Focus on Brand Management: Netball Singapore

Captains at the 2014 Mission Foods Asian Championships
Captains at the 2014 Mission Foods Asian Championships.

Cyrus Medora, Chief Executive Officer of Netball Singapore , shares about how Netball Singapore has crafted and managed its brand in a fluid and changing landscape.

What does Netball Singapore stand for and how did Netball Singapore come to craft that brand? What is the importance of managing that brand in today’s environment?

We don’t see Netball Singapore so much as a brand but as a sporting body that has created a strong following of loyal fans and players over the years by being relevant to their needs and aspirations.

With our key target being girls and women from the ages of about 12 to 30+ years, we want the sport to be more relevant to them by appealing to who they are – successful, young, fun, trendy, filled with vitality. We want netball to be a sport where players, supporters and sponsors are proud to be associated with.
Our National Team is Netball Singapore’s most valuable asset. They create the excitement and get the support of the many netball players and fans in Singapore. The international events that we organise revolve around our team. These platforms provide us with opportunities to feature our national players whose fans look up to as role models and want to emulate. They are a vital part of Netball Singapore.

We work continually on maintaining our brand, look-and-feel of all our campaigns, website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and also conduct/carry out adequate publicity for our key events to keep the awareness level high.

All sports are competing to attract the best athletes in Singapore so having a strong brand, a successful team and good products give Netball Singapore the distinct advantage.

Team Singapore in Action
Team Singapore in Action.

How has a female orientated sport affected the communication and positioning of Netball Singapore, if at all? How has Netball Singapore positioned itself to capture the male demographic?

Netball belongs to women! They own it! Only in netball is the female team the number one team in its sport! It is the most popular female team sport by far in the school competitions roster and it has the highest female participation rate in adult team sports.

As such our marketing and advertising campaigns are focused on the young, female population. Our young female marketing team members all play, love and breathe netball. Our communication is always aimed at this segment via our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and advertisements.

Netball will, in the foreseeable future, continue to be a predominantly women’s sport. It is our unique positioning in a competitive sporting environment. However, we do promote and encourage mixed adult teams in all our events and this segment has been growing strongly. It is a sport where both genders can compete fairly equally.

Our target is to get a richer mix of both genders across all races in Singapore to participate and continue to support netball, and especially our national team.

Singapore Netball Team Captain and Co-Captains
Singapore Netball Team Captain and Co-Captains.

Tangible elements of corporate/retail brand management include the product itself; look, the packaging, etc. When you look at the Netball Singapore website and around its headquarters, athletes and their names are featured prominently.  How does Netball Singapore come to such a  decision?

It is difficult to create icons when the sport in question attracts limited and irregular coverage in the press. This is especially so for team sports. Our national players are our most valuable and visible assets. It therefore makes sense that they feature strongly in our campaigns to help raise the profile of our players. Netball is lucky to have so many very marketable and articulate athletes who are really excellent role models for the younger generation of fans and players.

We also do try to create a strong brand as an organisation by engaging designers who know our brand and our key target audience well. We try to present advertisements and branding that are fairly consistent, but we also do regularly update this to try and keep the advertisements and social media content fresh and relevant.

On a Mission
On a Mission.

There is a lot of focus on fan experience, but brand management is also a key consideration when it comes to sponsorship. What is the difference in crafting the brand with regards to a sponsor? Also, is there a difference to crafting the brand to sponsors with an international presence such as Mission Foods versus home-grown brands such as UOB and NTUC FairPrice Foundation?

We meet and update our existing sponsors regularly to assess whether we are meeting their targets or if their priorities have changed. Our events, and the exposure we give, always have the sponsors’ needs in mind.

M1 is now widely seen in netball circles as a strong supporter of school sports and the national age groups competitions. NTUC FairPrice supermarket customers are skewed towards women of all ages and they support several events and programmes through the year to keep the association strong.  Energizer sponsors the largest league National Singapore run annually as women are the biggest buyers of batteries. We created the Beach Netball event for Contiki Travel some years back as they specialise in holidays for 18 to 35 years and many of their holidays feature the beach. Women make up 75% of the buyers of its packages.

International brands like Mission Foods target our marquee events to create a strong association between a successful, vibrant and active sport and their brand. They are keen on the extent of TV coverage in Asia and worldwide, for example, and how much exposure their courtside branding is picked up on TV.

For new sponsors, we discuss right at the start what their targets are and what they hope to achieve. We tailor our events to what they want to achieve. Generally, sports can be very good at driving strong associations, provide opportunities to raise awareness and for product sampling. It is very difficult for sports to drive up day to day sales from just one or two events. We need to be upfront with the sponsors even if it means losing them and to try and find other solutions that would work. Creating this trust is vital to keeping your sponsors for the long term.

Engaging the public can be done in a variety of channels:  online (digital ads and social media), broadcast (television and radio), print (newspapers, magazines, etc), below-the-line mailers and public relations.  What is the formula used by Netball Singapore?

In terms of media coverage, it is always hard going against mainstream male dominated sports such as football, especially in Singapore, but we are persistent and do have many supporters. Our fervent wish is that our mainstream newspapers will give all Singapore sports much more coverage. Our experience is that the local press in many other countries provide a much wider coverage of local sporting news and athletes.

Finding the right balance of advertising media is always a key challenge. We regularly survey the fans after major events to see which form of advertisement worked and which had very low recall. This information will be useful when we decide on the next campaign and when deciding the amount to spend on the different publicity buys. Over the years our surveys have shown that we are getting closer to an effective campaign within our limited budget. Our advertising usually is a combination of bus stop ads, sky bulletins (ads above the bus stops), lamp post banners, MRT station ads and radio commercials.

With our limited internal resources, we employ a consultant for press and media coverage on a monthly retainer, as well as for more extensive work before and during events. This has proven very effective.

Sponsors are continually assessing how much, and how good, the exposure and coverage they get. We see advertising, strong media PR, good design, regular engagement with the community on social media as vital to the needs of our sponsors, and to attracting new sponsors.

Are there reasons (besides cost) as to which channels are favoured over others and which is the one that is most effective for NS?

With our key target age group of young women from 12 to 30+ years, we are very active on social media. Facebook is still the vehicle that works best for us with over 12,000 likes. These are mainly from girls and women in Singapore, and also from many international netball players who attend our events. This international flavour is quite noticeable now. We also have Twitter and Instagram. We created an app for iPhones and Android, but that has not taken off.

We have a very strong presence in the schools, and we regularly distribute posters and event postcards to over 300 schools in Singapore.

Netball coaches are a very big influence on their players and getting their support is key. We have many school incentive programmes which also recognise the role that the coaches play. Netball players also like to attend events with their friends, so the team packages we have are important.

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