Sporting preferences in the Arab World: examining consumerism in the United Arab Emirates

David Hassan, Sean O Connor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Sport in the Middle East is an important vehicle for social, economic and political change. Indeed by deploying certain modernization agendas and with personal and political support offered at the highest levels of government, increasingly it is used as an indicator of regime stability and prestige (Amara, 2005). It is also relatively diverse in regard to what sports citizens choose to engage with, either as participants or spectators. Moreover, from the perspective of potential sponsors the Middle East constitutes something of a ‘green field site’ possessing unrivalled opportunities for expansion and growth. Later in this chapter, by drawing upon a critical use of marketing data collected by the research company TGI Arabia/ PARC, some initial appreciation of the Middle East market in terms of consumer preference and demographic profiling will be offered. As relatively little is known about the region, its sporting preferences or even the strategic use of sport, an appropriate place to begin any comprehensive analysis of sport in Middle East is by identifying those pursuits that already command a level of popular support and, additionally, to examine areas of potential expansion in this regard. With this in mind a particular focus is accorded motorsport in the UAE. Through the success of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Grand Prix, staged at the futuristic Yas Marina circuit, Abu Dhabi, the UAE has very quickly established its place amongst the pantheon of world motorsport. This development however increasingly needs to be a sustainable one and so a proper appreciation of the sport’s current market demographics, and those who may potentially become part of these in the future, is central to its continued viability and growth. It is a important process for sports bodies to undertake, not least by those seeking to expand into emerging markets, and thereby not only define their arrival but to underpin this by remaining fully cognoscente of their ongoing, latent market potential. Indeed from the aforementioned, extant data it is possible to construct a particularly informative profile of motorsport consumers in the UAE and across the Gulf states. This reveals such enthusiasts as being largely young males, principally employed within the private sector, holding at least a first degree and having sizeable and available levels of disposable income. Such consumers are more likely than not to follow regional and international news and religious debates but are also very likely to be non-natives of the UAE and in fact typically emerge from outside the Middle East region altogether. Notwithstanding this prominent, non-native involvement in motorsport, interestingly UAE nationals are more likely than not to have attended a motorsport event in comparison to most other similarly-sized events. This is because motorsport – primarily F1 racing - is interpreted as a modern and evolving pastime, one that is in receipt of government support and sponsorship and thereby contributing towards national and regional pride.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManaging Sport Social and Cultural Perspectives
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-57216
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • UAE
  • Sport
  • Arab World


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