Best Partnership of the Year by SportBusiness Award – Real Madrid And Emirates

For the past 11 years the annual Globe Soccer Awards have recognised exceptional talent in world football with many of the game’s biggest stars travelling to Dubai to receive their honours.

Now SportBusiness has joined forces with Globe Soccer to create a business-focused Award for the first time.

The  Best Partnership of the Year by SportBusiness Award is designed to reflect the role of both parties in creating successful sponsorships, with the award presented to both the winning clubs and brands. It recognises deal-making, innovation, creativity and best practice in partnerships against key criteria. These are: Length of partnership and its enduring appeal; examples of creativity in activation to engage with key audiences; results against stated objectives.

Here we take a detailed look at Real Madrid’s partnership with Emirates.


Having been a global sponsor of Real Madrid for two seasons from 2011-12 to 2012-13, the Dubai-based airline launched a five-year main shirt contract with the club from 2013-14 to 2017-18, which was extended for another four years to 2021-22. It is understood that another five-year deal has been agreed, but not yet announced, between the two parties.


As part of the deal, Emirates gets branding on Real Madrid’s shirt and training kit, and dominant branding on LED advertising boards and interview backdrops. The agreement also contains hospitality rights, including a branded VIP lounge at the club’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium, player access and other advertising rights.

In 2013, Boutros Boutros, divisional senior vice-president for corporate communications, marketing and brand at Emirates, told SportBusiness that football shirt sponsorships were “the most relevant sponsorship” for Emirates.

He said: “If you don’t have the shirt you only have advertising boards and that’s not for us. We like the shirt because it’s connected to people. If you look at all our sponsorship deals they are not just for awareness, they are to get us closer to the public and to potential customers.”

The profile and exposure that comes with shirt sponsorship deals also means the company needs to spend less on activation, Boutros said.

In the early years of the sponsorship this was especially true of Real Madrid, which earned brand a growing profile by association with the most successful European club during that period.

In the first year of the Emirates sponsorship, Real Madrid won the Champions League in  2014 – ‘the decima’ – and again in 20162017 and 2018. The club’s star player Cristiano Ronaldo was also named a global ambassador of Emirates in 2014.

That said, the brand has increasingly taken steps to integrate the sponsorship into the brand’s corporate communications and core messages like ‘Hello Tomorrow’ from 2012 to 2018 and ‘Fly Better’ from 2019.

In 2015, Emirates launched an annual activation around the creation of a Real Madrid-inspired livery on one of its planes. That year, the images of six players were visible on both sides of the airline’s double-decker A380 aircraft. The event was promoted on social media using the #HelloRealMadridA380 hashtag, and attracted more than 2 million views on YouTube.

In December 2018, the squad flew to Abu Dhabi for the 2018 Club World Cup on another team-branded A380 from Emirates with social media coverage attached to the new #FlyEmiratesFlyBetter hashtag.

In 2019, Emirates also incorporated the ‘Fly Better’ corporate message on the players’ shirts beneath the word “Emirates” for the El Clásico match against Barcelona.


Emirates clearly prizes the relationship with Real Madrid for brand positioning, awareness and engagement purposes.

With Real Madrid’s global fanbase of 500m, and a social media following of 110m likes on Facebook and 80.4m followers in Instagram, the sponsorship reaches a wide audience.

The value to Emirates can be extrapolated from rights fee increases. In 2013, the deal was worth about €27m per season up front, with an additional €6m available each season depending on the club’s success. Today, the deal is worth more than double the maximum, at about €70m per year.

The full list of nominees is:

Liverpool and Standard Chartered
FC Barcelona and Beko
Juventus and Jeep
• Manchester City and SAP
• Real Madrid and Emirates
FC Bayern München and Audi

A panel of specialist SportBusiness writers and analysts as well as independent industry experts drew up the list of nominees using source information, including data drawn from SportBusiness Soccer, the recently-launched sponsorship strategy tool built around the most comprehensive database of soccer-based sponsorship deals, durations and values ever assembled.

The final three contenders to be selected from the shortlist and announced in early December. ahead of the glittering Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai on December 29.

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