Known in the UAE for its sponsorship of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the bank is also promoting the current British and Irish Lions Rugby Tour of Australia.
Giles Morgan, the group head of sponsorship and events at HSBC, explains why the tour is an important association for the bank and UAE fans of the game.
What brought you back to the Lions?
We were shirt sponsor and principal partner of the British [and Irish] Lions since 2007 for the 2009 tour of South Africa which while ultimately unsuccessful in the test matches was a huge success for both the Lions' brand and rugby tradition and also for HSBC. We made a decision to sponsor the 2013 tour knowing we learnt a great deal about how to make it work better and knowing in certain markets we have great appetite for rugby union. We are also involved through the HSBC Sevens World Series, Dubai Sevens, Hong Kong Sevens, so we have quite a significant rugby sponsorship portfolio. We have found in the Middle East that through our rugby and golf sponsorship like the Dubai Sevens or the Abu Dhabi Golf that there's great resonance and interest among the rugby fraternity. So we've been able to activate in markets like Dubai through the Lions which has been fantastic.
Do such associations help your regional business?
In the international business community, rugby and golf track very highly in the UAE just as they do in UK, France, Australia and Hong Kong. Our sponsorship portfolio is very geared towards our very best customers in key geographies. Something like golf and rugby sponsorship is very targeted. It helps us engage with our customers and fans against the demographic of people who are interested in those kind of associations.
Has the rapid ascent of companies such as Etihad and Emirates Airline as global sporting sponsors changed the industry?
Yes and no. There have always been significant brands who have invested in sport. The Budweisers, the Coca-Colas, or the camera companies back in the seventies. There have always been sectors of industries that invest in sponsorship either consistently in the case of Coca-Cola or more recently in the case of some of the airlines in the Middle East like Etihad and Emirates. You also see a lot of financial services brands from all over the world investing in certain high-end associations such as HSBC, JP Morgan, Barclays, Standard Chartered - the list is long. You're now seeing a truly international portfolio of the very top companies sponsoring events around the world, be it HSBC or Etihad, because they have recognised that as a marketing tool to answer specific business objectives, sponsorship is a means to an end.
What new events are on your radar?
We've had a pretty significant audit and very focused look at our sponsored portfolio - what it's for, where we invest, why we invest and how we invest. HSBC has significantly restructured as a business globally and therefore I wanted to make sure our sponsorship portfolio reflected the business change. As a result, we are focusing on fewer and bigger sponsorships in our most important priority markets. So events like the Dubai Sevens and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship are what we call HSBC flagship events. Rather than doing hundreds and hundreds of events, that one could do given the size of our organisation, we are focused on fewer and better events that are attractive to our customers, resonate our brand and are active in our key markets.