PHOTO: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, UK. (photo by Tim Wood)
A number of American businesses have sided with the U.S. big three airlines to protest alleged government subsidies received by Middle East Gulf carriers
However, many other businesses haven’t, much to the chagrin of American, Delta and United airlines.
Not only are the Gulf carriers continuing to add new routes to the U.S., but they are also making inroads with U.S., businesses as well, particularly through sponsorships.
Etihad Airways and U.S.-based Major League Soccer on Monday announced a multi-year renewal of its partnership, extending its deal first signed in 2014 to continue its role as the official airline partner of MLS.
Under the renewed sponsorship, Etihad and MLS will collaborate through its ‘MLS Flight Path’ campaign, bringing competitions and VIP experiences for fans at the MLS All-Star Game and at the MLS Cup playoffs. Etihad will also conduct promotions for fans to win flights and holidays to its home of Abu Dhabi. MLS Flight Path explores the global paths players have taken to become MLS stars through exclusive features and interactive digital maps.
Etihad, Emirates and Qatar airlines, the three Gulf carriers waging an Open Skies Agreement war with American, Delta and United, have long been sponsors of international soccer. But to do it in the United States and Canada, where MLS has a combined 22 franchises, is a signal that some businesses aren’t quite ready to join the fray and boycott the Gulf carriers.
“We are extremely proud to extend our partnership with Etihad Airways and build upon our relationship with one of the world’s best airlines,” Jennifer Cramer, Vice President of Partnership Marketing, MLS, said in a statement. “At MLS, we are dedicated to serving our global audience, which is why it is truly exciting to partner with a premium global brand whose values and approach mirror our own. Together, we will continue to build upon our commitment to global soccer and its dedicated fans.”
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Etihad and MLS are celebrating the start of the season by inviting fans to share their best soccer-related travel photos on social media with the hashtag #MLSFlightPath. In April, two lucky fans will win a VIP experience at the MLS All-Star Game in Chicago, where they will compete head-to-head for a chance to win the trip of a lifetime to Abu Dhabi.
“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Major League Soccer, reinforcing our long-term commitment to North American soccer fans,” Patrick Pierce, Vice President Marketing Partnerships at Etihad Airways, said. “Etihad Airways and MLS share the same spirit of global connectivity through sports, and we are dedicated to celebrating soccer’s rising popularity in the U.S., Canada and beyond.”
Etihad’s other sponsorships in the U.S. include official airline deals with the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA), the Washington Mystics (WNBA) and IMG Fashion, supporting 17 Fashion Week events annually, including New York Fashion Week.