Heretofore, “Emirates” was a name American sports fans saw just about only on the jerseys of prominent European soccer teams. Real Madrid. Arsenal. PSG. AC Milan.
This season, the logo of the aggressive, Dubai-based airline, will be seen in a baseball stadium for the first time — behind home plate and at the foul poles of Dodger Stadium.
For that matter, it marks the first sponsorship deal for Emirates with any of the Big Four sports leagues in North America.
This was announced last week, in an awkward/cringe-worthy press conference at Dodger Stadium at which suits from the Dodgers and Emirates tried to demonstrate why they make wonderful partners when, of course, they know very little about each other — beyond that they could benefit financially from this hook-up. (Estimated to be worth $7 million a year for five years.)
It should be noted that Emirates is keen to be a shirt sponsor in U.S. sports, even if that means breaking with a century-plus of tradition keeping sponsors off jerseys. (More on that, below.)
And, too, the Emirates boss, Tim Clark, didn’t miss a chance to take another volley in the ugly war of words between Emirates (plus other subsidized Gulf airlines, Etihad and Qatar) and the Big Three U.S. carriers, American, Delta and United. That is, the Dodgers have stepped into this battle between U.S. airlines and a Gulf entity … and taken the side of the Gulfies.
Other observations on the announcement:
–Emirates’s Clark didn’t miss a change to take a whack at his U.S. rivals, who have dared to point out that Gulf airlines are buoyed by lavish government support. “We want our brand to be a global one,” he said. “We want it to be one of quality. We don’t want it to be a humdrum airline that some of our peer group have descended into during the decade preceding this. It’s important that we link with quality organizations, quality sports entities. The L.A. Dodgers is … a hugely important one.”
(For “humdrum airline” read: Any U.S. airline.)
–These two entities are such natural partners that the first paragraph of the Dodgers media release sent to reporters reads: “This new deal [marks] the airline’s entry into the world of baseball, a sport with deep roots in American history and culture.”
Americans play baseball? Who knew? OK, nobody in the UAE knew.
Said Clark, for his UAE benefactors: “Baseball is a sport that unifies many communities across the U.S.” (But not others?) “The spirit of competition and fair play, the continuous drive to excel, and ability to foster a shared passion and connection with its fans – these are all values we share at Emirates.”
Oh, sure. The ground staff at Dubai International Airport break out in games of over-the-line when they have a spare moment. When, of course, the average UAE citizen wouldn’t know a baseball if it hit him in the head.
–Then came some fawning Dodgers stuff from someone named Michael Young, “senior vice-president, corporate sponsorships”.
“We are honored that Emirates Airline [sic; it’s just “Emirates”] has chosen the Dodgers to showcase their unrivaled position as the global leader in the airline industry (emphasis added) to the millions of Los Angeles Dodger fans in the U.S. and internationally.”
–At the press conference, in which he and club president Stan Kasten talked about “globalization”, co-owner Peter Guber jumped in with the official talking point, saying “great brands like to associate with great brands”.
And, by the by, Emirates in July is adding a second daily A380 (super jumbo) flight to/from LAX and Dubai. Which could put a further dent in U.S. airlines’ business.
–The media release also notes that Emirates “will open a new Emirates Lounge, a 70-person hospitality space for Emirates and guests.” That’s an Emirates thing, too. First thing you do: Add a VIP area; make sure to hammer home “patrician” versus “plebeian”.
–Turns out, what Emirates really wanted was their name on Dodgers jerseys. Replacing that fuddy old thing … the script “Dodgers” or “Los Angeles”. Sportspromedia.com quotes Boutros Boutros, an Emirates communications official as saying: “The problem in the U.S. is you don’t have shirt sponsorship.
“I’m glad to say that we were probably the first company to push the NBA for this sponsorship. I spent the last eight or nine years talking to them, trying to explain how it’s valuable to open up the shirt sponsorships.”
So, yes, make sure you remember that: The Emirates people are pushing to take your team’s name off the front of their jersey and replace it with their own. For the moment, they will settle for the name everywhere in the stadium.
–And the final bit of this … if you watch the video you will see the headless bodies of four young and female Emirates flight attendants who are responsible for the “unmatched hospitality provided by [Emirates] iconic multilingual Cabin Crew”, according to the press release.
This trotting out of “iconic” young and female crew is standard operating procedure for Emirates but so 30-years-ago in the U.S. If anyone in Los Angeles were paying attention, the photo here would trigger a little bit of gag reflex.
This partnership bears close watching.