Chris Reed
Mar 24, 2014

Is StarHub’s sponsorship of the Singapore Lions failing to roar?

Sponsoring a football team is tricky business. Past success does not equal future success. Just ask Chevrolet how they currently feel about spending almost a billion Singapore dollars on sponsoring Manchester United from next year.

Is StarHub’s sponsorship of the Singapore Lions failing to roar?

A billion dollars to be on the front of a shirt of a team that won’t even be in the Champions League next year let alone being champions of England’s Premier League. They may as well as sponsor Newcastle United.

The same applies locally with the Singapore Lions XII (not quite in the same league but a similar story).

StarHub, Singapore’s No. 2 telco brand and only cable provider, are the principal broadcaster and sponsor of the renamed and rebranded Singapore Lions XII (don’t ask me why it’s 12 and not 11….I think because it was formed in 2012 but logically of course it should be the Singapore Lions XI).

The Lions did very well last year, won various things and so this year StarHub decided to launch a cinema campaign celebrating the return of legendary Singaporean icon Fandi Ahmad as the new manager.

The problem is that The Lions have performed more like pussycats this year and just like Manchester United have gone from champions to also ran’s in the bottom part of the Malaysian League in which they play. So every time that I see this advert before every movie when I go to the cinema I cringe. It only really works if they’re winning.

If I was in charge of the StarHub sponsorship I would have pulled the advert. It’s embarrassing. The commercial says “the legend returns” and that they’ll win everything before them when in reality they’re being beaten by much less resourced and much worse teams on paper (the parallels with Manchester United are uncanny).

Actually StarHub don’t exactly do much in the way of sponsorship activation. There’s no marketing in bills or even online or in store. There’s not even any ticket promotion of discounted tickets or competition winning opportunities on their Facebook page that I can see. The Lions XII play in front of half empty arenas so ticket promotions shouldn’t be a problem yet where are they?

Are StarHub worried that rival SingTel have the ultimate football content on a Saturday night, the English Premier League, and at the same time they’re showing the Lions lose to some lowly Malaysian team? Do they secretly not really want to be associated with it?

If so why are they still running the cinema ad proclaiming “the legend returns”? They’re not exactly short of adverts, they could change it until they start winning again (which could be a long time admittedly).

StarHub’s problem with The LionsXII pales in comparison with Chevrolet’s problems of marketing their association with Manchester United next year. I am certain that when they did the deal 18 months ago that they had no inkling that Manchester United would not be either winning or very close to winning the Premiership and that they would certainly be in the ultimate club trophy competition The Champions League.

You don’t pay a billion dollars to be in The Europa Cup and finish 7th, unless you want to sponsor Newcastle United that is. And if you do fancy that, it certainly doesn’t cost a billion dollars.

Chevrolet and Manchester United will argue, with some justification, that like Liverpool their brand is global, their reach undimmed by a lack of success and their history and tradition has built up a brand that other global brands will happily pay millions of dollars to be associated with.

Chevrolet will be hoping for a winning return in 2014/15 to the Champions League for 2015/2016 just as Liverpool’s shirt sponsor Standard Chartered will be hoping for the opposite as long as Liverpool take their place.


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