IT’S NOT JUST A GAME

Abu Dhabi 2016 | SPORTS | FOCUS

October through March the Gulf welcomes plenty of sunshine, which smiles kindly upon the flowing golf courses and along the Corniche, Abu Dhabi's social promenade and physical summit of the Emirate. This period of glorious sunshine, which isn't accompanied by the usual high temperature and stifling humidity, forms the crux of the Abu Dhabi sporting calendar.

The international sporting events that Abu Dhabi hosts during November-April are developing the Emirate into a regional leader. As well as reaping the social benefits of sport, these competitions also deliver a positive economic impact. The ITU Triathlon and the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) bring in a total of AED201 million. The former brings in a relatively modest AED11.9 million, although when you look at that as value per competitor, of which there are 2,180, it equates to AED5,485 spent per competitor registered for the competition. The Red Bull Air Race brings in AED119 million in revenue, a figure that could be attributed to the benefits of being associated with the world's most famous energy drink.

Sporting events boost revenue through related sectors, such as hospitality, food and beverages, retail, and transport. Looking specifically at the VOR, the average spend per night was AED1,314 with entertainment and gifts accounting for 40% of visitor spending. Visitors for the Ocean Race also occupied a total of 26,491 rooms per night, a respectable return from the 30,000 plus rooms that are available per day in the city.

Developing the sporting sector serves two primary functions; the economic aspect and brand building of Abu Dhabi as a location, and of Abu Dhabi entities to develop their own presence on a global platform. With good effect, the Emirate's businesses leaders have utilized sports teams, stadiums, and events to enhance their status. Etihad is the leading example, with its logo emblazoned on the sternum of the Manchester City shirt—one of the top teams in the English Premier League, which is viewed by 4.7 billion across the world annually.
The Air Race last reached 195.2 million people, through a combination of 600 print articles, 339 broadcasts, and 1,100 online articles. Print media contributed 53% of the readership to that overall figure. Media value has increased three fold since 2014, and it is understood to have added EUR6 million in value over the same period of time even though visitor and organizer spending stayed relatively flat. The HSBC Golf Championship topped the viewership figures, reaching a cumulative total of 3.4 million viewers.

The ITU triathlon provided the Abu Dhabi brand with 59 hours of content exposure for the primary stakeholder, while partners Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Cleveland Clinic received 21.5 and 9.5 hours, respectively. In terms of gauged value, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Open returned a media value of $3.86 million. Cyclists endure four stages of the Abu Dhabi Tour, spanning over 555km of the Emirate, which provided 85, 20-second shots of the backdrop of the Emirate, promoting Abu Dhabi as a destination, advertising the more traditionally known attractions such as the Grand Mosque and the picturesque white-sanded beaches of Saadiyat.

The benefits of promoting the Emirate as a destination are self explanatory. Just one decade ago, there was no Grand Prix, no Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, nor any of the above events, which now form the mainstay of a busy sporting calendar.