On a grand scale
Gulf Business|February 2021
Sports has a definitive role to play within Saudi Arabia’s futuristic development, NEOM. A recent partnership with Mercedes-Benz puts that into sharp focus, as does NEOM’s determination to house a population which is among the healthiest in the world
VARUN GODINHO

NEOM, the $500bn 10,000 square-mile mega development in northwest Saudi Arabia, is a project with unlimited ambition. It was first announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017, who has since then made it abundantly clear that it will serve as more than just a newfangled city with offices, homes, resorts and conventional infrastructure including an airport. Instead, it is being built as an incubator for cutting-edge technology, with sustainability as a founding principle. It is also a staging ground for radical renewable energy initiatives which reimagines mobility through hyperloop-esque travel solutions.

Among the 14 core ideological concepts around which NEOM is being envisioned, sports is one of them. Playing a pivotal role in pushing that agenda is Neal Coupland, sports partnership director at NEOM.

“I think it’s important to put into context what we’re trying to achieve,” Coupland explains about his role within the project. “We’re trying to help define the destination through sport. Inevitably therefore, the partnerships we have need to contribute to the whole of NEOM, and not just to NEOM sports.”

One of the key partnerships it struck was in March last year when it signed a longterm sponsorship agreement to become the principal partner of the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E team. “We look at Mercedes as a very successful brand globally in car and vehicle manufacturing and mobility. Mercedes racing is the most successful racing team on the planet. We look at knowledge transfer and at sharing skills. When we look at the partnership of Mercedes Formula E, we want to contribute to the whole of NEOM, which is about our future livability, mobility, innovation and technology. Mercedes ticks all the boxes,” says Coupland.

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