In April 2018, Serie A club Associazione Sportiva Roma entered into a three-year sponsorship agreement with Qatar Airways.
It was described by the football club as “the largest the club has ever signed” though the actual financials were not made public. However, the agreement with Qatar Airways was reportedly worth €40M ($48.8M) for three seasons, according to Elvira Pollina of REUTERS.
The deal saw Qatar Airways become only the seventh shirt sponsor in Roma’s 90-year history. The first team played without a main sponsor since 2014, when the Roma Cares charity occupied the main space on the front of the club’s gameday shirts.
The deal will last until the end of the 2020-21 season, both parties announced.
Airline sponsorships are among the most valuable in sports. Having an airline as a sponsor, especially in world football, is viewed as a sign that your club is among the elite. Roma claim their deal with Qatar Airways is the largest-ever sponsorship deal signed by the club and one of the biggest ever agreed by an Italian soccer side.
Some other notable examples of clubs that have airline sponsors include Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan Arsenal, SL Benfica, Hamburg SV (Emirates Airlines); Manchester City, New York City FC, Melbourne City (Etihad Airways).
The deal became public a day before Roma’s biggest games for decades, the first leg of a Champions League semi-final against Liverpool at Anfield. The team’s shirts for that match (the secondary white shirt) were the first time the sponsorship was carried.
“We are delighted to announce this historic partnership between AS Roma and Qatar Airways, two great brands with global ambitions,” said Roma’s president Jim Pallotta.
“Today’s announcement is the result of discussions behind the scenes for more than eight months with Qatar Airways… and comes at a significant time in the club’s history, on and off the pitch.”
“With a new stadium due to begin construction late this year and the team in the Champions League semi-final for the first time for 34 years, it’s an exciting time to be a Roma fan. He added that the club would “be proud to wear the Qatar Airways name on our shirts.”
Qatar Airways’ boss, Akbar Al-Baker, said: “We are very pleased to announce this new partnership, which will see Qatar Airways become the official shirt sponsor of AS Roma through the 2020-21 season. “AS Roma is one of the most successful and well-known football clubs in the world.”
Commercial Ties Between the Countries
The deal was entered into at a time that there were increased commercial ties between Doha and Rome. For example, in October 2017, Qatar Airways purchased a 49 percent stake in private airline Meridiana, which has now been rebranded as Air Italy.
An Expanding Sports Portfolio
The sponsorship agreement with Roma was the latest in an increasing line of sporting sponsorships announced by the 100 percent state-owned Gulf airline.
The airline is also one of the shirt sleeve sponsors on Bayern Munich’s kit as well as the German giant’s official airline.
Qatar Airways also sponsors local club Al Sadd, whose captain is former Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez, and will be a FIFA sponsor of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
It has also ventured into other sports, including a sponsorship deal with Aussie Rules Football club, Sydney Swans.
Qatar Airways was the shirt sponsor for Barcelona — the team Roma knocked out in the 2018 Champions League quarter-finals — for three years, in a commercial agreement which ended in 2017. That deal paid Barcelona $45 million per year. For some Barcelona supporters, it proved controversial because of Qatar’s human rights record, particularly with regards to migrant labourers helping prepare for the 2022 World Cup in Doha. Qatar Airways has also been criticised for its treatment of workers, notably by the International Labour Organisation for “discrimination” against female staff. When the sponsorship agreement ended, Barcelona’s entered into its current sponsorship with the Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing company Rakuten.
More About Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is the national airline of the State of Qatar and one of the aviation industry’s big success stories. Operations began in 1994 when the airline was a small regional carrier serving a handful of routes. The airline was re-launched in 1997 under the mandate of His Highness The Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who outlined a vision to turn Qatar Airways into a leading international airline with the highest standards of service and excellence.
Qatar Airways has since become one of the fastest growing carriers in the history of aviation with unprecedented expansion averaging double digit growth year on year.
The airline has developed under the dynamic leadership of Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, appointed in 1997, who has been instrumental in turning Qatar Airways into an award-winning carrier and the best in the world.
Under Mr. Al Baker’s stewardship, Qatar Airways has matured into a leading force in regional and global aviation, earning many admirers around the world for its excellent standards of service.
The airline operates 206 aircraft to more than 160 destinations worldwide.