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Sponsorship Works 2012 – Sponsorship Case Study: Axiata Cup 2011

Presented by Total Sport Asia

Introduction

Axiata is one of Asia’s largest telecommunication companies, with controlling interests in mobile operators across Asia.

Axiata’s mobile subsidiaries and associates operate under the brand name ‘Celcom’ in Malaysia, ‘XL’ in Indonesia, ‘Dialog’ in Sri Lanka, ‘Robi’ in Bangladesh, ‘HELLO’ in Cambodia, ‘Idea’ in India and ‘M1’ in Singapore. The Group, including its subsidiaries and associates, has over 187 million mobile subscribers in Asia and provides employment to over 20,000 people across Asia. The company’s revenue for 2011 was US$5.4 billion.

Axiata’s vision is to be a regional champion by 2015 by piecing together the best throughout the region in connectivity, technology and talent, uniting them towards a single goal: advancing Asia. Axiata was looking for ways to further build its brand awareness while pushing its other business initiatives. Total Sports Asia (TSA) worked with Axiata to explore sports sponsorship opportunities to fulfill this requirement.

After reviewing options in several sports, the decision was to move forward with badminton as the property offered the best available opportunity to create an ownership stake in a sport that is of substantial relevance in Axiata’s key markets of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Badminton is a traditional sport with firm roots in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. Many of the biggest stars in the sport were born and bred in Southeast Asia, making badminton the second most-watched sport on TV in Malaysia and Indonesia. Hence Axiata chose badminton to improve its regional brand awareness by linking the brand to a sport which connects its key markets.

TSA created a dynamic and technologically advanced new badminton tournament which unites the Southeast Asian region – the Axiata Cup – assigning Axiata as title sponsor in a three-year deal beginning 2012.

The Axiata Cup as a badminton event offers the world’s largest team prize money in the sport with a total amount of US$1 million, ensuring it competes with other sports in attracting the most talented athletes.

The sporting mandate of the Axiata Cup is to create a cornerstone regional platform for all of ASEAN to allow an annual activity for both up-and-coming young players and regional big-gunsto play alongside each other to inspire new stars to be born. Besides the US$1 million prize money the Axiata Cup also included a new creative format of play as well as innovative branding through virtual logo insertions, allowing for more dynamic brand messaging without distracting players competing on court.

Sponsorship Objectives

Axiata’s two main objectives in sponsoring the Axiata Cup were:

  • to create awareness of Axiata as a company and to establish stronger links between Axiata and its operating company subsidiaries
  • to create revenue-generating opportunities through an event wherein the event provided market-worthy content

As the Axiata Cup is one of the world’s largest badminton events, the exposure generated through television, print and new media would ensure that fans of badminton across ASEAN are aware of the event and would establish a stronger awareness of Axiata. In linking the Axiata brand to badminton, Axiata has the potential to reach out to over 50 million fans of the sport across ASEAN  Another objective of Axiata was to create an engagement platform for its subsidiaries through the event. Working with TSA on leveraging its rights, traditional means of revenue generation such as sales of media and sponsorship rights, as well as new innovations, were employed to reach out to fans of badminton globally as well as Axiata’s subscriber base of over 200 million across ASEAN.

A by-product of title sponsoring such a major event is the creation of a competition which is groundbreaking in its size, scope and creativity. This type of long-term sponsorship also reinforces the image of the company as being solid, innovative and trustworthy.

How the sponsorship played out

The tournament
The Axiata Cup, organized by TSA, was held over three weekends from March 23 to April 15, 2012. The championship field included eight teams from the following six nations: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, with Malaysia and Indonesia fielding two teams each due to their strength in badminton.

The format selected did not require a team to have to utilise a great number of players and also allowed teams to field foreign stars (from China, Denmark or other strong badminton nations which are not located in the ASEAN region). This meant that lower-ranked teams could recruit the world’s top talent to boost their chances against the top teams.

Due to Indonesia and Malaysia being the primary revenue markets for Axiata, the 2012 Axiata Cup group matches took place in the two cities of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Jakarta, Indonesia. From the semi-finals onwards, matches were played on a home/away basis. With many of the top -anked players originating from the ASEAN region, the event featured many of the world’s best badminton players.

To avoid a clash in the round robin, the top teams had been seeded in each group based on the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings of their players. After the group stage, the two top teams of each group then played crossover home and away games in the semi-finals on March 30 and April 1. The finals were held both in Jakarta on April 14 & 15, as both Indonesian teams made it into the final round.

The Axiata Cup is very important to badminton from several perspectives:

  • The event allows teams to recruit foreign talent to support the rising badminton nations in ASEAN and help them grow in their home markets
  • The Axiata Cup is creating new and dynamic branding opportunities for the sport of badminton through virtual A-boards. These are able to create more vivid commercial opportunities for brands to support the sport, thereby creating revenues for badminton across ASEAN
  • With a one-court set-up, the environment has more of a “Centre Court” feel which allows for more entertainment to take place and provides a clear focus for the players and spectators

(Photo by TSportsasia)

Activation

The Axiata Cup resulted in a series of “firsts” in the sport of badminton:

  • First time a badminton event was hosted in two cities at the same time – The two key markets for badminton in ASEAN are Indonesia and Malaysia – therefore playing an event in these markets simultaneously provides great value for the fans and the sport. Marcus Luer, Group CEO, TSA said on this point, “Axiata’s operations are largest in Indonesia and Malaysia and the sport of badminton reaches out to millions of fans and their customers in these markets. They want to support the development of the sport in their key territories and give something back to their loyal customer base”.
  • First to use home/away in a badminton event format – The use of the home/away format has been borrowed from football. It brings the action closer to the home fans and makes the event more relevant to local fans. This home and away format has seen attendance at events such as the AFF Suzuki Cup jump by four times over previous numbers when a single venue was selected for all matches. We will see similar results in terms of Axiata Cup spectator attendance in future years as seen in other sports, as matches are played where fans of each team can support them.
  • First to use virtual ads on surrounding boards – The introduction of virtual branding has reduced distraction on the court for the players. Brand logos are only inserted on the upstream of the live feed and placed on the television broadcasts. Two separate streams were used (and up to four streams were available for use depending upon which teams qualified for semifinals home/away matches) in Indonesia and Malaysia where most of the sponsorship revenues came from. This provided more value to local brands who supported the Axiata Cup through sponsorship and allowed the local subsidiaries to promote specific initiatives. The lion’s share of media value received through any event is through the television coverage of the event which is viewed by millions around the world. Therefore, creating dynamic branding which is more akin to the digital boards in European football was essential to increasing value.
  • First to allow multiple teams from one country and first to allow foreign players on teams – Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia in particular) certainly has an advantage over other nations in terms of depth of badminton quality. Allowing more than one team per country has been advantageous to provide experience to the next generation of players on the world stage while also seeing the current stars at the event. Allowing other teams to use foreign talent (maximum one single or one doubles team) further increases the star appeal of the event. It also bolsters the chances of the countries utilising these foreign players and allows for exchanges (badminton tactics, training habits etc) from foreign players to the teams they play for.

Results of the sponsorship

As top players in the sport were confirmed to participate, the Axiata Cup delivered a great number of broadcast hours across key markets and established it as a credible badminton tournament.

Objective 1: Increase brand awareness

The Axiata Cup was watched in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Myanmar, the Indian Subcontinent, USA and Canada and achieved over 150 hours of live coverage from the preliminary rounds alone. Aside from the viewership around the world that saw the Axiata corporate name in action, thousands of fans attended the matches across the three weeks in the two countries where events were held. Aside from the broadcasts, which provided the lion’s share of awareness values, the following elements were also employed:

  • Following on social media grew rapidly within the first two weeks of the tournament – the number of Facebook fans quadrupled, while following on Twitter grew by a staggering twelve times
  • Over 200,000 videos were viewed on the YouTube platform created by TSA for the event
  • The press reported steadily about the Axiata Cup, reaching a total number of 738 articles throughout the duration of the event
  • Due to its massive digital presence, Axiata as a brand and as the title sponsor of the event has been able to increase its awareness across ASEAN.

Objective 2: Create revenue-generating opportunities for Axiata and its operating companies

TSA’s Media Distribution team sold Axiata Cup TV content around the globe – from Canada, USA, China and India to its core region of Southeast Asia. Additional revenues for Axiata’s local operating companies were generated through having event-related SMS quizzes which involved grand prizes of two Nissan vehicles as provided by Edaran Tan Chong Motors. The third source of income was provided from associate partnerships which either provided financial or in-kind support such as hotel nights, beverages and transport.

The Axiata Cup created a natural tool for the local operating companies to have digital leverage. Contests and content were packaged and delivered to fans of badminton in a creative and innovative way which will increase the development of digital badminton communities moving forward.

Objective 3: Create a tournament that is unlike any other

  • Allowing foreign players to participate in order to support a team
  • Home and away match basis
  • In two different countries at the same time
  • First badminton event to include innovative virtual advertising
  • Highest prize money worldwide for a badminton team event

Due to its unique format, the Axiata Cup is indeed unlike any other competition. The awareness garnered through the event will help to further solidify Axiata as a leading company in Asia, thereby creating frequent opportunities to be in touch with its badminton-loving consumer market.

 

 

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