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Emirates Drops Australian Open Sponsorship

Emirates has dropped its sponsorship of the Australian Open (Photo: Henry Peters)
The Australian Open is looking for a new title sponsor after Emirates revealed plans to cut it’s support of sporting events in Australia, including the nation’s most important golf tournament.

The Dubai based airline has been the naming rights sponsor of the Australian Open since 2011 but that relationship has now ended leaving the game’s governing body, Golf Australia, in the market for a new partner.

A spokesperson for the organisation said they had been aware of Emirates’ plans for some time and that several potential replacements were already being spoken with.

“Emirates have been an amazing supporter of Australian golf,” the spokesperson said, “but Golf Australia and Lagardere have been aware of their position for some time now and have been fielding interest from other potential naming rights sponsors over the last few months.”

Golf isn’t the only target of the Emirates cutbacks with the decision part of a broad re-evaluation of sports sponsorship in Australia.

In a lengthy interview with The Australian newspaper Emirates head of worldwide sponsorship, Boutros Boutros, said the company’s investment in Australian sport, including golf, had paid big dividends but it was time to rethink their strategy.

“When we first came, nobody had heard of Emirates,” he told the newspaper.

“Definitely, our research says our brand recognition in Australia is now very high. (The sponsorships) are no longer necessary.”

Emirates’ annual support for the tournament was in the region of $2 million but with the company sponsoring other golf events internationally it was seen as an unnecessary commitment.

“We don’t need it anymore,” Boutros said.

“If I have a deal with the (European) PGA, why do I need another side deal? You need to be smart.

“When you look at Emirates’ sponsorships, we cover the globe. Every Australian who follows golf will continue seeing Emirates around the world. Same with horse racing. Same with soccer.

“At the end of the day, I have a budget every year. You have to follow your research and outcome.”

Golf isn’t the only sport feeling the pinch of the airline’s new direction after the company opted out of naming rights for the Melbourne Cup last month and is reconsidering sponsorship of other Spring Carnival events.

“The cost on us for the spring carnival has been about $7m a year,” he said.

“The Emirates marquee (in the Birdcage) is part of the package. To be honest with you, because we invested so much — continuation is good for us. But you have to weigh your costs.

“You have to build it from scratch every year. It’s about $1m for the marquee. You spend about $1000 (a head) on the marquee each year, entertaining 1000 people.”

One event the company will continue to back is the Australian Open tennis, one of that sport’s four most important global tournaments each year.

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