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Volume 21 No. 2
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Emirates deal could land at NBA

Emirates is in talks with the NBA for a leaguewide deal as the airline looks to build out its sports sponsorship portfolio.

Both the NBA and CAA Sports’ corporate consulting division, which represents the Dubai-based airline, confirmed the discussions.

From the NBA’s side, the league is working to fill a sponsorship category that was vacated by Southwest Airlines in 2010 after eight years. With little property sponsorship spending among domestic airlines — none of the major U.S. sports properties currently has a leaguewide airline deal — the NBA is taking a more global approach to finding an airline partner as it courts Emirates.

“We continue to have good conversations in this category with some global players,” said Mark Tatum, executive vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA.

Officials at CAA Sports did not comment on behalf of Emirates other than to confirm the talks.

Emirates has been aggressive in sports with recent deals that include a $240 million renewal with the EPL’s Arsenal.
Photos by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
A memo obtained by SportsBusiness Journal sent recently by Emirates to the NBA outlines some potential aspects of a deal, including the airline activating around a proposed title sponsorship of “Race to the Finals” for the NBA’s postseason. In addition, the memo mentions a proposed “Future Champions” platform that “focuses on the NBA’s emerging stars that have yet to win their first NBA championship” as well as a global digital and television media spend.

While no deal is imminent, the prospect of an NBA agreement for Emirates would follow the company’s recent aggressive sponsorship strategy. Late last month, the airline announced a sponsorship with the ATP that makes Emirates the official airline of the tour along with sponsoring the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, through 2017. Emirates also becomes the presenting sponsor of the ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy ceremonies and the ATP Newcomer of the Year award. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

That ATP deal comes after Emirates in November signed a reported five-year, $240 million renewal with EPL’s Arsenal that puts the Emirates logo on the front of the team’s jersey as well as continued naming rights of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

In the United States, Emirates is a sponsor of the U.S. Open and the U.S. Open Series through a deal announced last year. Emirates also was a sponsor of last year’s NBA China Games.

“[Emirates] is making their spend on a global scale and I can see them spending more money,” said Jeannie Goldstein, a partner with Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners, a sports consulting agency. “It is interesting that Emirates is using U.S.-based [properties] to promote their brand positioning. From a league level, the category is wide open. There are no league [airline] sponsorships, but you have a little base of potential. There is a lot of global opportunity in the NBA, and they have good reason to be talking to them.”