Emirates, the international airline of the UAE, yesterday became an official partner of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany as they spread their wings to acquire a greater global profile.

The landmark alliance was announced in the presence of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President, Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group, FIFA Vice President Jack Warner and 2006 Organising Committee Chairman Franz Beckenbauer at a Burj Al Arab press luncheon.

Sheikh Ahmed signed the agreement, worth a whopping $30 million, that will give Emirates special commercial rights as one of the event's official partners.

Emirates also reaped an unexpected reward by becoming the first-ever airline to become an official partner of the FIFA World Cup.

Sheikh Ahmed said: "Our investment in sport is linked with our ongoing drive to develop into a global brand. We believe that being an official partner of FIFA will be good for Emirates, good for Dubai and good for the UAE.

Sheikh Ahmed during the sponsorship announcement.
"As an official partner we will be taking part in all 64 matches in Germany in 2006 and will also be involved in sponsoring the FIFA Women's World Cup in Shanghai and the Confederations Cup in France the following year," Sheikh Ahmed added.

"We believe that the FIFA World Cup in the past has been a sporting and sponsorship success. All the plans for the 2006 event in Germany highlight the professionalism and experience of the organisers and will result in this World Cup being one of the best."

Welcoming Emirates on board FIFA Vice President Warner said: "We very much welcome the involvement and backing of such a high-flying company.

"Besides the FIFA World Cup Emirates will receive brand exposure to all the major events organised by FIFA. It means Emirates will be lifted on the world stage and it will get the kind of exposure that it rightly deserves."

In a statement posted on the FIFA website FIFA President Sepp Blatter said: "Just like FIFA, Emirates offers a five-star product. We very much look forward to extending the partnership, with Emirates being an Event Partner at the FIFA World Youth Championship to an Official Partner at our biggest event, the FIFA World Cup."

In all the FIFA World Cup has 15 official partners and six suppliers. FIFA Marketing Manager Amber Stelle revealed that 13 companies, including adidas, Avaya, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Continental, Deutsche Telekom, Gillette, Hyundai, McDonald's, Philips, Toshiba and Yahoo!, have officially confirmed their involvement.

As part of the sponsor privileges Emirates will be featured in all 2006 FIFA World Cup publicity, including branding on perimeter boards at 12 venues throughout Germany, and will enjoy ticket and hospitality facilities for all matches in the tournament, as well as similar arrangements at other FIFA events.

Beckenbauer complimented FIFA on securing the support of Emirates and hailed the partnership.

"Congratulations to FIFA and welcome to Emirates. It's still three and a half years before the 2006 World Cup in Germany but FIFA is in a very comfortable and strong position by securing so many big-name partners, like Emirates," he said. "It is a great pleasure to welcome a company as prominent as Emirates on board at this early stage.

"The World Cup is the most spectacular and most followed sporting event in the world, perhaps even bigger than the Olympics. I'm sure Emirates will benefit substantially from this sponsorship as I'm sure FIFA will be looking at Emirates as a long-term investment partner."

Emirates, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, has received over 200 international awards for excellence since its launch in 1985. The airline serves more than 65 destinations in 45 countries in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, Africa, Asia and Australia.