Sponsorship and Succession The Singapore Table Tennis Association

Er. Dr. Lee Bee Wah, President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) and National Paddlers

Er. Dr. Lee Bee Wah, President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), shares about the importance of sponsorship and long term succession planning to ensure the sport of Table Tennis continues to thrive.

Why is sponsorship important to STTA and how did you get sponsors onboard?

Sponsorship is vital in helping to realise STTA's sports excellence plans and it supports the continued growth and success of Singapore’s table tennis scene. Attracting corporate sponsors and eventually getting that financial boost through sponsorship is never an easy task. Thus, I’m glad to say that our hard work and perseverance has paid off and STTA is proud to have secured our current sponsorship deals.

Every year, STTA has managed to raise a respectable sum in sponsorship for STTA from a pool of sponsors that are very much dedicated to table tennis. How do you attract and sustain the interest of your sponsors?

To start with, STTA offers a broad range ofsponsorship packages that are sure to pique the interest of our prospective sponsors. Once an intention to sponsor is made known to us, STTA will then work closely with the potential sponsor to curate a bespoke sponsorship package that best fulfills the expectations of both parties. We also constantly engage our sponsors (e.g. a yearly appreciation dinner and one to one lunch gatherings) with the belief that familiarity will eventually help us win and sustain a long-term partnership with them.

STTA has sponsors in its stable that do not necessarily fit the traditional mold of a sports sponsor. What was the value proposition to them? How have they benefited from exposure to Table Tennis?

Table tennis is a fantastic vehicle for our sponsors to reach out to a diverse audience. The ITTF World Tour Tournaments alone guarantee excellent sponsors’ exposure as these matches are broadcasted internationally.  

At the same time, our sponsors find our sports excellence plans and programmes inspirational and worthwhile  These has helped paved way to STTA inking meaningful sponsorship deals. But most importantly, I have a good team who are diligent and sincere in their endeavour towards a better table tennis scene in Singapore.

What are the specific entitlements that a sponsor receives when they partner STTA?

It varies from sponsor to sponsor and we customise to their needs. These include:

•    STTA sponsorship acknowledgements (subject to sponsorship dollars) and usage of our zone training centres
•    Acknowledgement as a major sponsorship partner of STTA
•    Acknowledgement on National Team Jerseys
•    Acknowledgement on blockers (A-boards) at Lee Kong Chian Training Hall/ event venues /programme centres and table tennis tables
•    Acknowledgement in media releases and STTA website

What is the best piece of advice you can give to an organisation who is currently seeking a sponsor?

Persevere. To get sponsors on board, you will have to deliver a compelling pitch that resonates with the sponsors  man, many times.  It will be a long process but do not give up.

At time of writing, we understand that your six-year tenure as STTA president is coming to an end so you can concentrate on your constituency work as the Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC.  What is the importance of succession planning at STTA and how have you gone about ensuring a smooth transition to your successor?

Leadership development is critical for the long term sustainability of all organisations, including sports. It provides opportunities for organisation renewal and injection of new ideas.

Since my second term in office, I kick-started the process of identifying my successor. This helped ensure a smooth transition when the time comes for me to step down and also gave my successor more time to learn the ropes and and get acquainted with the table tennis fraternity..

Ellen Lee is a respectable parliamentary colleague of mine, and I believe Ellen will give all her best for STTA and our local table tennis scene will benefit directly from her leadership and management.

I also roped in Alex Yam to assist in fund raising to complement Ellen's strength. Alex could potentially succeed Ellen as the next STTA President. So, you can see that I planned for leadership succession for more than one generation!

Ellen Lee, Er. Dr. Lee Bee Wah and Alex Yam

Ellen Lee, Er. Dr. Lee Bee Wah and Alex Yam

What are the pitfalls to the process of succession planning?

Not many are willing to take up leadership positions in NSAs, especially the STTA. Many know that the shoes are big to fill especially since it is an NSA that is frequently featured in the press.  STTA is synonymous to medals at any major games that Singapore participates and because of that, leadership requires a lot of hard work and great dedication..

What are your more memorable milestones during your time with STTA and how did you celebrate them?

Sports Development and the pipeline established during the last 6 years, including the:

Youth Development Pathway

STTA-PCF programme which was started in 2009 to introduce table tennis to children in kindergarten, with the aim of rousing their interest and teaching them the sport. Since its inception, the programme has extended to over 30 constituencies The STTA hopes to extend this pre-school table tennis programme to as many constituencies all over Singapore in the next 10 to 15 years as part of our outreach programme to nurture future sports talents of Singapore

Zone Training Centre

During my term, the number of zone training centres was increased from four to seven. Through the pre-school table tennis programme, talented players are invited to train at any one of our zone training centres located at Bishan, Clementi, Hougang, Jurong West, Pasir Ris, Toa Payoh and Yishun..

Youth Development Squad

The promising ones will get directed to the Youth Development Squad when they get to Primary 6..

School within School (SWS) Programme

The best talents from our youth development squad will be invited to join the school within school programme at Singapore Sports School. This cohort will be further shortlisted to join the National Youth Team and eventually be part of the National Team..

This strong base, and the STTA's effort in gathering and training talents, has enabled table tennis to become one of the successful sports in Singapore.

Special Privileges Exclusive to National Paddlers: The STTA is constantly looking after the interest of our national paddlers by providing educational pathways and post-career opportunities to them.

1. Educational Opportunities

STTA aims to set up a network of educational partners to provide educational opportunities to our national paddlers.

1.1 Scholarship/ Preferential Admission to Beijing Sport University (BSU)

A key area of cooperation under the MOU is for BSU to provide academic pursuits for our current and retired national paddlers. STTA hopes to send their current and retired national paddlers to pursue higher learning studies and graduate with degrees or masters from BSU. BSU will award scholarships to our national paddles who have displayed academic and sports excellence. Furthermore, our athletes will be awarded preferential admission into the BSU.

1.2 Preferential Admission to Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

This MOU is the first for both NTU and STTA. This will help create great opportunities for our national paddlers.
This MOU aims to provide pathways for talented athletes to pursue a university degree in Singapore and have a peace of mind while competing internationally.
1.3 Scholarship to University of Liverpool (UOL)

A key area of cooperation under the MOU is for the University of Liverpool to provide scholarships of £12,000 each, to two outstanding Singapore paddlers per calendar year.   The scholarship will support the paddlers through their undergraduate or graduate programme at the University.

1.4 Scholarship to SIM University (UniSIM)

The "UniSIM-STTA Sports Leader Sponsorship" programme is to provide high potential athletes with higher educational opportunities at UniSIM.  This will see UniSIM provide two sponsorships for any of its undergraduate programme per year for the next five years to outstanding Singapore paddlers.

2. Customised Educational Curriculum

The STTA works closely with Singapore Sports School and Republic Polytechnic to provide our national paddlers with a complementing educational track while they play are playing and competing internationally.

3. Youth Endowment Fund

We understand how critical it is to provide our Singapore born paddlers the support and resources they need to compete and succeed in table tennis. Furthermore, this fund will create many opportunities for Singapore born athletes beyond their sporting careers.

The fund will be accumulated every year and for every year the Singapore born athletes are in the national team, a sum of $5,000 will be deposited into the endowment fund. The fund can be drawn to be used for tertiary education or any post-career opportunities. The yearly amount of $5,000 will continue to be deposited into their endowment fund during their stint in the national team.  The Singapore born athletes have to serve in the national team for a minimum of three years to receive the endowment fund.

4. STTA-DR TAHIR & Associates Trust Fund

The STTA desires to do everything possible to encourage our Singapore born national paddlers to become the best and it is our wish to see our Singapore born national paddlers in future Olympic squads.  For this reason, the STTA hopes to provide many opportunities to our Singapore born national paddlers to achieve their Olympics dream.

The "STTA - Dr Tahir & Associates Future Ready Trust Fund" aims:
•    To motivate our Singapore born national paddlers to scale greater heights and ultimately representing Singapore at the Olympics
•    To finance our Singapore born national paddlers to a university education (local/foreign) or further learning opportunities after their stint with STTA so long as they have represented Singapore at the Olympics 2016 and/or beyond
•    To reward our Singapore born national paddlers for their continued commitment and dedication

The driving force behind the trust fund is to encourage our local born paddlers to aim high.

It is my hope that this pipeline will continue. Last but not least, the consistent results at major games are another achievement.

Sports Excellence

World Team Table Tennis Championships 2010 - The Singapore Table Tennis National Women's Team made history by upsetting defending champion China at the World Team Table Tennis Championships at Moscow

London Olympic Games 2012 - Feng Tianwei has done Singapore proud by winning the bronze medal in the Table Tennis women's singles event. She won Singapore's first individual Olympic Medal in 52 years.

Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu have also clinched a second bronze medal for Singapore in the women's team event

SEA Games - Our national paddlers performed exceptionally well at the SEA Games. Isabelle Li won a silver medal in women’s singles event (2011, 2013 edition) while Clarence Chew earned a bronze medal in the men's singles event (2013).  Pang Xuejie also won his first major game title in the men's doubles event with Ma Liang (2011).

Er. Dr Lee Bee Wah and Paddlers

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