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Airlines ride high on celebrity endorsements

Nicole Kidman’s association with Etihad is latest in long line of such associations

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Nicole Kidman
Gulf News

Dubai: If you were to ever ask for the place where Elizabeth Taylor liked to dine at in Athens, I could give you the answer... because I went there to have a meal simply because I was told she did so. Two of my friends and I did just that because the tourist guide gave us this juicy detail about the late Hollywood star. Looking back, I really don’t know for sure if she ever dined anywhere else in that area.

It seems celebrities can always be a strong draw when it comes to promotions by tourism boards and airline companies. This is clearly the thinking behind why big airline companies — the latest being the Abu Dhabi Etihad — choose them to helm their brand campaigns.

Etihad recently announced that it will have the Australian actress Nicole Kidman as its new face. Earlier, it had Bollywood actor Katrina Kaif essaying the role of brand ambassador.

Other companies that have had agreements with celebrities in recent years include KLM, which engaged the Malaysian squash player Nicol David, British Airways which had a contract with the actor Orlando Bloom, the Korean airline Asiana signed a one-year contract with Psy, the South Korean singer, songwriter and record producer, in 2013.

Then there was the Turkish flag carrier which picked football superstar Lionel Messi as their global brand ambassador. Emirates had another footballer to call upon in the form of the all-time legend Pele as well as today’s effervescent star Cristiano Ronaldo. Qantas on its part engaged with model and actor Miranda Kerr. She joins other Qantas ambassadors including John Travolta.

The signing amounts that back these alliances have not been disclosed, but it is believed that the business of being an “ambassador” can be quite lucrative. To try to imagine the size of the contracts, there are some interesting facts that could help.

Messi has a yearly income of $41.1 million (Dh150.8 million), according to Forbes, of which $20 million come from salaries, wins notched up and bonuses. But Messi makes nearly $21.3 million by way of endorsements. He has three major brands doing him the favour in Nike, Ea Sports and Turkish Airline.

Messi is the second highest paid footballer in the world after Ronaldo, who some reports say is making more through endorsement deals than from playing. It is also believed to be the case with the legendary American hoopster Michael Jordan and golfer Tiger Woods. Can you imagine the impact these stars have on their fans if they wear an brand or sign up to endorse an event?

The same applies to Kidman who was reportedly the highest paid actress in Hollywood in 2006, earning $17 million for a movie.

Being ‘airline ambassadors’ obviously involves sizeable sums. But such deals are also signed in the hope of the brand owners seeing large returns on investments.

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