Focus on Sponsorship
Ben conducting the sponsorship class with various NSA's
TSL speaks to Ben Flint, Vice President of the Asian Sponsorship Association on his thoughts on the local sport sponsorship scene and the coming 28th SEA Games this June.
Share with us more about yourself. What is it that you do here in Singapore and how has life been since your move to Singapore?
I have always worked in the Sports & Entertainment industry and as such I am pretty well known as an experienced consultant and commentator in the field. I am the founder of Asian Sponsorship News (ASN), a market intelligence service for Brand Content and Sponsorship industries in Asia, which I began building in 2005. I am also the Vice-President of the Asian Sponsorship Association (ASA), a non-profit body supported by the Economic Development Board. Both ASN and ASA work hand in hand to support the industry.
I moved to Singapore 13 years ago and I’m happy to announce that I now have one beautiful wife, one Labrador, two kids and two mortgages. My parents were both talented cricketers and in an unusual role reversal, my Mum was better than my Dad… she was the Captain of England’s cricket team. She was also England’s Hockey goalkeeper, a county squash player and a single-figure handicap golfer. A tough act to follow for Dad and I!
Away from the office my time is filled with sport, usually for my 2 boys nowadays, whether I’m supporting them from the touchline or playing some sport or another in the garden. All of which is helping me get back to marathon fitness. Otherwise, like my parents, I play or watch pretty much anything involving a bat and ball. I have also been a freelance sports TV presenter with Fox Sports and AXN and I'm a regular industry commentator in mainstream media and conferences.
With regard to the work you’re doing here, what is your focus right now?
I am now devoted to growing ASN, providing critical commercial intelligence to industry stakeholders - large and small - in an environment that is largely starved of data, analytics and insights.
You come from a unique perspective and background. Based on your expertise and experience, how important is sponsorship in helping to grow our local National Sports Associations (NSAs)?
First of all, Sponsorship encompasses all forms of modern marketing. It is - or can be - present in Advertising, Content, Social, Experiential, Shopper Marketing and Public Relations. So knowledge of Sponsorship - and how it fits into the modern marketing landscape - is critical in order to survive commercially. Once understood, it is important that NSAs place resources behind a Sponsorship sales effort because revenue is the lifeblood of any organisation. Any self-sustainable NSA - i.e. one that is relatively free of government support - becomes less of a burden on public sector budgets and can start to deliver interesting platforms for Singaporeans through shared efforts with their partners.
How would you describe the sponsorship landscape in Singapore and around Asia – are there much opportunities out there and how does it compare with the rest of the world?
From an investment perspective, the ASN Index (our monitor of 10-11,000 deals each year) shows that Sponsorship has grown strongly in Asia. In 2013, we saw a year-on-year growth of 7.3% - this was relatively modest based on past years’ growth curves... and that was because Sport had a relatively bad 2013 and that pulled the Index down. On the other hand, "Non-sport" (esp. Branded Content and non-sporting celebrity endorsement) had another great year of growth.
Compared to the rest of the world - and the rest of the marketing investment landscape - 7.3% is a higher growth curve than both Sponsorship markets in USA and Europe, and it is almost double the year-on-year growth rates of global advertising (except Digital).
Singapore’s Index has actually gone backwards in the last couple of years after a high in 2011. However, we can expect - with the completion of the new Singapore Sports Hub and the catalyst it is clearly providing to help grow the market - a resurgence of Sponsorship investment in 2014.
To give you a heads up, early forecasts from the ASN Index for 2014 indicate a much bigger growth figure than 7.3%. Results will be published in the ASN Annual Report.
You had conducted a series of sponsorship workshops with Sport Singapore. How did it go?
The “Seeking Sponsorship” course - funded wholly for NSAs by Sport Singapore and Workforce Development Agency (WDA) - went extremely well in that we began plugging a lot of much-needed areas on the art of selling Sponsorship. The programme comprised 2-days of traditional training, a 1-day Masterclass and a private mentoring session with each group. The group of 33 were very attentive and eager to learn BUT they were almost all behind the curve in their Sponsorship sales capabilities, compared to private sector organisations.
Each organisation was tasked to pitch their platform to us in the private sessions in a role-playing scenario. Based on our observations of these, the 4 key pointers I would pass on are:
1 - be creative in proposing ways for potential partners to integrate with the assets (events, athletes, content etc). Few of the pitches showed that the NSA had considered the sponsors’ needs and customised their platform to suit them
2 - sell your spirit, your purpose. Most pitches were very factual, dry with very little 'wow'
3 - establish the true value of your asset(s) to drive up revenues. Brands will never spend the big bucks without seeing some science behind the pricing and the ROI
4 - use free tools to sell faster and more effectively. For example, ASN offers free commercial news that any NSA can subscribe to in order to better understand brand activity in Sponsorship in Singapore and further afield
I will balance the above by saying that it was inspiring when an NSA exceeded our expectations and presented a first-class sponsorship proposal in the mentoring/assessment sessions
Given that it is the first time in 22 years that the SEA Games is being hosted in Singapore, how would such a sporting milestone change the sponsorship/corporate culture in Singapore?
I think the mood has already changed since Singapore Sports Hub opened its doors. Global and local brands can see a tangible, iconic piece of infrastructure that is acting as a magnet for blue-chip events… which in turn attracts the consumers with whom they are looking to engage in ways other than the same-old traditional advertising. I can see the SEA Games being supported commercially and in terms of attendance from local audiences.
What are your feelings about the new Singapore Sports Hub and any words of support for Team Singapore for the coming 28th SEA Games.
The Singapore Sports Hub is a game-changing initiative for Singapore, not just a building. It’s going to do the same great things for Singapore in a similar way to the F1 which catapulted Singapore onto the global sporting stage. BUT in an even more sustainable way in my opinion, I also lend my support to the chief agronomist who has one of the toughest jobs right now.
As for Team Singapore, I will freely admit that when I saw the Tak Boleh TVC during the NSA mentoring sessions, I welled up. Go get ‘em.