Asian Games 2018: How Brand Indonesia is making a mark on the region

With the 18th Asian Games approaching this August, the Indonesian government has been ramping up its efforts to get the cities of Jakarta and Palembang ready. From tightening security ahead of the games to covering up the city’s Sentiong River (called the “Black River”) with a black net to cover the bad smell, the country is in full force with its house-keeping.

As part of the celebrations, it brought back the Jakarnaval (a cultural event) after a two-year break.  Most recently, on the sponsor front, organisers revealed that the vicinity surrounding the game venues will not have advertisements of brands which compete with sponsors of the event. This is within a kilometre radius, reported The Jakarta Post. In a statement to, Erick Thohir, chief of the Indonesian Asian Games Organising Committee, explained that this restriction was part of a deal with the Asia Olympic Council. The policy will also be enforced soon in a gradual manner, he added.

To promote the event, the country created three mascots to feature on a variety of platforms such as digital billboards, street lamps and footbridges. The mascots (pictured above) were also featured on social media, information campaigns and ads. They are called Bhin Bhin (bird of paradise), Atung (deer), and Kaka (one-horned rhino), according to The Jakarta Post.

Lastly, to push tourism, six popular destinations in Indonesia were also positioned in association with the games. These destinations are the Borobudur temple, Lampung's Shark Teeth Beach, Pura Ulun Danu Beratan in Bali, Tana Toraja is located in South Sulawesi, Padar Island and Mount Rinjani in Lombok.

The images also portray models dressed in traditional attire from the countries partaking in the games and were created for billboards in a bid to welcome the different Asian nations, The Jakarta Post reported.

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Reacting to the nation’s tourism push campaign, Nick Foley, president of Southeast Asia Pacific and Japan at Landor, said choosing to hero a number of places in Indonesia is a savvy move. It also demonstrates just how far the country has come in recent years, he explained.

"It is really encouraging to see a Southeast Asian country tailoring the tone and manner of its advertising for a global audience," Foley said.

Saumyajit Banerjee, managing director TCP- TBWA\Indonesia, added the games presents Indonesia with a great opportunity to highlight the depth and the diversity the country has to offer when it comes to tourism. This is especially with visitors being encouraged to explore beyond the games locations to experience the entire archipelago.

"Indonesia has been consistently promoting its unique diverse natural beauty, as the event divided into two cities, Jakarta in Java island and Palembang, in Sumatra island. Hopefully visitors will be inspired to visit other regions and explore the unique culture and history of the local Islands,” Banerjee said.

For Graham Hitchmough, regional chief operations officer at The Bonsey Design Partnership, the event will likely be a "high watermark and validation" of the ambitious tourism growth plan under tourism minister Arief Yahya.

"As well as maximising tourist traffic to the host cities, the ministry is astutely using the publicity around the games to push the underlying strategy of driving awareness and visitation to lesser known Indonesian destinations. This is with a focus on their wide-ranging cultural diversity and natural beauty," Hitchmough said.

A showcase of Indonesia’s development

With the renovation and building of competition-quality venues, improvements to public transportation and strategies to manage traffic congestion, the event may also demonstrate how Indonesian national and local government and the private sector can work together to effect palpable and positive change. Hitchmough said:

In both preparation and operation, the Asian Games represent an acid test of Indonesia’s ability to effect rapid infrastructural development.

"However, with the questionable ‘legacy’ impact of other international sporting events, the real test will be how this undoubted infrastructural progress can be maintained and extended after the games has packed up and left town," Hitchmough explained.

He added that if the focus, investment and progress made in preparing for these games can be maintained and multiplied in the years to come, then Indonesia will continue – rightly – to grow in influence and reputation on the regional and global stage.

Agreeing with Hitchmough, Foley added that hosting the Asian Games is going to have a "resoundingly positive impact" on brand Indonesia and will allow the world to realise Indonesia’s potential.

In recent years, a more moderate government has made it easier for foreign companies to do business in Indonesia.

"As the country with the fourth largest population in the world, it is easy to see why the race is on to engage with Indonesia," Foley explained.

For TBWA\Indonesia’s Banerjee the games will also present the country with an incredible platform to showcase Indonesia's impressive growth, as the largest economy in SEA. This means showcasing on-going developments, including improvements in infrastructure, which have had a direct impact on the quality of life for the average Indonesian. The event will also motivate the nation to come together, as well as strengthening national pride and patriotism.

"As we know, Indonesia is deeply diverse, as the largest archipelago in the world represented by different languages, culture and history. The games provide an opportunity to come together as one unified brand," he added.