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Why Do So Many Soccer Jerseys Say “Fly Emirates”?

If you watch top-level European soccer, you’ve probably seen a whole bunch of Fly Emirates soccer jerseys on  the pitch.

Premier League. Fly Emirates. La Liga. Fly Emirates. Ligue 1. Fly Emirates. Bundesliga. Fly Emirates. Serie A…well, you get it. Emirates is pretty much in every country where club soccer is bankable. It has become so common that soccer jerseys without Emirates branding almost look odd.

So how did this one airline based out of Dubai (UAE) get prime real estate on the chest of Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)? And then, of course, there’s Neymar, whose history-making transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain earns him an Emirates branded shirt.

A Brand to Rule all Brands

Emirates isn’t the biggest player in the game of soccer jersey sponsorships. That title belongs to Chevrolet for its $80 million/year deal with Manchester United. But, it is the most visible. And being seen is the whole the point of marketing, innit?

Emirates grabs three teams on the list of the nine most valuable jersey sponsorship deals:

Arsenal ($43 million/year)

Real Madrid ($34 million/year)

Paris Saint-Germain ($28 million/year)

Emirates branding occupies 33% of the most valuable soccer jersey sponsorships in the top leagues. Even if you exclusively watch La Liga or the Premier League or Ligue 1, you’re bound to see a screen full of Fly Emirates soccer jerseys racing back and forth.

And it’s not unusual for Emirates’ brand presence to double for special games–like when Arsenal and AC Milan faced off in this Legends match:

One Billion Soccer Fans

Emirates doesn’t just disappear as one travels east. Since 2002, Emirates has had a stake in the Asian soccer clubs as an official sponsor of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

On a fiscal level, the Asian market for soccer will grow even faster once domestic leagues start playing at a higher level, which is likely what Emirates is counting on. The sheer number of Premier League fans in China alone (approx. 100 million) is greater than the entire population of the UK (approx. 50 million). Who wouldn’t want to get in on that?

It’s a simple fact: People in Asia love soccer. And the Chinese fans of English soccer even have a nickname: Iron Fans, as documented by Tim Brunsden.

Why Do Airlines Sponsor Sporting Events Anyway?

One likely answer is to connect with consumers. Emirates spends millions of dollars a year on sports sponsorships in countries where it has international hubs. Another reason could be the sheer advertising time that a soccer jersey sponsorship provides. Emirates is advertised every time a camera zooms in on one of its teams during a match. Not to mention the walk around advertising it pulls in from purchased fan apparel.

If it seems like Fly Emirates soccer jerseys are everywhere, it’s because they are. From Spain to Greece to Japan, the airline from Dubai has found a comfortable spot on the chests of some of the best athletes in the world. And most importantly, it has the rapt attention of billions of individuals as they watch their favorite teams playing The Beautiful Game.

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