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Emirates signs major sponsorship with Super Rugby’s Lions

Emirates airline has agreed a five-year title sponsorship contract with South African Super Rugby franchise the Lions in a deal that will incorporate naming rights to its famous Ellis Park home.

Under the agreement, effective from January 1, the 62,500-seat venue in Johannesburg will be renamed as Emirates Airline Park.

The Emirates logo will feature on the front of the Lions match and training kit and the company is also set to benefit from in-stadium hospitality alongside a range of other marketing rights and activities as part of its first major sponsorship of a South African rugby team.

Orhan Abbas, Emirates senior vice-president for commercial operations in Latin America, southern and central Africa, said: “Emirates is a strong champion of rugby worldwide and South Africa is one of the top rugby playing nations with very passionate supporters. We are therefore delighted to have the opportunity to sponsor one of the country’s most popular and established teams.

“It’s the first major sponsorship by Emirates of a South African team, and this will certainly raise the visibility of the Emirates brand not just here, but also in our key markets of New Zealand and Australia where the Super Rugby competition is played, and a number of other markets in which the games are televised.

Financial terms for the deal between the Lions and Emirates were not disclosed, but the Business Day website said the agreement is understood to be worth more than R20m (€1.5m/$1.8m) per year. The Lions were without a naming sponsor for the 2014 Super Rugby campaign.

Chinese telecommunication company Huawei is widely reported to be joining Emirates on the Lions’ commercial roster.

Emirates has a long established presence in rugby union and will serve as a worldwide partner for the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups having partnered the previous two editions of the tournament. It is also the long-serving title sponsor of the Dubai Rugby Sevens event and its branding features on the kits of World Rugby match officials.

The Emirates Lions kick off their 2015 Super Rugby campaign on February 13, when they take on the Hurricanes of New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park.