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).
Marketing and Sponsorship
MotoGP's official tire supplier Bridgestone announced on Thursday that "it would withdraw from the sport at the end of the 2015 season," according to REUTERS. The Japanese company, which first entered the championship dominated by bike makers Honda and Yamaha in '02, said in a statement that "it had achieved its objectives of boosting technical ability and enhancing the brand globally." The Tokyo-based company said that "it would continue investing in MotoGP tyre development over the next two seasons" (REUTERS, 5/1). AUTOSPORT reported Bridgestone has been the championship's sole supplier since '09, when its last remaining rival, Michelin, "withdrew and MotoGP switched to control tyre rules." Bridgestone Global GM Kyota Futami said that the company "had achieved all its MotoGP objectives." Futami: "Yet, having achieved everything we set out to do when we entered the championship over 10 years ago, including sharing in many MotoGP world championships, our company believes it is the right time to implement an exit strategy from the series" (AUTOSPORT, 5/1). Dorna has called a tender through May 22 for tire manufacturers insterested in becoming the official tire supplier of MotoGP (Dorna).
Ooredoo has been named the top telecom partner for this year’s Emir Cup. The Qatar FA and Ooredoo "signed an agreement at Al Bidda Tower to extend their partnership by one more year" (THE PENINSULA, 5/1). ... League One side Carlisle United has announced that Sondico "will serve as" its official kit manufacturer for the next three seasons. Sondico, a Sports Direct-owned brand, "will produce all playing and training gear for the relegation-threatened League One club’s first team and centre of excellence sides" (SOCCEREX, 4/30). ... GDF SUEZ has signed a five-year agreement to become the official partner of the Roland Garros tennis tournament and to become the energy and sustainable development partner of the Paris Grand Slam (GDF SUEZ). ... Automobile supplier MAHLE Group has partnered with BMW Motorsport in the DTM. The group's logo will be displayed on all eight BMW M4 DTMs in '14 (BMW). ... Vodka manufacturer Smirnoff has partnered with the Sahara Force India F1 team. Smirnoff will use the partnership to deliver anti-drinking and driving messages (Force India). ... Spanish multimedia group Unidad Editorial has become a strategic partner of the 2014 UCI Road World Championships (EL MUNDO, 5/1). ... Scotland bus operator First "has become the latest organisation to join the list of Commonwealth Games sponsors." Planning of bus services for the Games "has taken more than two years and will result in regular services across the city being supplemented by spectator shuttle services linking Games venues around the city centre." First "will also provide transport for athletes, technical officials and the media" (Glasgow EVENING TIMES, 5/1). ... EPL side West Brom has signed a two-year contract extension with kit supplier adidas. The club's new kits will be revealed in the coming weeks (West Brom).