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Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways are three of the most notable brands when it comes to airline sponsorships, but Turkish Airlines is carving out its own place among them.

With the 2023 UEFA Champions League final in the books, Turkish Airlines is readying its second year as the organization’s airline sponsor. 

One of its most significant partnerships yet, Turkish Airlines was named last year as the first airline sponsor for the UEFA Champions League in a two-year agreement. The cost of the sponsorship has not been disclosed.

The first year was complete with the final that took place in Istanbul last weekend. The other 2023 season sponsors included Heineken, PlayStation, PepsiCo, Mastercard, FedEx, Just Eat Takeaway.com, and OPPO.

Next year’s will take place at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1, 2024.

Turkish Airlines has sponsored a number of sports tournaments and teams over the years — including in basketball, volleyball, tennis, golf, rugby, and equestrian — part of a marketing strategy that the company plans to continue as it seeks to raise brand awareness worldwide. 

“In today’s increasingly connected world, sports such as football are ever-popular, and well known teams do have fans worldwide regardless of distance, culture, and language,” said Rafet Fatih Özgür, senior vice president of communications for Turkish Airlines.

“We have good numbers in Europe, but Champions League is not only [effective] in the Europe market. It’s also effective in other regions as well — in the Middle East and the U.S.”

Over the past 10 years, the company has placed an emphasis on expanding awareness with the North American market in particular, he said. 

The company has advertised at the NFL Super Bowl multiple times, also sponsoring segments of NBC’s coverage of the event in 2022. The airline was also the shirt partner for Argentina’s River Plate football team a couple of years ago. 

Turkish Airlines is not alone in the trend of travel companies, particularly airlines, sponsoring sports events or teams. 

The airline sector accounted for an estimated $1.2 billion spent on sports sponsorships in 2022, according to data from analyst GlobalData. More than 100 airlines are currently engaged in some kind of sports sponsorship, the report said.

The football market has attracted the majority of airline sponsorship for 2022, with airlines in the Middle East being the biggest spenders.

Among the many deals with Middle Eastern airlines, Etihad Airways is the jersey sponsor for Manchester City, meaning the airlines get its name on the front of the team’s jersey. Qatar Airways recently became the shirt sponsor for Paris Saint-Germain through a multi-year sponsorship agreement, taking the place of hotel company Accor. And the Real Madrid soccer team has renewed a sponsorship deal with the airline Emirates until 2026. Delta Air Lines also said last year that it became the first airline sponsor of the National Women’s Soccer League through a multi-year deal.

Many of those team sponsorship deals are worth over $50 million per year, according to research from analyst Euromonitor International.

Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways are three of the most notable airline sponsors, though Turkish Airlines is carving out its own place among them. 

Turkish Airlines reported record high revenue of $18.4 billion in 2022, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels. And though airline bookings also dipped earlier this year following massive earthquakes in Turkey, bookings since then have spiked, and the country is eyeing $56 billion in tourism revenue this year.

The company’s sponsorship activities show a strong recovery within the airline sector and also demonstrates the brand’s growth trajectory, according to the report from GlobalData.

“With the travel demand returning strongly in 2022, we deemed it a priority to once again reach a global audience through a popular sports organization, and Champions League provided the perfect opportunity for that,” Özgür said. 

Other travel companies have seen the value of sports sponsorships, as well. Expedia had a three-season deal with UEFA starting in 2018. Booking.com is also a past sponsor of UEFA, as well as for Major League Baseball and others. 

It’s difficult to measure the exact impact that a sports sponsorship has on an airline’s business. Özgür said that the company takes a long-term view at metrics to best make that determination. 

In the meantime, the company can view metrics in the short-term to make initial determinations. 

Following the airline’s sponsorship of the Euroleague Final Four in 2017, for example, the company said the event was covered in print media 18,576 times in the month leading up to the event. The airline valued that media coverage at $20 million, according to an annual report. 

UEFA and Turkish Airlines are finalizing numbers for the championship this year. 

Part of that includes evaluating the performance of the airline’s marketing efforts across its channels to determine which were most successful. That knowledge will be applied to marketing efforts for the season next year, a major part of the agreement of being a sponsor. 

“The sponsors also help the organization to be recognised as a premium organization in Europe and in other regions as well. So besides our investment, we showcase our capabilities in terms of creating content, impact in media, and using our own channels to communicate in the right way.”

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Tags: advertising, airlines, istanbul, london, marketing, marketing strategy, soccer, sports, sports tourism, turkish airlines, uefa

Photo credit: Turkish Airlines is the airline sponsor for the next UEFA Champions League with a final taking place in London. Kevin Chung / Flickr

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