The Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series is the airline’s second biggest sponsorship measured by fees, even more than the its deal with EPL club Arsenal, Emirates Head of Sponsorship Roger Duthie told a group of reporters in N.Y. yesterday. The USTA, which organizes the Series that begins this week, hosted the luncheon to introduce as its new title sponsor, Emirates
, a Dubai-based company that flies mostly to Asian and African destinations. But the airline is expanding in the U.S., and it will have seven cities in the country by September when DC is added. The airline currently offers direct flights to Dubai from L.A., S.F., Seattle and Dallas. Emirates’ top sponsorship is with FIFA, and Duthie admitted that if Arsenal renews when its deal expires next year, the new agreement would likely top the seven-year, $91M USOS pact. Tennis, like soccer, offers a global audience, he said. However, he also emphasized the local markets the U.S Open Series reaches with 10 ATP and WTA events and the importance to Emirates of entertaining the fans onsite. The company plans a series of digital and social media initiatives during the Series and at the U.S. Open, which Emirates is also sponsoring. One of its A380’s landed in N.Y. yesterday with USOS logo (the airline has 176 planes and 227 on order). The company will have a social media contest to guess where that plane is in the world. Duthie described tennis as in its golden age, and said the sport delivers tremendous returns. In fact, he said its sponsorship of the Canadian tennis tournament delivered far and away the company’s highest ROI for any of its sponsorships. Emirates did look at the Big Four sports, and the PGA Tour as marketing entry points into the U.S., but none offered the global audience of tennis, Duthie said.