Azerbaijan's sponsorship with Atlético Madrid cost €12M.
La Liga side Atlético Madrid's "extraordinary season," which could yet see it lift the Spanish title and the Champions League, "has meant increased exposure for an incongruous sponsor: the oil-rich eastern European country of Azerbaijan," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. The slogan "Land of Fire" that is emblazoned on the front of the shirts sported by Diego Simeone's team "is part of a wider push by the country to raise its profile" that has also taken in the Eurovision Song Contest, an Olympic bid and preparations to host the inaugural European Games in '15. It is "a model of using sport as an arm of diplomacy also being pursued by others" including Qatar, through its purchase of Paris St. Germain and Qatar Air's sponsorship of Barcelona, and Abu Dhabi, through Man City. But this season it is Azerbaijan "that has come up trumps for a fraction of the cost." The initial sponsorship deal, which ran for a season and a half from Jan. '13, cost the Azerbaijanis just €12M. It is "just one plank of the country's ambitious plans on the world stage and at home." Huge investment in Baku "is driving the construction of new hotels, apartments and a Dubai Palm-style luxury development in the Caspian Sea" (GUARDIAN, 5/1