SPORTS marketing is fast gaining ground in Malaysia as more marketeers embark on sporting events to push and capture a wider audience of fans for their brands.
Industry observers says although there are some hiccups in this area, it is still one of the better platforms for brands to have better engagement with consumers as marketeers step up their investments to market their products through various sporting events.
Dentsu Sports Asia, which is the official co-exclusive sponsorship agency for the 29th South-East Asian Games (SEA Games) in Malaysia, attests to the importance of sports marketing as a platform to promote and build brands. Dentsu Inc, in which Dentsu Sports Asia is a part of, is the official marketing agency for Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Brand driver and investments in sports marketing
Dentsu Sports Asia vice-president and head of Malaysia Stuart Ramalingam says sports in itself is becoming a mainstream advertising vehicle, and brands in Malaysia are starting to pay attention to this evolving medium.
“Brands are starting to not only realise the impact of sports marketing but also the strength, mileage and exposure that local sports can offer. You can see it from the increasing presence of brands at sporting and lifestyle events, and with the current healthy lifestyle trend that is taking Malaysia by storm, sports marketing today delivers an engagement to consumers at their most vulnerable state.
“All brands want the same thing from advertising – to monetise itself over the different media or platforms it selects to market itself. Sports uniquely delivers beyond what traditional marketing can achieve as it enables brands to build intangible benefits such as loyalty, emotional connection and relevance, on top of tangible benefits such as exposure and interactivity, he tells StarBizWeek.
In summing up, Stuart says sports marketing provides brands the total solution to the equation of “share of heart plus share of mind equals to share of market”. As for investments in sports marketing, he says marketeers are already investing in this area as the inclusion of sports as a marketing platform is seen today as a fundamental part of a brand’s marketing mix.
Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia president Datuk Johnny Mun says for sports marketing to be effective, among others, brand ambassadors needs to engage with consumer at all levels.
“Marketeers invest in personalities to sell products. Personalities/ambassadors chosen too has to be marketable. It cannot just be a pretty face on a racquet cover or shuttlecock that will sell products. Brand ambassadors need to be able to engage with consumers at all levels either on the ground, social media etc. At the same time, if the person is a sport personality, he or she should be able to perform in the sports they are in, otherwise they risk losing sponsorship for the brand,’’ he adds.
Mun says the popularity of a particular sport in a country is a factor that should be looked into when investing in sports marketing. He adds: “Take squash for example, Nicol David was world number one for years, yet she’s not really swimming in the league of Tiger Woods or Maria Sharapova. It’s because the sport do not command that huge of a following as opposed to sports like tennis, golf or soccer. Another issue to consider is the relatively small population of our country. Brands may take a much longer time to realise the potentials, in terms of sales.”
Society Malaysia managing director Stanley Clement admits that sports marketing helps in the pushing of brands market as conversations in the social sphere are massive. For instance, he says the conversations in Twitter alone during the Olympics was 187 million.
“The buzz in digital is brilliant, and as a brand, to be able to park yourself in that space gives infinite possibilities in terms of value and reach. Using TM Team Malaysia as an example, we used the traction from that to launch the Hypp TV Everywhere mobile app which enabled supporters to have 24-hour live coverage of the Olympics. This allowed TM to instantly launch the portal and achieve 52,000 downloads within that short timeframe,’’ Clement notes.
Society is IPG Mediabrands global digital content marketing agency in Malaysia. Milo, he says did this in a smart way during the Olympics despite not being an official sponsor of the Olympics. Towards this end, the brand sponsored local athletes like Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy (sailor), Welson Sim (swimmer) and Nur Dhabitah Sabri (diver) which stood as symbols of grassroot sports in Malaysia and embodied the champions never give up spirit, a spirit carried by the Milo brand.
Future trends and outlook
Technology-driven trends, Stuart says like virtual and augmented reality, social media engagement etc are evolving how brands approach their consumers in today’s convergent environment. Likewise, he adds sports marketing evolves with technology which introduces new advertising formats that may drive higher user engagement and heightens experiential marketing and no longer confined to just stagnant or static form of branding.
“These days, we are already seeing some fusion of sporting partnerships with technology-driven trends, enabling brands to deliver longer-lasting experiences and establish unique engagement with their consumers and potential consumers in a more attractive and relevant manner,’’ he says.
Citing Milo as an example, Clement says the brand is working closely on a grassroots and youth level to support and develop athletes around Malaysia. “We see this emerging as a trend, similar to the US where the likes of NFL and NBA players are groomed from school, with scouts and supporters following their sporting careers through school, college, university and onwards to their professional careers. This can be helped with big brands like Milo and others who see the need to nurture our Malaysian sporting scene,’’ he says.
Stuart says with Malaysia hosting the 29th SEA Games and the 9th Paralympic Games next year it will further catapult the growth of sports marketing in Malaysia. He says Malaysia is far from achieving maximum potential of sports marketing as there is still tremendous growth for the industry.
For a start, Dentsu Sports Asia (DSA) in Malaysia has been spearheading initiatives that aim to reinvent the sports marketing landscape by conceptualising and introducing international standard management and innovative marketing concepts that are challenging the grain within the current domestic sports industry.
“Our ability to do so partly stems from our strategic affiliation as a business division within Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) Malaysia, as we sit with and have access to a ready pool of brands and expertise by tapping into DAN’s network.
“Likewise, no other advertising agency has a solid, in-house global sports marketing team and credentials like DSA, enabling DAN to deliver innovative solutions to marketeers by converging sports marketing with all other communications services across the group. Convergence is key to bringing sports marketing to the next level,’’ Stuart notes.
Clement says marketeers at the same time also need to get more creative in how they approach sports marketing and look digitally to enhance how supporters engage with sporting brands.
Elaborating on the potential and scope of sports marketing, he says: “With the recent budget considerations for 2017, we have seen RM1.2bil being allocated for sports development, and RM450mil of this is for hosting the 29th SEA Games and the 9th Para Asean Games in 2017. There is also another RM54mil allocated to continue sports development programmes including athlete preparation programmes and paralympic athlete preparation programmes.
“What this means is that is opens up opportunities for brands and corporates looking to associate with sports, especially with brands looking to explore CSR activities and increased branding with the Paralympics given the recent success of our Malaysia Paralympic athletes at the Paralympics in Brazil.”