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Riyadh Air and Atlético Madrid sign sponsorship deal

Riyadh Air Atletico Madrid Riyadh Air
Riyadh Air is led by Tony Douglas, former chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, pictured on the right with Atlético Madrid CEO Miguel Ángel Gil
  • Riyadh Air will be official airline and main sponsor
  • Multi-year deal worth multi-millions
  • Involves heavy digital presence and clothing logos

Saudi Arabia’s new national carrier Riyadh Air has signed a sponsorship deal with Spanish football club Atlético Madrid, giving the airline a major advertising boost ahead of its planned launch of operations in 2025. 

Riyadh Air said it will be the main sponsor and official airline partner of the club as part of a multiyear agreement.

Its name will be emblazoned on the Spanish team’s outfits as soon as August 14, further ramping up already intense competition among Gulf carriers. 

The term of the deal could extend beyond an expected five years, or next four seasons.

Neither party has disclosed the value of the sponsorship, but it will involve a heavy presence for Riyadh Air’s name in Atlético Madrid’s extensive digital footprint – which the airline said was one factor that drew it to the La Liga team. 

Based in Metropolitano, Atlético Madrid competes with Real Madrid and Barcelona as Spain’s best-known football clubs. 

Fully owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the airline said in March it had placed an order for 39 Boeing aircraft. It has an option to acquire an additional 33 wide-body jets.  

UAE carrier Emirates in June added Tunisian football and basketball club Etoile Sportive du Sahel to a sponsorship portfolio that already includes Arsenal, Olympique Lyonnais, Real Madrid and AC Milan. 

Emirates is also the sponsor of this year’s Arab club football championship, renamed as the King Salman Club Cup, whose final will be held on August 13. 

Riyadh Air is led by Tony Douglas, former chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways.

It will be based at the new King Salman International Airport, which is being built in the Saudi capital.

With the ability to accommodate 120 million passengers a year, the new airport will challenge the regional primacy Dubai International Airport, with its capacity of 90 million passengers annually.

The airline and airport projects are aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan to reduce its dependence on oil and gas revenues and transform the kingdom into the region’s economic centre. 

The multi-million football sponsorship deals can come with some risk of political backlash.

German football club Bayern Munich’s deal with Qatar Airways – estimated to be worth $10.5 million per year – drew criticism from some of the club’s fanbase.

It was announced in June the five-year sponsorship deal would not be renewed.