Sports sponsorship by airlines in 2023 has a projected value of $990m, with soccer representing the most lucrative market for airlines sponsorship sector spend.

A report by GlobalData recounted sponsorship for 96 distinct airline brands, and found these partnerships were vital in enhancing airline brand positioning and ensuring brand reputation is maintained.

The biggest active partnership is between French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain and Qatar Airways. The airline serves as the club’s shirt sponsor, as well as a primary partner of the club in a deal worth $80m a year.

As reported by GlobalData in previous studies, sports and airline partnerships are set to boost sports tourism, which brings in large-scale revenue and employment for many regions. The recent Qatar FIFA World Cup was a clear example.

This concept is not new, as looking back to the London 2012 Olympics £709m ($925.8m) was spent by the 470,000 overseas visitors.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) said before and after the 2012 event, 110,000 jobs had been created in the six boroughs surrounding Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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Looking into GlobalData‘s sponsorship sector report, soccer is the most prominently sponsored sport, with 40.1% of airline deals collaborating with soccer teams, federations and venues.

GlobalData found that airlines, particularly those from the Middle East, are a popular target for teams and federations to associate themselves with due to the very huge profits many of them are capable of generating.

“The Middle East airline brands currently account for 53.5% of airline spending within sports sponsorship and this will further increase in the coming years,” the report said.

GlobalData analyst Tanveer Aujla highlighted how the Middle Eastern airlines are amongst the highest spenders in terms of sponsorships and how this can expand in the future: “The Middle East’s expansion into sport is highly likely to continue through new sponsorship opportunities.

“Brands from the region, specifically airlines, have already proven themselves capable of paying extraordinarily high fees to secure these kinds of partnerships.

“As teams look to expand their sponsorship portfolios and bring in higher revenues, they could look to Middle Eastern brands to achieve this.”

This is of particular significance for Emirates, which now shares the title of the most active airline in terms of sponsorship arrangements with NetJets, with 19 active deals apiece.

Emirates further expanded its sponsorship portfolio this year with its announcement as the principal sponsor and official airline of the King Salman Club Cup.

Whilst the majority of sponsorship spend in sports for airlines is based within soccer, there are other significant deals with an estimated worth upwards of $10m a year in sports, including American football, golf, basketball and tennis.

The GlobalData report states basketball ranks third in terms of highest annual spending per sport, chiming in at $64.7m over 30 active deals.

Furthermore, the greatest non-soccer contract is between Delta Airlines and the 2028 Olympics, in which the airline committed to serving as the official airline partner of the upcoming event, as well as an official partner of Team USA, who is always one of the key medal contenders at each Olympic event.

The agreement is said to be worth $50m per year and will expire at the end of the event in 2028.