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SBD Global/October 2, 2012/People and Pop CulturePrint All
Octagon Asia, with offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul, has increased its footprint in Asia in the recent past, focusing mostly on its consulting and events businesses. Octagon Asia continued the company’s long-standing relationship with Mastercard with the naming of the Mastercard Center in Beijing, one of the biggest naming-rights deals ever in China. Also in China, the company worked with Northface to turn its Northface 100 into the largest endurance-running event in Asia, this year attracting more than 9,000 people. In South Korea, Octagon Asia facilitated construction company Doosan’s sponsorship of the British Open. Octagon Asia's Beijing-based Managing Dir RYAN SANDILANDS recently talked with SBD Global Staff Writer Kristen Heimstead about the company's operations and plans for the Far East.
Q: What is the biggest cultural challenge you face in your job?
Sandilands: Language is obviously key, but the conversations that happen before the meeting starts and just after it ends, where the translator isn’t there or it’s small talk that doesn’t necessarily translate, that’s a time when you’re often able to get to know your client a lot deeper and you get to understand them personally. That’s tough not being able to participate in that aspect sometimes.
Q: What is the biggest area for growth in your business?
Sandilands: I think it’s in the consulting side, developing sponsorship strategy. For international brands coming into China, Chinese brands in China and also Chinese brands going abroad. …The Chinese government is encouraging the major Chinese brands to go forth and promote themselves abroad by way of representing “brand China.”
Q: Which country within Asia do you think is the most advanced in the sports business space?
Sandilands: I would probably say Japan. It’s quite controlled, but it’s developed. They have their football league, their baseball league – their golf activity has been established for many years. They’ve just been at it for longer. They’ve been exporting their talent longer, importing talent and having international events taking place in the country longer than any other country in Asia. Considering all of these factors, they’re the most established.
Q: Which league or event in Asia do you foresee growing the most in the next five years?
Sandilands: I would love to say football in China. I think football in Asia has a great chance, and I’m a huge fan of the Asian Champions League. I think the potential for that to grow is huge. From a sports marketing perspective, if you’re speaking to a marketing director with Asia Pacific responsibility and you have an annual competition as an ongoing annual asset, that hits a large number of markets that fall within that marketing director’s reach.
Q: Do you think that the CSL and CBA will eventually have the potential to compete with teams in the U.S. and Europe?
Sandilands: I think they’re so far behind that it’s almost impossible for them to catch up because it’s not as though the major Western leagues are standing still. They continue to grow and expand and innovate. And as they try to expand their fan base as well, then you have the Asian leagues that are doing the same thing, and they’re not expanding at a faster pace. The gap is so big in the first place, I think that the CSL and the CBA will always be domestic leagues.
Q: How does censorship in China limit the growth of sports business or the work you do in China?
Sandilands: Censorship doesn’t really impact us on the sports side. We’ve never had anything blocked. Ultimately what we’re trying to do in sport in general is very positive. It’s part of the government’s five year plan in terms of encouraging more participation in sport and encouraging people to be healthier and to be fitter…it’s all moving in the same direction as the government wants it to move.
Q: Why is it that the sports business space in Asia is less dense?
Sandilands: I think it’s not as developed, but I think that the fan experience will catch up quickly – not to the extent that you’re going to have thousands of people tailgating outside of a CSL game, but I think that as more people travel and more international brands get involved in sports, then they’ll look to import ideas that have worked elsewhere. Then they’ll ask, “Would this work in China? Japan? Does it need to be adapted to fit with a slight difference in the local market?” I think that companies will make long-term investments and commitments to sport. It’s just about the market being at an early stage of development.
Read more of the Q&A.Q: What sports business story are you currently watching most closely?
Sandilands: From a personal perspective I’m interested in the NHL discussion right now because I spent seven years in Montreal, and I continue to watch for the Montreal Canadians every week. And then again another personal one is the situation in Scottish football with Glasgow Rangers. Within the China market, there is so much that happens on a daily and weekly basis in terms of sport here that your attention is driven in so many directions.
Q: What do you miss about sports back home?
Sandilands: I think actually I’m really fortunate in that I don’t miss anything in terms of the content. So I can catch up with my Scottish football team and the English football teams I like … I’m sitting here with golf on right now from the Italian Open. I’ll watch the Ryder Cup online. So we’re in a fortunate position that technology allows us not to miss things in terms of content. What you miss is the live event.
Q: How do you consume your local sports news?
Sandilands: I read the back pages of the China Daily to keep me up to speed and a couple other newspapers, and then a lot of it is just connecting with my team. We have a good team that is predominately Chinese, local Beijing and Shanghainese. I try to engage my guys and get out of them their thoughts and ideas and interpretations within the sports world. So that’s how I keep up with it. Because there aren’t that many websites in this language for CBA or CSL that I want or need to spend a huge amount of time reviewing stats or going into great detail.
Q: What would you say to someone that wants to break into the Chinese sports industry?
Sandilands: If somebody is interested in China, then you have to come and see it. You have to come over and just immerse yourself in it for a while to try and understand whether there’s a business for you in this market. Then come in with a specific focus, try and understand the market and know that it’s not all going to go your way, and that the best laid plans need to be put to the side -- you’ve got to be flexible. It’s a hugely vibrant place, and there are a lot of people looking for fresh, new ideas, and for me that’s a refreshing change from the news coming out of Europe and the U.S.
The Swiss-based Sauber F1 Team "is interested in the services of seven-time world champion MICHAEL SCHUMACHER," according to Helmut Uhl of BILD. Schumacher's Manager SABINE KEHM said "everything is possible." Sauber F1 Team CEO MONISHA KALTENBORN said, "Of course it is an appealing thought, and naturally you can't help but think about acquiring a seven-time world champion if he is available. So far, however, Michael has only driven for big factory teams that we can't compare ourselves to." Schumacher wants a fast car, and that is what he would get at Sauber. Even Ferrari driver FERNANDO ALONSO believes in Sauber's strengh and said, "In a Sauber, Schumacher would have already won three races this season." Other options for Schumacher seem to open up at Lotus and Ferrari. The Scuderia "still has not confirmed its second driver" for '13. Kehm "has been seen talking to all three teams" (BILD, 1/10). AUTOSPORT worte that LEWIS HAMILTON's arrival at Mercedes is likely to send Schumacher "into retirement." Mercedes had made no secret of its "desire to sign Hamilton in place of Schumacher, the sport's most successful driver, whose return to the sport after retiring from Ferrari" in '06 has not been as successful as the team hoped it to be. Schumacher has been on the podium just once since he began his comeback in '10 and has retired from half of the 14 races this season. Schumacher released a statement thanking Mercedes: "I have had three nice years with the team, which unfortunately did not go as well as we all would have wanted on the sporting side. I wish Lewis well and for the team to achieve the success we worked so hard for in the build-up. I would like to thank the team for their trust and all the guys for their unconditional commitment." Mercedes F1 Team Principal ROSS BRAWN said: "On behalf of Mercedes, I would first of all like to thank Michael Schumacher for the important contribution he has made to the growth of our team over the past three seasons. His energy and commitment have never wavered, even when results have not matched our own expectations, and we are determined to finish the 2012 season together on a high. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with Michael" (AUTOSPORT, 9/28).
Brasileiro club Figueirense Marketing Dir GEAN CARLOS FIRMINO is leaving the club. The "financial restructuring that the club is going through was the reason for the resignation" (MAQUINADOESPORTE.com.br, 10/1).
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EPL club Tottenham Chair DANIEL LEVY has "turned down an official approach" from League Championship club Blackburn Rovers for his Technical Coordinator TIM SHERWOOD. Blackburn was ready to offer Sherwood "the job of reviving" its fortunes following STEVE KEAN's resignation (London DAILY MAIL, 9/30). ... UEFA President MICHEL PLATINI stated that his idea of playing the Euro 2020 finals in 12 European cities across the continent would be a "one-off for that tournament only." Platini said, "It is an idea and that concerns the 60th anniversary of the Euros in 2020" (Scottish DAILY RECORD, 10/1).
POKER FACE: Spanish golfers "got an unexpected surprise" when they walked up to the reception desk of their local club, and were greeted by a "hunky staffer who bore a striking resemblance to tennis pro RAFAEL NADAL." Yet, no matter how much the visitors insisted that he was the famous athlete, the reception guy just shook his head saying, "No, my name is Tony." Turns out, Tony was indeed Rafa, and he was playing his part in a campaign for Pokerstars out of creative agency McCann Erickson Barcelona. The branded content film portrayed Nadal as a trainee trying to develop his bluffing skills in the "sport" of poker, all part of his sponsorship agreement with the online gaming site (ADAGE.com, 9/28).
F1 ON THE K-POP BANDWAGON: "Gangnam Style" sensation Psy is set to perform at the Korean Grand Prix after being announced as an ambassador for the event. He will perform after the race on Oct. 14. His signing "is a big coup for the Korean GP organisers, who will be hoping that his presence at the event will help attract a bigger crowd on race day" (AUTOSPORT.com, 9/28).
CANADIAN SKATER PASSES: Canadian Olympic women's figure skating Gold Medalist BARBARA ANN SCOTT "died Sunday at the age of 84." Scott died at her Amelia Island, Fla., home with her husband, TOM KING, by her side. The cause of death is not known. Scott won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete in '45, '47 and '48. She was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in '55 and the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame in '91. She became an officer of the Order of Canada in '91, was inducted into the Int'l Women's Sports Hall of Fame in '97 and was named to Canada's Walk of Fame in '98 (VANCOUVER SUN, 9/30).
The Times' Patrick Kidd: "Just spotted some golfers and a trophy popping into the Heathrow T3 Marks and Spencer"
The Guardian's Richard Williams: "Worst sports-related news of the day is 2,200 apparently losing jobs in JJB sports collapse."
The BBC's Jonathan Agnew: "If you want to see Chris Gayle, stripped to the waist, performing his gangnam dance, get to our hotel now. Serious Windies party"
Spanish tennis player Rafa Nadal: "Congratulations to the European team for the #RyderCup! The victory was epic!"
English footballer Rio Ferdinand: "Just landed in Romania....we are looking to bounce straight back from the bad result on saturday...not a happy house at mine after a defeat."
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