A global map of Qatar’s sponsorships in sports
Investing in sports is part of Qatar’s strategic power interests. Play the Game has mapped the involvement of key Qatari companies in global sport from Qatar Airways over telecommunications company Ooredoo to Qatar National Bank and others, and the scale is staggering.
Over the past 20 years, the Qatari regime has invested massively in international sports with the acquisition of the French football club Paris Saint-German (PSG) as one key example and the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup as another.
The intense interest in the sports sector is based on a clear strategy on the part of the Qatari regime to secure the autocratic state’s future by diversifying their economy and developing diplomatic relations, international trade agreements and generally strengthen their international networks.
Senior analyst at Play the Game, Stanis Elsborg, adds that Qatar's strategic interest in sport can also been seen as part of an overall defense strategy with emphasis on soft power rather than hard power:
"For the State of Qatar, their interest in sport is predominantly part of a political strategy, but it is also a practice of image laundering to gloss over an appalling human rights record and not be associated with human right violations, the lack of LGBT+ rights, and the severe abuse and exploitation of the country's large migrant workforce," says Elsborg.
The strategy is referred to as the Qatar National Vision 2030, and many different fully or partly state-owned entities in Qatar are involved in implementing the sport side of the plan including Qatar Airways, the telecommunications company Ooredoo and Qatar National Bank.
All of these entities have been given specific roles in the ecosystem of sport in Qatar. The system is described in a report from the Qatar Development Bank, where for example Qatar National Bank and Qatar Airways are referred to as supporting entities, and beIN Sports is labelled a 'delivery stakeholder'.
This article maps some of the most significant sponsorships and partnerships of Qatari companies in the global world of sport along with the sports tv-rights held by the Qatari beIN Media Group (beIN Sports). The ambition is to show the scope of Qatar's involvement with sport when it comes to sponsorships and tv-rights, but the lists do not claim to be exhaustive in any way.
Qatar Airways is an airline owned by the government of Qatar. The CEO of Qatar Airways is Akbar Al Baker who is also chairman of Qatar Tourism (Visit Qatar) and CEO of Hamad International Airport.
Qatar Airways is an international recognised brand with high-profile sponsorships of organisations like FIFA and football clubs such as Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-German, A.S. Roma, as well as the NBA team Brooklyn Nets.
Ooredoo is a multinational telecommunications company, and the majority of Ooredoo Group is owned by Qatar Telecom (Qtel) Group. Chairman of the board is Sheikh Faisal Bin Thani Al Thani who is also the chief of “Asia-Pacific & Africa investments” at Qatar's sovereign wealth fund called Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).
Ooredoo has a particular focus on esport with investments in the esport tournament “Ooredoo nation – Gamers land”, but also sponsors Lionel Messi and his initiative ‘The Leo Messi Foundation’, Camp des Loges (PSG's training center) and the Doha Diamond League, an elite track and field competition.
Qatar National Bank
QNB Group was established in 1964 as the country’s first Qatari-owned commercial bank. QNB is the leading bank in Qatar and the largest financial institution in the Middle East and Africa region. QNB Group is partly owned by the Qatar Investment Authority and partly by members of the public.
QNB´s chairman is Ali Ahmed Al Kuwari, who was the minister of finance in Qatar until October 2021 and is currently vice chairman of Qatar Exchange (The Qatar Stock Exchange).
QNB sponsors among others The Asian Football Confederation and World Athletics and has succeeded in signing Brazilian football star Neymar as a global brand ambassador.
Qatar Sport Investment
Qatar Sport Investment (QSI) was founded in 2004 and is a subsidiary of Qatar Investment Authority. The chairman of QSI is Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Al-Khelaifi is also a minister without portfolio in the Qatari government, president of Paris Saint-Germain, the Qatar Tennis Federation (QTF), the Qatar Squash Foundation (QSF), vice president of the Asian Tennis Federation for West Asia (ATF), member of the board of Qatar Investment Authority, chairman of the European Club Association (ECA) and member of the UEFA Executive Committee. Al-Khelaifi is also the group chairman of beIN Media Group.
beIN Media Group
beIN Sports is a global tv-network of sports channels owned by beIN Media Group. The company was lunched as a brand by Al Jazeera (Al Jazeera Sport) in 2012 but in 2014 it became its own holding company, still owned by the Qatari state. In 2016, beIN Media Group acquired a Turkish tv-station, Digiturk. The chairman of beIN Media Group is Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
According to their own website, the network covers 43 countries across five continents with 60 channels and has 55 million+ tv-subscribers. It holds an enormous portfolio of sport broadcasting rights including the rights to broadcast matches from the best football leagues in Italy, Spain, France, and the regions of the Middle East & North Africa and the Asia-Pacific.
Some entities are not currently conducting the most voluminous sponsorship portfolio but are still relevant to know:
Visit Qatar, mostly because of their close connection to Qatar Airways and the fact that Visit Qatar also is official sponsor of PSG and have a partnership with one of the world's most famous football players, David Beckham.
Aspire Zone Foundation which includes Aspire Academy, Aspire Logistics and Aspetar, was founded in 2008 and their vision is “To be the reference in sports excellence worldwide”. Aspire Zone Foundation engages in a number of initiatives within the sport sector including facilities, research, a sports medicine division (Aspetar) and more.
Aspire Academy educates athletes, coaches, and leaders in Qatar but also at their academies in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Paraguay, and Thailand. Aspire Academy has also been a favorite place for many national and club teams to hold their training camps over the past two decades.
Together with Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), Aspire Zone Foundation owns the Belgian football club KAS Eupen and the Spanish club Cultural Deportiva y Leonesa.