David Blecken
Mar 31, 2016

Marina Bay Sands launches first branding effort for Japan

TOKYO - Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands has launched its first large-scale branding initiative for Japan as it looks to focus the attention of Japanese visitors on the experience it provides, rather than just on the property itself.

The Singpore resort and casino invites Japanese travellers to experience its full range of facilities
The Singpore resort and casino invites Japanese travellers to experience its full range of facilities

The work is a localisation of a global campaign entitled 'Never Settle', which launched last year. It features David Beckham as brand ambassador and was developed by AR New York. It presents the Marina Bay Sands experience, ranging from hotel accommodation to dining, high-end retail, leisure, entertainment and gambling, from Beckham’s perspective.

Explaining the reason for launching it in Japan to Campaign, Maunick Thacker, Marina Bay Sands’ SVP of marketing, said the brand was “moving away from awareness of showcasing the property to more experiential messaging” for the market.

He said the company saw Beckham as the perfect fit due to his ability to continuously reinvent himself. He has moved from sporting hero to businessman, family man and philanthropist, Thacker noted.

Marina Bay Sands aims to convey the same sense of dynamism under the ‘Never settle’ banner. Thacker said the venue strived to constantly refresh itself and add “new facets”. It recently added four new restaurants and is in the process of refurbishing its rooms, he said.

“As any organisation that wants to move forward, you’ve got to reinvent yourself,” he said. “Otherwise, why would people want to engage with you? That’s the spirit of ‘Never settle'. What we’re saying is, never settle for anything but the best. Don’t compromise.”

wide player in 16:9 format. Used on article page for Campaign.

New focus

That might sound somewhat generic given that virtually all high-end hospitality chains aim to cultivate an image of uncompromised quality. But the aim of the Japan launch is more to showcase Marina Bay Sands’ varied attractions to Japanese travellers, and encourage repeat visits.

Thacker said Japan accounts for the largest group of hotel bookings at Marina Bay Sands—between 17 to 18 percent. He said the growth of the Japanese market despite the absence of major branding work in the past did not happen just by accident. It has tailored its services to appeal to Japanese travellers. Marina Bay Sands has drawn attention to itself through working with brands like Softbank, which filmed a commercial featuring pop icons SMAP performing in the building’s SkyPark.

At the moment, the SkyPark itself is the primary draw, he said. “We certainly take a lot of pride in that space and we don’t want to say it’s not what you should do," Thacker said. "But at the same time we want [Japanese visitors] to experience something different each time.”

The campaign is aimed at independent travellers “looking for unique experiences”, he added, noting that Japanese travellers “really know what they want” and continue to evolve away from package tours.

Japanese group tours “are not going to completely go away”, he said. “The older generation might take comfort in pre-organised tours, but younger travellers want to experience things in their own way. We look at both these audiences and offer packages that appeal to both.”

"Come and feel it" 

The branding effort will culminate in a live event in Tokyo “hosted” by Beckham in September, the details of which are still being finalised. “It’s not just about us telling you—we’re actually bringing the experience to you and saying, ‘come and feel it’,” Thacker said. “It’s not about replicating Marina Bay Sands here but bringing a sense of excitement, emotion, so people can touch and feel it.”

The event will be invitation-based but “a larger audience will have an opportunity to engage for sure,” Thacker explained. “We’re mindful of the fact that we don’t want to create something that’s exclusive. We want to create an event people want to be at and make sure they have the ability to engage.”

The global campaign debuted last year

Looking ahead, Thacker said he saw “huge potential” in Japan. “For us it’s not just about short-term engagement,” he said. “We really see long-term potential. There are a lot of positives coming from the market and we believe more people are going to travel overseas, spend more time, and continue to look for more personalised experiences.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan. In January, the Singapore Tourism Board signed a cooperation agreement with the Japan National Tourism Organization to help build mutual awareness of the countries as tourist destinations and increase visitor numbers between them.

Campaign's view: MBS's use of Beckham in the global campaign is safe but unoriginal. It's all very nicely shot, and certainly won't do the brand any harm in Japan, where he's as popular as anywhere. The event also seems a nice touch. But considering Japan's importance for the company, next time round it would be nice to see more localisation in the work itself beyond language.


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