Israel scores Arsenal sponsorship

Emirates Airlines okays 350,000 deal to make Tourism Ministry a team sponsor

Arsenal deal 298.88 (photo credit: Israel Hadari Photographer)
Arsenal deal 298.88
(photo credit: Israel Hadari Photographer)
A new Israeli tourism campaign will take center stage at Emirates Stadium, the London home of English soccer giants Arsenal, starting in August. Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson and Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman signed a two-year sponsorship deal at a press conference at the David Intercontinental hotel in Tel Aviv Sunday morning. Edelman said the campaign was given the blessing of Emirates Airlines, which is based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The airline bought the naming rights to Arsenal's new stadium in 2004 for a reported $100 million. The stadium is set to open in August. "Before we strike any deal, we discuss it with our partners. This was the situation here as well," said Edelman. The 350,000 agreement makes Israel Arsenal's "official and exclusive travel destination." "This is the only tourism deal we intend to do," Edelman said. The Tourism Ministry joins Arsenal's list of sponsors that, in addition to Emirates Airlines, includes Nike and Thomas Cook. "We're delighted to be part of this," Edelman said. "We think football is a great product, and we think it will assist Israel becoming a more popular destination." Israel will be featured on digital perimeter boards and 450 high-definition LCD screens at the stadium on game days; on the team's Web site,; and in its magazine. The televised ads will reach audiences in an estimated 198 countries. Edelman said tens of millions of people watch Arsenal games regularly, and approximately 700 million fans around the world tuned in for the team's match against Manchester United. The Tourism Ministry also receives intellectual property rights, the use of the team logo and the right to use photos of the team and its players in ads. For an additional fee, Arsenal players will also appear in the ads. Bringing the team or players to Israel is not part of the deal. The ministry can use the stadium's banquet hall twice a year and can organize an exhibition at the end of the playing season. Hirchson said a game featuring Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian players against an Arsenal select team was being looked into. He added that the deal could help cultivate a relationship with Emirates Airlines, the official airline of the United Arab Emirates. Hirchson revealed that he had met with the United Arab Emirates tourism minister at the World Economic Forum in Jordan last year to discuss cooperation between the two countries in tourism. A ministry spokesman said nothing further had developed from the meeting. Hirchson said the Tourism Ministry had employed Ernst & Young financial advisers to help develop a new concept to broaden Israel's appeal as a tourism destination beyond traditional markets. The goal is to bring in an additional 2 million tourist annually. However, when asked why Arsenal was chosen to play such a large role in the campaign, he simply replied, "Why not?" Edelman jumped to Hirchson's assistance, saying: "We are the largest club in London and have 30 million fans around the world. We are in the forefront of the anti-racism campaign in England and have an excellent brand that can promote any product." Arsenal's chief shareholder, Danny Fiszman, vice chairman David Dein and Edelman are all Jewish. The club has been involved in a number of Jewish causes in the past, including creating grassroots soccer academies in Jewish and Arab towns in Israel and helping Jewish and Muslim schoolchildren in London come together for sports and educational activities. The team last won the English Premier League in 2004 and is currently ranked sixth, five points behind fourth-place Tottenham for the final spot in next year's Champions League qualifiers. It holds a 1-0 lead over Spanish giants Real Madrid heading into next week's return leg in the first round of the Champions League knockout stage. Avi Krawitz contributed to this report.