Emirates doesn't always sponsor the best team – hello Arsenal – but it does focus on the ones with the fan base in the right demographic. The PSG split is more about politics than marketing smarts.
Dubai airline Emirates plans to sever ties to Paris Saint-Germain as the soccer team seeks a more lucrative sponsorship deal and relations between the club’s Qatari owners and the United Arab Emirates sour.
A contract that’s seen the Emirates name emblazoned on PSG players’ jerseys since 2006 ends next year and won’t be renewed, a spokeswoman for the airline said. PSG told Bloomberg it’s seeking more cash after the high-profile signings of Brazilian star Neymar and teenage World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe.
The sponsorship deal has also become an uncomfortable fit since the UAE and three other countries led by Saudi Arabia imposed a trade and travel embargo on Qatar last year after accusing it of supporting terrorism. PSG has been owned by Qatar Sports Investments since a 2011 takeover that made it the richest soccer club in France and one of the wealthiest in the world.
Emirates declined to say whether it’s looking to sponsor a rival French team, though the company’s football portfolio features a club in each of Europe’s major leagues, including Real Madrid in Spain, Arsenal in England and AC Milan in Italy. Its name is also on the New York Cosmos uniform.
French sports daily L’Equipe reported in August that PSG faced losing Emirates as a sponsor, without indicating where it got the information. The newspaper said that Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG’s president and the chairman of QSI, had been seeking a sum of 80 million euros ($91 million) a season, compared with an existing figure of no more than 30 million euros.
Alternative French candidates for Emirates sponsorship include Olympique de Marseille, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named discussing private deliberations. Owned by U.S. billionaire Frank McCourt, Marseille is PSG’s biggest modern rival with nine league wins to the Parisian club’s seven, though the last came in 2010. Since then PSG has won five titles, boosted by Qatari funds.
A spokesman for Marseille declined to comment on any past or present negotiations. The club’s current shirt sponsor is French telecoms firm Orange SA, which told Bloomberg the contract runs until the end of the current season next summer. That’s when the Emirates-PSG deal is also set to terminate. It referred other questions to the club.
PSG said it’s still in talks with Emirates, which says on its website that sponsorship is a vital part of its marketing strategy. The world’s biggest long-haul airline also backs teams and events in cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, motor racing, Australian rules football and horse racing.
—With assistance from Layan Odeh and David Hellier.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.
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Photo Credit: Brazilian soccer star Neymar controls the ball following a press conference in Paris. Michel Euler / Associated Press