A better tomorrow comes not only from hope, but from forward planning – that was the overarching message of Expo 2020 Dubai, which was themed “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. The first World Expo ever held in a Middle Eastern country drew to a close on March 31 after attracting more than 24 million visitors from 178 different countries to the United Arab Emirates over the course of six months.
Expo has long been the place where innovators and visionaries outline their plans for the future. The first telephones, elevators, typewriters and robots were exhibited there. There, the cinematography of the Lumière brothers was experienced comprehensively for the first time; where the modern architectural landscape was built, with monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Atomium in Brussels being introduced for the first time; and where we enjoyed new culinary innovations like popcorn, tomato sauce and the ice cream cone. In all honesty, the World’s Fair is the perfect example of how past and future can come together in harmony – not by sacrificing heritage, but building on it brick by brick.
At a time when people are still tired of experiencing live sport in person after a long absence, it’s no surprise that sport had a strong presence at this year’s expo. The beautiful game’s ability to bring sports fans together is stronger than ever, especially for a club like AC Milan, a team that has more than half a billion fans worldwide.
Three Rossoneri delegations traveled to Dubai for the Expo; a diverse group of professionals – from Milan legends to those shaping the club’s future. Last November, Daniele Massaro, AC Milan brand ambassador and Scudetto, European and World Champion striker, attended the Expo to film Milan’s Champions League match against Porto in front of 200 intimate fans in the first edition of From Milan to Many: Watch parties”.
In March this year, technical director and Milan icon Paolo Maldini, head coach Stefano Pioli and first-team players Brahim Díaz and Fikayo Tomori met with the local fan base and held a special training session with players from AC Milan Academy who housed around 1,000 children between the ages of six and 14. After the training session, they headed to the Festival Garden for a massive Q&A session with 1,500 supporters.
Finally, a delegation led by club CEO Ivan Gazidis flew to Dubai to strengthen the AC Milan brand on a global scale and visited the club’s local sponsors. Gazidis was also the keynote speaker at one of the Expo’s key round tables, ‘The Future of Football and its Role in Society: The Importance of a New Generation of Sustainable Stadiums’. The presentation focused on the fundamental role that sustainable architecture plays in modern cities and how modern stadiums can support both the future of football and the cities that host them. With the new Milan Duomo stadium focused on sustainable innovation, there aren’t many people better placed to lead the discussion.
This spirit of innovation is one of the core values that all AC Milan partners in the UAE share with the club. The United Arab Emirates are a big deal for the Rossoneri – they have a local fan base of 2.5 million fans and have been the most visited Italian club in the country for the first half of the current season. At the Expo, the club also strengthened its partnerships with particularly forward-thinking brands such as Jeeny in the transportation sector and SIRO, which aims to revolutionize the concept of hospitality for elite athletes, fitness enthusiasts and many more.
Rossoneri has a long-standing association with Emirates. The airline, which has been an AC Milan partner since 2007, had its own pavilion at the Expo exhibition floor throughout the event, giving visitors a glimpse into the future of commercial air travel in 2071 and examining the challenges in science and technology, that the industry will have to face in the next 50 years.
This approach is ideal for a club that is always looking to the future. It’s definitely going that way on the pitch, as the club wants to invest in the development of young players, but a lot has also been invested in new initiatives and projects off the pitch. The Studios: Milan Media House, for example, is the club’s new dedicated media hub, while new partnerships with the likes of Sony, Apple, Google and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation open up more opportunities for AC Milan coverage.
The Rossoneri’s attention to the growth of the club as a whole is reflected in YouGov’s FootballIndex. The study, which continually assesses public perceptions of global football clubs, found AC Milan to be the strongest brand in Italian football, as well as the strongest Italian football brand in newer markets such as China and the US.
This public perception has been reinforced by real financial results as the club ended the first quarter of 2021/22 in profit and is expected to halve its losses compared to year-end 2020/21. The club isn’t resting on its laurels either, having launched 28 new partnerships in the past two years, including recent deals with innovative brands like Konami, SENEC and Wefox.
Find out more about the future of AC Milan
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