The Federation Internationale de Football Association, better known as FIFA, has tapped Qatar Airways as its official partner and airline ahead of next year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Doha-based carrier announced the sponsorship package will last until 2022 when Qatar will host the first-ever FIFA World Cup held in the Gulf region.
Qatar Airways will also sponsor a handful of upcoming major events as part of the deal, including this year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
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As FIFA’s official partner, the airline will benefit from significant marketing and branding rights at the next two World Cup tournaments.
In addition to reaching more than two billion people at each upcoming World Cup, Qatar Airways will be recognized at a slew of other FIFA competitions, including the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the FIFA Futsal World Cup and the FIFA Interactive World Cup.
Qatar Airways replaces fellow Gulf carrier Emirates, which sponsored the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
“FIFA, as the governing body of the world’s most popular sporting tournament, the FIFA World Cup, embodies the power of football’s popularity, and as such is a natural partner for Qatar Airways,” said Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker in a statement.
In her own statement, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura call Qatar Airways “an ideal partner for FIFA as we prepare for the first ever World Cup in the Gulf region, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”
According to USA Today, the partnership comes at a critical time for FIFA, which lost $ 369 million last year after a series of corruption scandals turned off potential sponsors.
One of the world’s fastest-growing airlines, Qatar Airways has nonetheless seen a slight decline in passengers traveling to the U.S. in wake of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s large electronics carry-on ban. Al Baker called the drop “manageable” but criticized the ban in an interview with CNN Money last month. In an effort to combat the ban, the airline has begun lending laptops to business class customers.
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in December 2010 during a bidding process that wasn’t short on controversy. The country beat out bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.
On top of being the first World Cup hosted by a Muslim-majority country in the Middle East, the 2022 iteration will be the first played during November and December due to Qatar’s scorching summer temperatures.