THE Carling Cup final between Liverpool and Cardiff City is tomorrow and with any cup final, the build-up to the match is keenly followed.
News coverage of both opposing teams gets plastered in all forms of media and the match itself should see bumper viewership estimated at 800 million people, consisting fans of both teams, and the neutrals wanting to see if there is a fairytale ending in the David vs Goliath billing.
But the one winner from the match, regardless of the final score, will be the sponsors of both teams. Cardiff has the word Malaysia etched on its jersey and for Liverpool it's Standard Chartered.
The value of that sponsorship is hard to quantify. Teams that have an illustrious history are more often in the spotlight and tend to attract larger number of fans and viewers.
And when it comes to a team as large as Liverpool, Standard Chartered Bank, using a sporting analogy, considers its investment in Liverpool as its main sponsor a slam dunk'.
“Its been a great investment for us. The returns we have had is in terms of brand awareness ... and to put a financial value on that is almost impossible. It has certainly exceeded our expectations,” says John Peace, the chairman of Standard Chartered Bank, when he hosted the media from Asia late last year.
Gavin Laws, who is group head of corporate affairs at Standard Chartered Bank, and responsible for bringing Standard Chartered to Liverpool echoes that sentiment. He says the bank could not pay to get the amount of advertising “returns” Standard Chartered gets from all the markets it operates in for the price of the sponsorship deal it pays Liverpool for one year. The reported figure is £20mil a year. “I would have to pay ten times that to advert out Standard Chartered and it is a ridiculously easy decision for us at the end because the payback is huge,” he says.
Trying to quantify the sponsorship value is complex and depends on which statistics are used. “If you watch a Liverpool match and see our name on the shirt and the stadium, over a period of time those constant images of our names stick in people's minds.
“We do have research from parts of our group that say people see us as a better bank, a stronger bank because of our relationship with Liverpool. There is no financial rationale to that feeling but any marketer will love to come out with that result. It's worth many, many more times to us than what we pay in cash,” says Laws.
Standard Chartered, when deciding what to sponsor in sports, considered tennis and motor racing but it wanted to sponsor a sport that has global reach and saw itself coming back and looking at football.
It found that 52% of 16 to 69-year-olds in China are interested in football. Fifty-five per cent of the same age group in Malaysia like to watch football on TV and 70% of the same age group in Thailand are interested in football.
The success for Standard Chartered's sponsorship of Liverpool from a branding perspective would also have been different if its business were not in the regions where English football is keenly and widely followed.
Standard Chartered, which operates banks in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, is tapping onto the sizeable fanbase in Asia, which some will argue are as fanatical as the most parochial in England.
But the main difference is size.
Standard Chartered estimates that Liverpool's fan base in the core markets in which it operates in is huge. It thinks there are 131 million Liverpool fans in across 16 markets it operates in. There are believed to be 58 million fans in China, six million fans in India and South Africa, and five million in Thailand.
“This is a huge club anywhere you go in the world,” says Laws. The approach by Standard Chartered in driving the sponsorship of Liverpool is also different that just cutting a cheque and sitting back. Talks between both parties started not discussing the monetary aspects of a sponsorship deal but were more centred on values and philosophies in growing their respective reaches through each other. Only then was the price of the sponsorship discussed.
He said the since both clubs did not talk about the fee of sponsorship until everything else was agreed showed both club and bank went into the deal with an open mind and wanted to make it a long-term thing.
“Our criteria for doing the sponsorship is to bring more business to the bank. We wanted to differentiate ourselves and its a lot of money (sponsoring Liverpool) which we would have spent in other more traditional forms or marketing. This is designed to get many millions more knowing about us,” says Laws.
For Liverpool, its side of the deal was about reaching out to the fans in the countries where Standard Chartered, growing its fan base in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, which are the same markets Standard Chartered operates in.
“Its an overused word partnership and we don't take it lightly and we do really have a partnership with Liverpool,” says Laws.
How has the sponsorship of Liverpool helped Stanchart in Malaysia?
Osman Morad, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd managing director and CEO, says the local operations in Malaysia has a good feel that its brand awareness has gone up through the association of Liverpool.
He says the pre-season match between Liverpool and Malaysia was an amazing experience for the bank where over 85,000 fans turned up.
“Its a huge success in creating awareness for us and in Malaysia. We have been able to do it beyond our traditional customer base. It's had a mass appeal,” he says.
On such example is Standard Chartered launching a debit card with the Liverpool branding and it had an immediate reaction with a pickup rate of 16,000 cards.
“Little things that happen that tell you there are more people who are alert to our bank,” he says.
With the bank looking to grow some 14% this year and aiming to grow certain segments such as its SME business more rapidly, Osman says the impact of the sponsorship in Malaysia extends beyond the Klang Valley.
“Geographically it will have reach.
“It will have an impact well beyond the revenue segment because everybody loves football.”
“It's a lot of brand awareness. There was a time when Liverpool was not doing so well and actually people who are sports lovers and fans really understand.
“It's about youth, sport, something energetic with preserverance and drive. Liverpool feeds into that very well.”
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