Winning hearts and minds through Liverpool

SPORTS sponsorship, specifically in football, is vogue among airlines.

Many global carriers, including AirAsia Bhd, are sponsors of one or more sporting events or clubs across the globe, spending millions of dollars. The reason is simple – it is one of the fastest ways to get their brand names as many eyeballs as possible.

It is a known fact that the Gulf carriers – Etihad Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways – are among the big sponsors of football clubs. They make up more than half of the global airline sponsorship spend, with Emirates’ share by far the biggest.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers in its 2015 outlook report puts a value of just under US$145bil for the global sports market.

Emirates’ view is that “football is still the cheapest advertising there is if you want visibility”.

Essentially, it is about building global brands and creating goodwill and connecting with fans.

This week, Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS) joined the league of airlines that sponsors football clubs and that came as a surprise to many.

Even more surprising is that the tie-up is with the famed football club Liverpool. MAS is now its official global airline partner.

After suffering two major air disasters in 2014, its brand has suffered several shocks. Its network has shrunk by size and it is now only a regional player with one link to Europe via London.

It needs to get back on the global scene, not to fly to all those destinations in Europe, Americas or Africa, but to gain back the market travellers that had once made MAS their airline.

It is a tough battle but it has to start somewhere, and what better place than a renowned football club?

It also needs feeder traffic from the west for its regional routes, or else it may not get the financial numbers and sustainability in earnings it is so confident of getting by 2018.

MAS realises that it does not have the option of returning to taxpayers for funding to sustain its operations. So, it has to make good all the promises of sustainability in earnings.

MAS did not disclose the amount for the sponsorship but the move gives it a shot in the arm. It is something that the airline needs to be in the arena of a global awareness play.

Liverpool FC has over 770 million fans worldwide, of which 140 million are from South-East Asia and China. MAS also did not waste time by offering a special rate for Chinese travellers to London.

This is its opportunity to emblazon the carrier’s brand across Liverpool’s social media pages, merchandise and stadiums. But of course, not on jerseys as that has been taken up by Standard Chartered.

Garuda Indonesia was the previous official global airline partner for Liverpool FC and its term expired, opening the door for MAS to negotiate a deal.

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