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Emirates airline signs big US basketball sponsorship deal

Emirates basketball NBA cup Reuters/Candice Ward/USA Today
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James hoists the NBA Cup in December last year after beating the Indiana Pacers in the final of the NBA In-Season Tournament, now to be known as the Emirates NBA Cup
  • Tournament to be Emirates NBA Cup
  • Airline’s logo on referees’ kits
  • NBA content on Emirates flights

Emirates, the Dubai airline, has signed a sponsorship deal with the National Basketball Association in the United States that will see the NBA’s in-season tournament renamed the Emirates NBA Cup.

Emirates will become the association’s official airline partner and referees’ kits will feature the airline’s logo.

The airline’s patch will also be featured on the jerseys for all referees in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), from the 2025 season, and NBA G League, the official minor league of the NBA, beginning with the 2024-25 season.

The In-Season Tournament was first held during the 2023-24 NBA season, with the first winners being the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Emirates’ association with NBA will support the airline’s efforts to reach a huge fanbase in the US and worldwide through a shared passion for the sport of basketball,” a statement from the carrier said on Thursday.

Fans will also have the opportunity to watch NBA content on all Emirates flights. 

Emirates has been a supporter of basketball since 1991, when it became a sponsor and official airline of the UAE Basketball Association. 

The airline has also been a sponsor of the Dubai International Basketball Championship for almost 30 years, and sponsored the staging of the FIBA World Championship in the UAE in 2014.

In 2022, Emirates became the official airline and jersey sponsor of the Beirut Basketball Club in Lebanon. 

The airline has an extensive list of sponsorships in a variety of sports, which include football, rugby, cycling, tennis, cricket, horse racing, sailing and golf.

The NBA deal is part of Emirates’ strategy to increase its presence in the United States. At 17 percent of total revenue, the Americas are Emirates’ third largest market, according to its latest financial report for 2022-23, behind Europe (32 percent) and East Asia and Australasia (25 percent).

The carrier, which serves 17 destinations in North America and has a presence in 10 states, saw its revenues for the US increase 66 percent year-on-year to more than $18.5 billion in 2023.

Ten years ago the US made up just 11.4 percent of the company’s business, and revenues have more than doubled in that time, from $9.2 billion.

North American carriers reported a 28.3 percent annual traffic rise in 2023 over 2022, according to the International Air Transport Association. Capacity increased 22.4 percent, and the load factor climbed 3.9 percentage points to 84.6 percent.

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