage of sponsors, teams and the patrons, polo enthusiasts and the city of Dubai. Having the backing of Standard Chartered Bank is a true testament to the success of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series.”
Sports teams and sponsors are often in search of a union — a harmonious alignment of brand and team that reflects each other’s values.
In the midst of the excitement, sporting events create a sense of community, unity and collaboration that both sponsors and sports teams/events can leverage, both financially and otherwise.
For sponsors, the benefit lies in entrenching their brand in beloved communal activities, while advocating for brand awareness and increased exposure to their desired audiences. For tournament organisers, the ambitious goal of sealing its position in the international polo circuit is no small feat.
It requires dedication in terms of investing in establishing world-class polo and equestrian facilities that brings together world-renowned teams and top-ranking athletes to participate in a sporting event that not only caters to the taste of the wealthy but also for the polo enthusiast. The support of strong and prominent partners that understands this goal is crucial which also serves as the beginning of solid and long-lasting partnerships.
Standard Chartered provides a multitude of successful case studies regarding the optimal use of sponsorships to progress their presence in any given region.
The bank has been a long-standing advocate of various sporting events and teams around the globe, including a 10-year sponsorship of the leading English football club, Liverpool FC – currently proudly sitting at the helm of the Premier League table - and a 16-year sponsorship of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
In line with the bank’s commitment to engaging with the communities it serves, the bank invests heavily in the creation and promotion of a collaborative, unified spirit with its clients and their interests.
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