One of Singapore's top brands looks to gain awareness with sports sponsorship. Will it take off?
In an era where brands are slashing their marketing budgets and more and more people manage to tune out mainstream advertising, association with athletes or sporting events offers an attractive and cost effective (it’s all relative!) option for driving brand awareness locally and internationally. The approach cuts through media clutter and when it involves a live event, consumers are less apt to tune out the action, as fans hate to miss match-deciding moments, which keep those brand logos in clear focus.
Sports sponsorship isn’t a new tool but it is getting greater use in Singapore, as the Singapore Sports Hub is in its first full year of operation and an influx of sporting events fills the country’s arenas.
In the past 18 months, local brand Singapore Airlines has boosted its effort on this front. And it might be a needed move as the brand slipped in this year’s overall Top 1000 ranking, though it did manage to hold its ground in the table for its home turf.
Since the brand’s 2014 announcement of a two-year title sponsorship for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, the airline has continued to put its name on other teams and events. Most recently it sponsored the WTA Finals and the 28th SEA Games.
The industry has welcomed Singapore Airlines’ move into sports. Previously, the world’s number three airline (as voted by air travellers on Skytrax in a 2014 poll) was not as forthcoming with sponsorships. For the longest time, it confined support to rebates for the Singapore Sports School athletes who travel for regional and international competitions. However, that good news rapidly turned to criticism when punters pointed out that support was going towards ferrying mega stars and support crews to Singapore for competition. Why should the brand help foreign national teams and not a local one?
Presumably, Singapore Airlines has ventured into sports sponsorship to ensure it stays competitive and relevant. Its rivals for the title of ‘world’s top airline’ are all sport-sponsorship proponents. Qatar Airways began its 125 million pound sponsorship of Barcelona in 2011; the familiar “Fly Emirates” logo will stay on Arsenal’s team shirts till the 2018/2019 season and the Gunner’s home grounds will continue to be branded as Emirates Stadium till 2028. And Etihad Airways has repeated what Emirates does, but with Manchester City and the airline is already renegotiating for a new contract, just as its original 10-year sponsorship agreement hits the half way mark.
Singapore Airlines consistently grabs awards for being one of the top-three airlines in the world but in the past few years it has had to share the spotlight as other airlines up their game. The sponsorship agreement with Formula 1 and the other international sporting properties can undoubtedly bring global attention and foster familiarity, possibly steering travellers in the brand’s direction when they book a holiday in Singapore or other parts of Asia.
But one must not forget the home crowd – faithful but critical Singaporean travellers. So perhaps then, it is timely that Singapore Airlines recently announced a three-year contract with the Singapore National Olympic Council. The agreement will see the Airline provide air travel and additional services for local athletes and officials travelling to major Games such as Rio 2016 Olympic Games and SEA Games 2017.
The difficult process of identifying the appropriate sports properties have been done and the ink is dry on the contracts. It will be interesting to see how the team at Singapore Airlines activate these sponsorships to achieve what they set out to achieve. It will be a learning curve and when done right, will justify the money spent – but that’s another story!
Rhonda Ng-Doswell is MD of Full Circle Public Relations