Gulf carrier Emirates Airline is known for its eye-catching ad campaigns and sponsorship deals and has never seemed afraid of splashing its cash to cause a stir. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, hit the carrier’s spending, with sales and marketing costs standing at AED 1.8 billion ($490 million) in the 12 months to March 31, 2021. This is equivalent to one-third of pre-crisis levels, as Emirates cut discretionary advertising spend and cancelled or postponed various events. 

Airlines have tumbled down the Brand Finance Global 500 list of the world’s most valuable brands due to the pandemic. Back in 2016, Emirates was flying high as the most valuable airline brand and had secured number 167 on the list, above Delta at 212 and Gulf rival Qatar at 455. 

But with global traffic largely grounded due to COVID-19, Emirates has dropped to number 421 in 2021, down from 300 in 2020. The report’s authors note that airlines and aviation companies are among the fastest fallers on the brand ranking list due to the pandemic. Of the other major airlines included, Delta is now at 338, down from 200 in 2020, and United Airlines is at 393, dropping from 232. 

However, that hasn’t stopped the airline from wanting to catch attention with a new advert, especially as it positions itself for an expected recovery in air travel. 

Emirates launched its latest campaign this month, showing a female flight attendant atop the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Emirates’ home city Dubai. The advert stoked a flurry of social media debate as to whether it was real or staged. The ad was timed to coincide with the UK easing restrictions on travel from the UAE.

The video begins with a zoomed in shot of the solo flight attendant holding white boards that depict various messages, reminiscent of the film, Love, Actually. As the view pans out, it becomes clear where she is standing. No doubt its views over the Dubai skyline, from 828 meters high, also provoked vertigo in some viewers. 

As it transpired, the ad was in fact real and involved a stunt woman, a hidden safety harness, a custom-made platform and a whole lot of bravery. After several days of speculation, Emirates explained how the stunt was achieved. 

Behind the scenes video here:

 

The cabin crew member is played by a professional skydiving instructor. Starting from the already dizzying heights of level 160, the team climbed for one hour and 15 minutes to reach the top, 828 meters high. They spent approximately five hours at the top, with filming, using a drone, beginning at sunrise to capture the best light.

We always look to challenge the norm and push boundaries at Emirates. We do it every day through our innovative services, our best in class product and of course through our advertising,” boasts the airline’s president Tim Clark in an August 9, 2021 press release accompanying the behind the scenes video.

Here’s a selection of the airline’s other notable campaigns, some more successful than others. 

JENNIFER ANISTON

In October 2015, Emirates unveiled a major coup, securing award-winning film star Jennifer Aniston as the star of its new campaign. When launching the campaign, Emirates said it had invested US$20 million in securing TV spots worldwide, for a 30-second and longer 60-second version of the ad. The group’s 2015-16 financial report showed Emirates spent AED5.9 billion on sales and marketing, equivalent to $1.6 billion at current exchange rates.

The advert used comedy to highlight the luxurious features available to Emirates customers in the first class cabin. In it, Aniston has a nightmare where she searches frantically for an onboard shower and lounge before waking up in her First Class Emirates suite and realising it was all a nightmare, and she can, in fact, enjoy such facilities on board. 

 

Emirates described the campaign as a “runaway success”. However, the TV ad came under fire from some viewers for depicting services that are out of reach for most passengers and therefore insinuating that flying is only for the rich. 

However, the airline adopted a more inclusive stance when it teamed up with Aniston a year later. The new campaign showed Aniston befriending a young boy, who had sneaked into her first class cabin. When Aniston returns the boy to his parents in economy, the actress decides to stay and watch films with him while the boy’s mother takes Aniston’s first class suite.

The airline said it aimed to show the “fun, spontaneity and glamour of flying on Emirates”.

 

SOCCER HEROS

Emirates has often used soccer as a way to drive its brand presence, notably sponsoring British soccer team Arsenal since 2006, whose London stadium is now known as ‘The Emirates’. The carrier also has sponsorship deals with other major European clubs, including AC Milan, Real Madrid and Olympiacos. 

In 2014, it brought together two soccer legends for a new advert, Pele and Cristiano Ronaldo. The commercial sees Portuguese star Ronaldo standing at the A380’s onboard bar, overhearing two fans discussing how great the player is. In an amusing twist, it turns out the two men are talking not about Ronaldo but Brazilian’s legend Pele, who is also in the bar.  

 

FLYING CARS

Remaining with sports, Emirates has also been a global partner of Formula 1 since 2013 with its ‘Fly Better’ slogan featuring on racetracks across the world. 

Playing on this motorsport connection, Emirates signed up TV celebrity and motoring expert Jeremy Clarkson for a campaign in 2017. 

The ad showcases the airline’s new First Class suites, which it says were inspired by the Mercedes-Benz S Class. In the commercial, Clarkson describes the interior, “sumptuous” leather seat, flat screen TV and lighting as though he were talking about a car. 

The punchline is revealed when Clarkson says he is travelling at 700 miles an hour, adding “it even comes with pyjamas”. 

 

It remains to be seen how Emirates, like other carriers globally, will emerge out of the pandemic. But one thing seems certain, its adverts will provide a talking point.