SIA's absence in Crazy Rich Asians: Missed opportunity or well-calculated miss?

While chatter around the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians is slowly coming to a standstill, a recent article on The Wrap seems to have added fuel to the fire all over again. The article reports that according to the movie producers, SIA turned away the opportunity to have its branding in the movie.

According to the producers, the national carrier (often the pride of many Singaporeans) was not certain if the movie would represent the airline in the light it deemed to be positive. When asked by Marketing why SIA did not involve itself in the move, in a statement, the airline said: “We regret that we are not able to comment on potential branding opportunities.”

Speaking to Marketing, Wesley Gunter, PR director of Right Hook Communications said that the lack of presence was a missed opportunity for SIA because the brand would have become synonymous with a film that has made history in Hollywood by breaking the barriers of Asian cultural stereotypes.

“Since the film focuses mainly on Singapore culture, it would have been nice to associate coming home to Singapore (as in the scene where the actors are flying to Singapore) with the country’s national carrier brand,” he said. He added with iconic Singapore landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands and Newton Circus being featured in the movie, it was a surprise that SIA did not want to have a slice of the pie.

But sitting on the other side of the spectrum was Carolyn Camoens, newly appointed Asia MD of Hume Brophy who said this cannot be judged as a missed opportunity for SIA. “SIA has some of the best marketers in the business and no doubt will have evaluated the opportunity thoroughly, particularly through the lens of alignment with business and brand objectives,” she said.

She added that even with constant evolution of the way SIA reaches out to its target audience,the airline has been very consistent in the way it presents itself. “A lot has been assumed about SIA's fear of being portrayed negatively, but I think an equally valid assumption is that the brand just wanted to remain faithful to the way it has projected itself all these years,” she added.

She added that the situation shines the spotlight on the question of influence, and whether it’s a matter of volume or value.

Just because the movie is a box office topper, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a platform that adds value to a brand’s marketing efforts.

Lars Voedisch, founder of Precious Communications said at the end of the day, it is a matter of how much risk a brand is willing to take - and SIA is known to be a rather conservative brand.

“Now that the film is a box office hit, it is easy to blame SIA [for its lack of initiative] but who could have predicted that it would be a hit? What if the movie was torn apart for being too superficial or portraying stereotypes? I’m sure that’s not an image any brand would want to get associated with,” he said.

He added that while SIA is positioned as a premium carrier, at the same time it might also have been concerned about just forging a perception of an airline for the rich - when the business reality is that most seats on a plane are in the economy class.