Emirates Airlines extend their lucrative sponsorship with the Lions

23 July 2019 - 16:12 By Liam Del Carme
The Emirates Lions rugby players pose for pictures wearing the new home and away kit for the new season.
The Emirates Lions rugby players pose for pictures wearing the new home and away kit for the new season.
Image: The Emirates Lions/Twitter

Title sponsors Emirates Airlines have extended their sponsorship with Super Rugby franchise the Lions as well as Ellis Park Stadium for a further five years.

It is understood the deal which took 18 months to broker‚ is worth well in excess of R100m over that period.

It is a dollar-based deal which is susceptible to the whims of the Rand.


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Despite his generous frame‚ Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli neatly sidestepped the question related to the weight of the contract.

“It is significant‚” is all he said when asked to monetise the deal.

The sponsorship will come as a huge boost to the Lions who can now boast having the same title sponsor over a 10-year stretch.

“In this industry it is rare to have a sponsorship that stretches over 10 years.

"This sponsorship enables us to be stable‚ be one of the leading franchises‚ to be innovative‚ not just to fly better but to play better‚” said Straeuli.

Edgar Rathbone‚ the managing director of Ellis Park Stadium management called their partnership ground breaking.

“It has been the five most successful years of the franchise and stadium.

“We reached three Super Rugby finals‚ we hosted five very successful Tests‚ we won the Currie Cup here in 2015 and who can forget when we hosted that 2017 Super Rugby final.

“We can’t operate without partnerships like this. We are all keen to see what this partnership will bring next.”

With Emirates on board it has been quite a turn around for the Lions.

Five years ago they were in financial dire straits and were in the throes of a bone-severing retrenchment process.

They had lost their title sponsor MTN and their place in Super Rugby the year before.

“This has felt like home for the last five years‚” said Fouad Caunhye‚ Emirates regional manager for Southern Africa.

“The Emirates Lions partnership on the scale of a global project‚" he said.

"We don’t see the Lions sponsorship as a localised endeavour.

"It is one of our primary sports sponsorships.

"We see the Lions on the same level as PSG or Arsenal. It is in the same vein. This is for the long haul.

“This has been a successful period for the Lions.

"They have produced 16 capped players (for the Springboks) and they continue to develop top talent.

"We are especially proud of the job done by Rudolf Straeuli and his team nurturing and head hunting talent and seeing that explode on the international stage.

“We have grown our own talent. It is difficult to keep our players in the country‚” admitted Straeuli.

“This cash injection won’t just help to develop talent but to keep your marquee players like your Warren Whiteley and your Malcolm Marx’.

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