Hugo Boss has been in the arena of sports sponsorship for more than five decades. A look into its past campaigns will see a long line-up of ambassadors spanning from Formula One racers, to footballers and golfers. And among them, is Singapore's very own Olympic champion and swimmer Joseph Schooling.
Now, with Schooling under its very fashionable belt, the brand is also eyeing other Southeast Asian athletes and artists. While many companies have been partnering with Chinese stars, Hugo Boss Southeast Asia MD Steven Lam (pictured left) said he firmly believes that Southeast Asia is going to be "the next wave". Besides Schooling, who the brand brought on board in 2018, Hugo Boss has recently signed golfer Miguel Tabuena in Philippines, and is in the works of signing other stars in Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar.
Beyond sports, Hugo Boss has also been striking partnerships with relevant personalities in the arts and music arenas. One of its latest partnerships is with Jon Chua, a member of Singaporean band, The Sam Willows. Connected through a common aim to support local talent, Hugo Boss sponsored a series of Chua's concerts, which saw various artistes perform. "What we like about him is that he is promoting the local music scene. It's extremely important to take local and bring them global," explained Lam.
He added that Chua was a natural fit for Hugo Boss' contemporary line, Hugo, which has an edgy and rebellious character. The company also wanted to stand behind Chua's ambitions to start out as a producer and launch his own record label.
Schooling done right
With Schooling, Hugo Boss focused its campaign narrative on Schooling's sacrifices in his journey to become a professional athlete as part of a global push for its washable suits line. According to Lam, the campaign was heavily promoted and the film was played across 1,000 retail stores worldwide for two months. He said:
What we do is that we bring a fashion element to these sports people. I think all Singaporeans have seen him in his Speedo, but we are the ones that put a suit on him.
The move by Hugo Boss in March 2018 came as a welcomed move to locals, not only because Schooling was the brand's its first Singaporean ambassador, but also because swimming was an uncharted territory for the Hugo Boss. Speaking at Dentsu's All That Matters event, Lam said the partnership was a "hard sell" to the management and a "stroke of luck".
While Schooling was the talk of the town back then, the luxury fashion brand was looking for something that would be key in all its partnerships - synergy. Lam went on to explain that several of Hugo Boss' sponsorship deals in the region are very organic, with many struck through referrals or mutual friends. Authenticity and genuine love for the brand are the top traits he usually looks out for in an ambassador.
"If you bring the right person in, they will want to be part of you. It has been our biggest approach managing personalities," he said. For that reason, Lam insists on meeting potential candidates face to face and getting to know them, rather than exchanging contracts and price lists over e-mail. The team at Hugo Boss has also come to build friendships with the ambassadors.
While there are challenges working around the schedules of the personalities, Lam said it is important to communicate with them and come to a common understanding. "The last thing I want to do is to take a piece of contract and say, 'Hey, you are committed to do this', because that’s pretty much the end of the relationship," he explained.