Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has picked up top honours at the Arabian Sponsorship Awards for its support of the inaugural Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline picked up the award in the ‘International Sponsorship’ category at a gala ceremony which took place on Monday, December 14 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer, said: “Etihad’s sponsorship of the inaugural Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showcased both Etihad and Abu Dhabi to a global audience of more than 600 million people.

“Recognized as one of the biggest and most prestigious sporting events in the world, courted by leading companies and countries alike, the Abu Dhabi F1 weekend provided unprecedented presence, visibility and credibility for a new airline brand launched only six years ago.

“We are proud to have played a key part in supporting the biggest international event ever to be staged in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and to play an integral part in its promotion and success. Based as we are in Abu Dhabi, the title sponsorship of the inaugural F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a perfect and logical fit for Etihad Airways.”

The judges were impressed with the planning and execution of Etihad’s sponsorship strategy, the objectives of which included raising global awareness of the airline and its brand, securing additional passenger revenues, building better relationships with new and existing corporate clients and helping to showcase Abu Dhabi to the rest of the world.

The sponsorship was also viewed as being highly complementary to the airline’s existing sponsorship strategy and portfolio of sporting brands, which already includes the Scuderia Ferrari F1 racing team.

A combination of internal and external communication channels was used to activate the sponsorship, engaging six distinct audiences – Etihad’s customers, its staff, the travel industry, the general public, media and rights holders – and resulting in an impressive return on investment.

The day after the race saw a record-breaking spike in visits to Etihad’s website and in bookings. The airline’s media coverage for October and November also more than doubled.

Tactics included visits to Abu Dhabi by Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikonnen and Felipe Massa, the display of a specially designed Etihad F1 showcar at key international trade shows, familiarisation visits to the Yas Marina Circuit, specially designed F1 livery on two Etihad aircraft flying to many of the airline’s global destinations, F1 merchandising, special F1 Etihad Holidays packages, on-board announcements, an Etihad aircraft fly-past immediately prior to the race and Etihad cabin crew ambassadors at the starting grid.

In addition to its title sponsorship of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Etihad also sponsors the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team. Etihad’s involvement with Formula 1 is a key component of a growing number of high-profile sports sponsorships for the airline, and complements existing partnerships with Manchester City Football Club, Harlequins Rugby Football Club, the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championships and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Etihad also has naming rights for the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.