Emaar in pole position for Formula One team Lotus

Emaar Properties has become the latest Arabian Gulf-based corporation to make a mark on the international sporting scene, after striking a sponsorship deal with the Formula One team Lotus.

The company that built Burj Khalifa will join Microsoft, Unilever and Coca-Cola as sponsors of the Lotus F1 team featuring Kimi Raikkonen. Patrik Stollarz / AFP
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Emaar Properties has become the latest Arabian Gulf-based corporation to make a mark on the international sporting scene, after striking a sponsorship deal with the Formula One team Lotus.

The Dubai-based developer of Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall announced yesterday that it would be an official partner with the Lotus F1 team, in a two-year deal commencing with this week's Italian Grand Prix in Monza.

The partnership is one of Emaar's first forays into the international sporting arena. The company has previously sponsored Dubai World Cup horse racing, and the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament. It also sponsored the one-off Indian Masters golf tournament in New Delhi in 2008.

The deal would help Emaar in "engaging with our international clientele and further defining the global identity of our brand", said Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties.

Lotus's other brand partners include Microsoft, Unilever and Coca-Cola. The team sits fourth in the constructors' standings behind Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.

The team's lead driver, Kimi Raikkonen, won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year. He is in fourth place on the driver's leaderboard this season, with six podium finishes including a win at the Australian Grand Prix.

"With this new partnership with the developer of such iconic projects as Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall, we are looking forward to some home support as we race in the UAE once again this year," said Lotus's team principal, Eric Boullier. "We are also very excited to see how this partnership will further enhance Lotus F1 Team's brand value."

Abu Dhabi will host the season's 17th race at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 3.

Emaar is the latest Middle Eastern giant seeking to grow its brand internationally via sports branding, following in the footsteps of the likes of Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

"They've always aspired to have their brand known globally," said Hermann Behrens, the chief executive of Brand Union Middle East. "Following the property crisis in Dubai it was less of a focus for them, but now this agreement could be the start of a renewed interest in building their corporate profile internationally and expanding their business further into both emerging and developed markets."

The company declined to say whether similar sponsorship agreements were in the pipeline. "Emaar will continue to explore opportunities for strengthening its international brand imprint," a spokeswoman said in an email.

Emirates signed a five-year Global Partner agreement with the Formula One group in February, giving it a strong branding presence in 15 of the tournament's 19 races this year. Etihad has been the title sponsor of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since the event's inauguration in 2009.

Mubadala, the strategic investment company owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi, had a sponsorship agreement with Ferrari's F1 team from 2007 to 2010.

Emirates has had by far the greatest success with its sponsorship agreements, said Mr Behrens, with the signing of sponsorship agreements integral to its business strategy.

"Emirates sponsor teams and venues in markets where they want to develop roots, and effectively use sport to localise their brand in such markets and become part of the community," he said. "Etihad is likely to be able to similarly leverage their sponsorship agreements, but others see such arrangements as purely promotional in nature, and have had less success."

Qatar Airways announced a prized shirt sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona in March of this year, as part of a US$225 million agreement between the club and Qatar Sports Investments in 2012.

United Arab Bank is poised to announce an agreement with FC Barcelona on Sunday in Dubai, but has declined to give further details until then.