Basketball ‘still important’ to Turkish Airlines amid multiple sponsorships
By Simon Ward in Istanbul
The restructuring of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, European basketball’s top clubs competition, has delivered results that have impressed the title sponsor, which insists that it remains fully committed to the sport despite broadening its sporting horizons in recent years.
Turkish Airlines became the first-ever title sponsor of the EuroLeague in 2010, and its current deal runs through to the end of the 2019-20 season.
In the last seven years, the airline has built up a reputation as one of the most active sponsors of international sport, supporting properties such as soccer’s Euro 2016 and the European qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, club rugby union’s European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup and golf’s Turkish Airlines Open, now part of the European Tour’s new top-tier Rolex Series.
It is also continuing to explore new avenues, recently becoming the new headline sponsor of the Ireland cricket team, in an initial one-year deal, with an option to extend to 2020.
However, Turkish Airlines has stressed that there has been no let-up in its support for basketball, one of the most popular sports in its home market, and believes that the new format for the EuroLeague, with 16 teams and a round-robin regular season of 30 rounds, has been a positive change.
Speaking at the opening press conference for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Istanbul (pictured) on Thursday, Ilker Ayci, the company’s chairman, said: “Being a proud title sponsor or Europe’s premier basketball competition, a global sponsor of the [second-tier] EuroCup for seven consecutive years, as the Turkish Airlines family, we want this partnership to stand strong.
“With a firm belief in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague’s growing global reach, we expanded our title sponsorship until 2020. Concurrent with our trust, European basketball continues to grow and expand its horizons. European basketball continues to display a rising performance, with an arena performance of 8,200 fans on average signalling a 15-per-cent increase after the adoption of a total round-robin regular season.”
The reforms of the EuroLeague and EuroCup for the 2016-17 season formed part of a 10-year joint venture between organisers Euroleague Basketball and IMG, the international sports agency, and Ayci claims these have contributed to the upsurge in television and online consumption.
He said: “Since the beginning of our sponsorship in 2010, we believed in the growing role of basketball among team sports. Thanks to the changes instituted by the EuroLeague, not only did the live television audience increase by 32 per cent, but also the online audience by 166 per cent.
“Furthermore, the fan engagement and social media increased significantly. Twitter interaction rose by almost 200 per cent, Instagram by almost 400 per cent and Facebook by 471 per cent. Euroleague is followed by 180 million sports fans in Europe, which are great numbers and show the success of EuroLeague management. Turkish Airlines is the proud sponsor of the most prestigious basketball event in Europe. This shows how important basketball is to our brand.”
Turkish Airlines’ sponsorship of sport has raised its profile as it has expanded its footprint, as it now flies to nearly 300 destinations worldwide, and European basketball remains a key component.
Ayci said: “As a flag carrier airline, the best airline in Europe in the last six years, we are not only sponsoring the Final Four, but we are also looking forward to it. With our global vision, we think that basketball is a sport representing a global vision similar to other sporting events.
“At Turkish Airlines, we are proud to support European basketball as well as other events. To this end, we are sponsoring various golf, tennis, football, rugby events all over the world. Our partnerships and sponsorships with the Turkish Airlines Open Golf tournament and European professional rugby are among these.”
The EuroLeague Final Four is returning to Turkey, and Istanbul, for the first time since 2012, with the 16,000-capacity Sinan Erdem Dome again acting as the host venue.
The home country is represented by Fenerbahce of Istanbul, which take on Spain’s Real Madrid in the second semi-final today. Defending champions CSKA Moscow of Russia will play Olympiacos of Greece in the first semi-final.
The third-place game and final are scheduled for Sunday.
New sponsors include Samsung, the Korean consumer electronics giant, which will be promoting its new Galaxy S8 smartphone at the event, it was announced today.
The company will have special stands in public areas, enabling VIP guests and the general public to access the device, and operate virtual reality booths to demonstrate its capabilities.
Samsung will also have exclusive branding in the media tribune and other areas at the host arena, and plans to continue its support for Euroleague Basketball next season.
Meanwhile, Powerade, the energy drink manufactured by Coca-Cola, has signed up to support the Final Four once again.
The brand will have a presence at various activities in Istanbul, with its isotonic drinks available to the competing teams, the media, VIP guests and visitors to the FanZone at Marmara Forum, the prominent shopping mall.
Powerade, which has backed previous Final Fours, will receive exposure at all official press conferences and on the backstop LED screens in all the games.
Despite the need for tight security at the Final Four, amid concerns over terrorism in Turkey, there is a full programme of support events, including the FanZone and an International Symposium on Basketball Science, combined with the Euroleague Business Summit, at Istanbul's Hilton Bomonti Hotel.