Riyadh Air, Saudi Arabia's newly launched secondary flag carrier, has signed a sponsorship deal with Spanish football team Atlético de Madrid. The multi-year partnership will see Riyadh Air become the team's main sponsor and official airline partner. In addition, Riyadh Air will appear on the players' team kits. This is the first sports sponsorship deal Riyadh Air has announced since launching in March.
Riyadh Air and Atlético de Madrid decided to work together due to a shared set of values and goals. Both entities share a passion for excellence, innovation, and serving millions of people around the world. The partnership will allow the two companies to expand their fanbase and establish themselves as global leaders in their respective industries.
Miguel Ángel Gil, CEO of Atlético de Madrid, said: “We are delighted to welcome Riyadh Air as our new main sponsor of the club. This partnership signifies a great opportunity to offer better experiences to our fans around the world and I am confident that this alliance with Riyadh Air will elevate our club to new heights.”
Meanwhile, Riyadh Air's CEO Tony Douglas said: "It is an incredible exciting day for Riyadh Air as we enter into a long-term partnership with Atlético de Madrid, one of Europe's greatest clubs, to become their main and official airline partner. We believe that this partnership is a perfect match, as both Riyadh Air and Atlético share a commitment to excellence and a passion for connecting people and cultures around the world."
Douglas later added: "[Riyadh Air] created global waves when we recently launched our stunning livery and with this partnership, once again we are surprising the world as we move towards our maiden flight in 2025. We look forward to working closely with our friends at Atlético de Madrid to deliver innovative and exciting experiences for football fans and travelers."
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This announcement comes as Saudi Arabia aims to establish itself as a major aviation hub in the Gulf region alongside the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. Although the country already has Saudia as its national carrier, a secondary airline was necessary to appeal to international travelers. This is because Saudia is known for its focus on religious customers.
Saudia is based at King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah, the closest airport to Islam's holiest city, Mecca. The airline operates charter flights during the Ramadan and Hajj seasons to serve Muslims from around the world who visit Saudi Arabia for religious reasons. Saudia's in-flight service is specifically tailored towards Muslim passengers since the airline does not serve alcohol, offers a prayer before takeoff, and provides a prayer area on all widebody aircraft.
Meanwhile, Riyadh Air was created so Saudi Arabia could attract 100 million annual passengers by 2030. In March, Douglas said the airline would provide "authentic Saudi hospitality" while establishing it "as both a global connector and a vehicle to drive tourist and business travel to Saudi Arabia." In other words, Riyadh Air is designed to appeal to international passengers who visit Saudi Arabia for business or leisure purposes.
One of the ways Riyadh Air intends to accomplish this goal is through the sponsorship of sports teams. Although Saudia has sports sponsorships through being the official airline of Newcastle United and the Aston Martin Formula 1 team, Riyadh Air is focused specifically on marketing Saudi Arabia as a leisure destination.
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Sponsoring sports teams has been successful for other Middle Eastern airlines in promoting their brands internationally. Airlines such as Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Emirates have become known for working with leading sports teams, especially in Europe. These carriers are the official airlines of sports brands including Formula 1, Manchester City, and Real Madrid. Riyadh Air aims to establish a foothold in this competitive market and showcase the airline to sports fans worldwide.
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