- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) - Emirates airlines announced a five-year sponsorship deal with Formula One on Tuesday in the latest sign of the growing influence of the oil-rich, Gulf nations on the sport.

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says the Dubai-based airline’s sponsorship deal includes 15 races this season starting in Malaysia. It will not sponsor the Australian, Monaco, Bahrain or Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Ecclestone did not disclose the value of the sponsorship deal.

“I’m obviously very proud to be associated with Emirates, the sort of brand that should be with us and us with them,” Ecclestone said at a news conference in Dubai. “We like to feel we are associated with the top corporate (brands), which we are obviously are with Emirates. The teams will benefit. It lifts everyone in Formula One.”

The deal is part of Emirates efforts to spread its reach globally and is just the latest sponsorship deal involving a major sport. It already is an official partner with FIFA and recently signed a five-year deal with the ATP which begins this year. It also comes days after new five-year shirt sponsorship deal with Paris Saint-Germain, the big-spending French soccer team that signed David Beckham.

“This is an exciting global opportunity to align two world-leading brands,” said Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates chairman and chief executive. “The ambition, cutting-edge technological standards and worldwide reach of Formula One go hand in hand with Emirates’ vision and ambition.”

Emirates is also the latest Gulf company to lend its name to Formula One, which is popular in a region known for its love of fast cars. Gulf Air sponsors the Bahrain Grand Prix and Etihad the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Bahrain Mumtalakat, a sovereign wealth fund based in Bahrain, also has 42 percent stake in F1 constructor the McLaren Group.