The marketing award was presented to Emirates

It is ironic that Emirates shuns the use of the word "marketing" in all its job titles and descriptions. This is not because it disapproves, but because it believes the word is too amorphous and could become a reason to spend money without clear objectives.

This kind of focus goes a long way toward explaining why the Emirates marketing programme has proven so effective. As Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, explains: "We know how we want to project ourselves. It covers sponsorships, advertising, media relations - everything about how we control and portray our brand. Call it what you like - it's brand management."

A key part of this is promotion of brand awareness through sponsorship of high-profile events. This started when Emirates sponsored the Australian cricket team in the 1999 World Cup. After Australia won, Clark recalls, "even taxi drivers in Australia suddenly knew who we were".

Apportioning its efforts between sponsorships and advertising has evolved to the point where there is now a 50-50 split. Sponsorships deliver fast brand awareness; advertising tries to turn that into sales. As Clark explains: "When you link the sponsorships with conventional advertising you have a fairly formidable presentation of the global brand." Emirates sponsorships emphasise sports because of their broad appeal. The whole world watched the 2006 FIFA World Cup, with Emirates involved through high-profile sponsorship.

Other examples include the purchase by Emirates of naming rights for the new London stadium of UK Premier League soccer club Arsenal and title sponsorships of the Melbourne Cup, Australia's premier horse race, and the America's Cup, the premier sailing race. Emirates is also, so far, one of only six partners for the 2010 and 2014 soccer World Cups. Sports sponsorships offer the widest coverage, but Emirates also targets other markets. Promotion of three Australian symphony orchestras reinforces Emirates as a premium brand.

The other thrust of marketing is advertising, but it too is unconventional at Emirates. The airline has a unique virtual advertising agency with 120 public relations and advertising agencies around the globe co-ordinated through its EmPower extranet. When the airline plans to launch a new campaign, it distributes a briefing on Empower and invites all member agencies to submit a concept. Emirates then chooses the best from a creative point of view. Through such links each local agency is effectively part of a global agency.

Emirates is willing to spend more than many airlines on marketing. It budgets just under 4% of revenue. This is high by airline standards, Clark admits, but obviously he believes it is justified. "Others kind of play around the edges," he notes. "But if you want to be a big player you need to think high. Our aim is to be a premium global brand and to do this you have to go after these big ones. Eventually you judge them as being affordable because of the return on investment." This is the thinking that has produced a consistently excellent marketing programme at Emirates, even though it prefers not to call it that.

Source: Airline Business