For Telekom Malaysia, an association with the English Premier League (EPL) is in line with the nation’s fondness for the sport. The deal came after the company did a test run as local sponsor for Manchester United’s Asia tour, where the actual return on investment trumped projected return by a huge margin (actual ROI was 8.3 versus a projected ROI of 2.5).
Southeast Asian brands have been quick on the uptake with more and more Asians acquiring a taste for the sport. Sports marketing companies who broker such partnerships say that the EPL has become a significant part of marketers’ overall plans and budgets.
“We are experiencing strong revenue growth in Asia year on year, with over 50 per cent of our revenue from last season from Asia already confirmed for the new football season before the first ball has even been kicked,” said Kenny Ager, head of strategy for Sports Revolution Asia.
Another company, Malaysian snack brand Mister Potato, signed up as the official snacking partner for Manchester United. Then there is Thailand’s Singha beer, which has a sponsorship deal with Chelsea and Manchester United.
Tony Fernandes, AirAsia's chief executive, even went as far as buying a team for himself: the Queens Park Rangers.
According to Ager, the growth has been fuelled by a combination of increased TV spend for the Asia region and increased audience numbers in Asia for the EPL year-on-year.
Where an estimated global TV audience of 650 million watched the finals last season, Asians accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the international audience. According to the Barclays Premier League Global Fan Survey, Asia’s fan stands at 864 million—versus 31 million in the UK.
Advertising during EPL matches is proving to be very cost-effective for Asian brands, especially when coupled with selective buying: choosing and cherry-picking selected teams and matches, said Ager.
While some brands look to associate as sponsors, there are others who choose to buy minutes on the digital billboards at match venues. Malaysia Tourism, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Vietnam Tourist Board, SP Setia and 3k Battery are among this group.
Other companies have taken up local licensing deals. Take the case of Singapore furniture and electronics retailer Courts, which has a local licensing tie-up with football club Liverpool that allows it to offer Liverpool-branded merchandise.
“The Premier League is extremely successful in Asia, and trumps the local leagues," points out Marcus Luer, Group CEO of Total Sports Asia. "This makes it a very powerful marketing platform for brands.”
Media planners, however, say that while associations with the EPL are growing, the league isn’t a huge part of media plans at the moment. “It is a growing medium, but not necessarily significant,” said Kenny Hau, managing partner for GroupM’s sports partnerships in the APAC region.
But he added that while previously it was mainly sports-centric brands that showed interest in the sport, today even mainstream companies like banks, telcos and cell-phone manufacturers are eyeing the EPL.