Byravee Iyer
Sep 19, 2013

Sports Matters Asia: Game on

SINGAPORE - Advertisers in Asia are gearing up to spend billions of dollars on sports sponsorships in 2014, which makes the inaugural Sports Matters conference, held at St. Regis in Singapore yesterday and today, a timely one.

The inaugural Sports Matters is taking place yesterday and today in Singapore
The inaugural Sports Matters is taking place yesterday and today in Singapore

This first-time event featured speakers such as Jamie Reigle, APAC MD for Manchester United, who talked about the football club’s business objectives in the region. He stressed that Manchester United’s model is to drive top line through sponsorships, partnerships, media and merchandising and licensing products.  As a result, the organisation is constantly looking for global and local partnerships with Asian companies.

Reigle also continues to lobby to bring the team to the region often because it’s important to connect with fans in the region, who account for more than half the club’s fan base.

Yesterday morning also saw Prinz Matthew Pinakatt, Coca-Cola’s global director of alliances and ventures discuss topics ranging from creative disruption to value creation and mass sponsorship for niche audiences.

Pinakatt emphasised that partnerships at Coca-Cola are driven by brand needs rather than by money. He cited the example of the company’s choice to pick the Formula 1 to promote its “challenger” energy brand Burn. According to Pinakatt, both brands represented similar attitudes and hence are a perfect fit.

“Everyone asked us why we wanted to associate ourselves with the Formula 1,” Pinakatt remarked. “We wanted to make sure we stayed authentic and contemporary.”

He also predicted that social media would determine the future of sports. “Fans are taking control of sports and we need to tailor their experiences,” he said. Increasingly he believes that new ideas, grassroots programmes and even new sports will come from fans. Brands need to tap into that and nurture it.

A panel discussion focused on how over-the-top content is shaking up the sports TV industry. The panel included Peter Hutton, COO, MP & Silva; Satyan Gajwani, CEO, Times Internet; John Vamvakitis, head of Sports Asia, YouTube; Kelly Cooke, director, ESPN APAC; and Tim Holland, MD Asia, Perform.

The panelists agreed that more and more content is being consumed through mobile devices and that it's important to figure out a model around that. They also discussed piracy issues and the importance of having an open platform to expand sports viewing opportunities. “The key thing to do is to allow fans a variety of experiences, which increases the number of fans, raises more money and keeps consumers emotionally engaged,” Hutton said.

The afternoon’s standout session was an interview between Giles Morgan, group head of sponsorship and events, HSBC, and Jasper Donat, CEO of Branded (Sports Matters is organised by Branded and Haymarket Media, publisher of Campaign Asia-Pacific) .

Morgan said that for HSBC, the role of sponsorships was straightforward. The company focuses on engaging the best customers in growing geographies. He stressed that HSBC looks at sponsorships not like a marketing-led organisation but as a financial services company.

He said on average HSBC receives about 11,000 sponsor requests every year, but has never picked any from that process. According to Morgan, the best way to do business is by knowing people and understanding the challenges of the companies they are involved with. “Cold calling is difficult, particularly if you don’t know what the purchaser is looking for,” Morgan said.

HSBC is focusing on 15 priority markets around the world and looking for flagship events and internationally appealing events that fits its demographic. "We have the HSBC champions in Shanghai, a golf tournament, the HSBC World Champions and the HongKong Sevens," he said. “You can see how the strategy plays out here—these are flagship events in flagship cities.”

Morgan added that HSBC’s physical sponsorships are much more about client engagement with brand impact rather than the other way around. Importantly, he acknowledged the issue of distrust in the banking industry and said that following the global banking crises, it is crucial for banks to rebuild confidence. Sponsorships play a big role in doing that. “Our brand is not our logo,” Morgan said. “It has to have an emotional response and for that to happen integrity has to be reflected in the sponsorships we buy.”

For HSBC, golf and rugby are its top picks for tie ups and associations. “Demographically in certain markets these sports connect best.” Morgan said. Golf tournaments represent values such as integrity, honesty and humility while rugby is about courage and teamwork. “That’s what we want to be,” Morgan said.

Asian Sponsorship Association

The inaugural Sports Matters also witnessed the launch of Asian Sponsorship Association. Industry leaders driving the business of sponsorship in Asia led an interactive open forum at Sports Matters to define and form the basis for the association.

Donat noted that Asia is a dynamic economic growth region and this is the best time for the formation of the new Asian Sponsorship Association.

“It will inject the much needed vibrancy and sophistication to this sector to help energise event partners and sports associations in Asia to boost their appeal and gather more momentum and support for their events and activities,” he said.

Morgan said there is huge growth potential for sport in Asia. “A real opportunity exists for countries in Asia––as economic growth continues––to stage more world-class events,” he said. “Countries like China, Singapore and India can utilise sport to highlight and showcase themselves on the world stage. These events will have the ability to drive massive international media exposure and provide authentic vehicles to attract the world's top companies to sponsor them.”

In a survey done by Gfk, a head of media, North Asia Steve Garton pointed out that 71 per cent of those surveyed said they have undertaken sponsorships in the past and those who had not participated in sponsorships showed a keen interest in considering sponsorship opportunities in the future. Of those surveyed, 82 per cent managed their sponsorships in-house and typically renew sponsorship support each year.

Seven out of 10 respondents agreed that the new Asian Sponsorship Association would help raise the quality standards of sponsorship in Asia, and more than half agreed that that it will help increase the variety of sponsorship opportunities available. Around two thirds (65 per cent) felt that that it will help equip marketers with metrics to measure the success of sponsorships.

See related story: "It is a partnership, not (merely) a sponsorship: Sports Matters panel

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