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Golf - 11. March 2009.

Increased Attendance Backs HSBC’s Golf Investment


 

They came from all over Asia to watch a parade of golfing superstars assembled from the four corners of the globe. The HSBC Women’s Champions at Tanah Merah, which finished with the crowning of Jiyai Shin, a 20-year-old Korean tipped by many to be a future world number one, attracted 11 per cent more spectators than last year’s inaugural event.

golf Jiyai Shin wins HSBC Champions 2009 getty1.jpg
photo Getty Images


Some, such as Amy Li from China, were new to the female branch of the sport, but were quickly converted.


 “This is the first women’s event I’ve been to. It’s fantastic!” she said.

“I’ve been to some big men’s tournaments and this is just as good.”

Kenneth Tan a company executive from Singapore was one of those to spot the larger galleries.


“You just have to look at the crowd. The numbers have definitely increased. It’s really helped the exposure to the game,” he said, while lecturer Alvie Matt was taken by an event that had attracted the highest-class field ever seen for a golf event in Asia.

shin wins HSBC Champions
photo Getty Images


“For women’s golf, this is one of the best tournaments around. The quality of the players here is so good. You have Paula Creamer, Lorena Ochoa. In fact it’s a world-class event. The stakes keep getting higher and higher,” Matt declared.


The newcomers among the players were also impressed, with China’s Shanshan Feng echoing the sentiments of many of the regions stars.


“Everyone’s saying this is Asia’s Major so I think it’s a pretty good tournament. It’s very good. I like it very much,” she commented, while Thailand’s Russy Gulyanamitta, the beneficiary of one of the sponsor’s invites reserved for the top-ranked ASEAN player hailed the opportunity the HSBC Women’s Champions gives to the LPGA’s Asian contingent to display their talents in Asia.


“It’s great to have a tournament like this at home. We can call this our home region,” she said.


“It’s excellent! It’s one of the top-class tournaments. The golf course is in great shape and the people and volunteers are all so nice and very helpful. And the (caddie) party’s great! But I would really like to thank HSBC for their invitation. It’s been great!”


The LPGA officials have once again left the Lion City deeply impressed. Last year the CEO dubbed the tournament instantly one of the LPGA’s top five events. This year, Deputy Commissioner Libba Galloway, making her first visit, was amazed to discover that all the praise she had heard was actually understated.


“My impressions of the tournament are like “Oh wow!”. I was at the first three HSBC events in the United States and I thought they were good. I didn’t come last year, (Commissioner) Carolyn Bivens did, and she came back raving about the event and I thought “well, it couldn’t possibly be that good” but it’s better! It’s a tremendous event,” Galloway exclaimed.


“From the fan interactive area, the tournament set-up, the sponsor hospitality, the player amenities, to where we were staying at the Ritz Carlton… I can’t say enough about what HSBC and IMG have done to make this a premier event.”


For the world’s local bank one of the most pleasing aspects was the obvious increase in the number of young children, particularly girls, who were brought by their parents to see the tournament.


“The number of children out on the course has been a real joy to watch. They want to try the game, they want to emulate their heroines and to an extent the role of a tournament like this is to inspire,” said Giles Morgan, HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship.


“The great strength of golf in Asia is that this is an emerging sport in an emerging market place and kids are taking part earlier. We’ve put in a huge interactive village, but that’s largely because there’s a demand for it. People want to play.”


Despite the significant increase in the popularity of the tournament, Morgan remains noncommittal about the future of the HSBC Women’s Champions. The initial two-year contract has come to an end, but the Welsh executive says HSBC will not be discussing renewal until they have had time to evaluate all the statistics and benchmarks they use to judge the success of their investment.


“What we do with any sponsorship, particularly when it has come to the end of its contractual term, is sit down and work out, against our own objectives; whether it has been able to do what we wanted it to do. It’s too early to say whether it has,” he explained.


“We have to go through a lot of numbers and data; we need to look at the figures for the TV coverage, look at the number of people who came and evaluate the media coverage too. What I can say is that in two years for a tournament to have pricked the imagination of the people in Singapore and in Asia generally in the way it has is an enormous success. The product is there. If you’re a fan of golf in Asia you should be watching this. This is where the world’s greatest are coming in and playing as if it’s a Major. To all intents and purposes it is. All of the great players are there, as they are for Majors. It is primetime viewing on a Sunday afternoon and I would expect in Korea and Japan and other countries where the leaders are from there will be some great numbers in terms of media. That’s terribly important because this is a global golf tournament and you can’t get any better than this in the women’s game.”


Morgan insists the review process does not necessarily revolve around a need to cut sponsorship spending given HSBC’s relatively robust year-end results compared to the rest of the banking sector.



 

 

Giles Morgan, HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship

 

Q: A success?

A: It’s been an enormous success. This tournament is only in its second year and to have the greatest women in the game of golf playing, and playing well, playing at the top of their game, is a real testament to the strength of the tournament and to the LPGA in terms of bringing top quality tournaments to another part of the world.

 

Q: One of the biggest changes from the first year is the number of parents coming with their children.

A: The number of children out on the course has been a real joy to watch. They want to try the game, they want to emulate their heroines and to an extent the role of a tournament like this is to inspire.

The great strength of golf in Asia is that this is an emerging sport in an emerging market place and kids are taking part earlier. We’ve put in a huge interactive village, but that’s largely because there’s a demand for it. People want to play.

 
Q: Did you realize how popular the event could be as family entertainment. 

A: You can read statistics and marketing demographics about what you think a sporting association will be like, but it doesn’t prepare you when you see first hand the genuine interest of the people in Singapore to the game of golf as a pastime and the enthusiasm for the opportunity to see the world’s top golfers. It surprised and delighted me to see that.

 

Q: And to have a 20-year-old winner who people see as a future world number one?

A: It’s amazing. To see how she played over the weekend, she burned up the course. It was reminiscent of a certain L. Ochoa who burnt up the course last year. She’s playing at a level far in advance of her years. She’s playing like a seasoned pro. It’s astonishing.

 

Q: Did you know when you first started planning the HSBC Women’s Champions that this super-generation of Koreans and this super-generation of young Asians were coming through?

A: I think we had an idea. We’d seen a lot of the Koreans starting to come through at the HSBC Women’s World Match Play. What Se Ri Pak has done in her career has inspired a generation, and a lot of the players we saw in 2007 were pushing into the 40s and 30s in the world ranking. What’s been astonishing since then is that some up those players have worked their way right up the pecking order. Even more astonishing are those Asian players who have come almost from nowhere and are already in or around the top 10. We had an idea they were coming, but now we’re seeing them for real.

 

Q: It was obviously a successful tournament, but is there any danger we won’t see it next year?

A: What we do with any sponsorship, particularly when it has come to the end of its contractual term, is sit down and work out, against our own objectives, whether it has been able to do what we wanted it to do. It’s too early to say whether it has. We have to go through a lot of numbers and data; we need to look at the figures for the TV coverage, look at the number of people who came and evaluate the media coverage too.

What I can say is that in two years for a tournament to have pricked the imagination of the people in Singapore and in Asia generally in the way it has is an enormous success. Do I think that golf is a good association with HSBC? Yes, I do! The product is there. If you’re a fan of golf in Asia you should be watching this. This is where the world’s greatest are coming in and playing as if it’s a Major. To all intents and purposes it is. All of the great players are there, as they are for Majors. It is primetime viewing on a Sunday afternoon and I would expect in Korea and Japan and other countries where the leaders are from there will be some great numbers in terms of media. That’s terribly important because this is a global golf tournament and you can’t get any better than this in the women’s game.

 

 

 

Libba Galloway, LPGA Deputy Commissioner

(51 years old. Originally from South Carolina, now lives in Daytona Beach, Florida)

Q: What are your impressions of the tournament?

A: My impressions of the tournament are like “Oh wow!”. I was at the first three HSBC events in the United States and I thought they were good. I didn’t come last year, (Commissioner) Carolyn Bivens did, and she came back raving about the event and I thought “well, it couldn’t possibly be that good” but it’s better! It’s a tremendous event. From the fan interactive area, the tournament set-up, the sponsor hospitality, and the player amenities, to where we’re staying at the Ritz Carlton… I can’t say enough about what HSBC and IMG have done to make this a premier event.

 

Q: And you’re saying that when you came with high expectations?

A: I came here with very high expectations! This is a great event. It’s exceeded my expectations.

 

Q: Obviously HSBC has made it clear that they are going to sit down and work out where they are going with their sponsorships, I presume you’d be extremely keen to continue this event?

A: We would love to continue this event. I think HSBC is pleased with where we’ve got to. It’s a difficult time for everybody and everybody has got to look carefully at where they spend their money. What we’ve got to do is show, and I think HSBC knows, that they get a good return on their investment. We’re going to sit down with them and work through that and make sure that they do get the maximum return on their investment and come back.

 

Q: Has it helped, with the world’s local bank being so aware of crossing cultures and cultural differences, has it opened your eyes to the potential of maximizing the impact the Asian players can make?

A: Well, I wouldn’t say it has opened our eyes up, because Asian players and being in Asia has been important for us in the past 10 years. It has shown how we can work with a partner in maximizing the experience for both of us. HSBC is a blue chip global company, a blue chip Asian company and we think of ourselves as a blue chip sports property and when you can have one blue chipper working with another blue chipper your products are better.

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