‘Emirates NBA Cup’: Dubai Airline Inks Basketball Deal 

Skift Take

The new partnership between Emirates and the NBA will see the league rename its in-season tournament to the “Emirates NBA Cup.”

Emirates is launching another high-profile sports partnership.

The Dubai-based airline is partnering with the National Basketball Association as part of a strategy that relies on corporate sponsorships to raise its profile in a competitive global airline industry. 

Through the partnership, the NBA’s in-season tournament will be renamed the “Emirates NBA Cup.” 

The event will have a co-branded logo and promotion starting in fall 2024.  

Emirates’ logo will also be featured on referee’s jerseys, and travelers will be able to watch NBA content on Emirates’ website. Those jerseys will make their debut this month at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game February 18. 

Emirates and the NBA will also release a set of co-branded merchandise that will include basketballs, sportswear and vintage collectibles. The carrier said it plans to sell the merchandise at the store located in its headquarters in Dubai, along with its website. Members of Emirates loyalty program can use miles to purchase NBA merchandise on the airline’s website. 

“With basketball’s popularity around the world, we are excited to work with one of the most globally recognized and prestigious professional leagues,” Emirates CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a statement. 

Face-to-Face With the NFL

Late fall into the winter is typically peak football season. Basketball season starts in October, and the NBA has long struggled to gain significant viewership during the earlier half of its season due to the overlap with football.

Last year, to drum up some excitement for the earlier games, the NBA announced the in-season tournament and its trophy, the NBA Cup. 

The in-season tournament is not the NBA’s most marquee game — the season begins to heat up with the playoffs in April and finals don’t start until June.

“It’s not a new concept in sports,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said when it was announced, according to the Associated Press. “For those that follow particularly international soccer, it’s a long tradition of having in-season tournaments … so we thought, what a perfect opportunity for a global league like the NBA and it’s a perfect fit for our game.”

The inaugural NBA in-season tournament kicked off November 3 and ended December 9, with the Los Angeles Lakers winning the championship. 

Emirates’ Long List of Sports Partnerships

Emirates has some of the most high-profile sports partnerships in the airline industry. 

Globally, the airline has partnerships with some of the most popular sports teams like Real Madrid, AC Milan and FC Arsenal. Emirates also has a partnership with the International Cricket Council, the U.S. Open and Australian Open. 

In the U.S., Emirates was previously the official airline of the Los Angeles Dodgers — now one of the most valuable teams after signing a blockbuster $700 million contract with Shohei Ohtani. 

Sports partnerships are common for airlines because it allows them to tap into the tight-knit relationship fans have with their team, league or favorite player. For example, seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady has a partnership with Delta Air Lines, where he serves as a “strategic advisor.” 

And, sports is an extremely lucrative industry. In 2023, the global sports industry generated approximately $512 billion in revenue. 

“As basketball continues to be recognized as the fastest growing sport globally,” NBA Deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum said in a statement, “this collaboration will showcase the excitement of the NBA to the millions of people who fly Emirates every year.”

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