Why Arsenal used Singapore as a springboard into Asia Pacific

When Arsenal Football Club sought to open its headquarters in Asia Pacific a few years back, several factors such as local talent and travel proximity were key in its consideration. Chief commercial officer of Arsenal Football Club, Vinai Venkatesham, told Marketing that while a few countries were shortlisted, Singapore was closer to ticking all the boxes.

"We looked at how easy it would be to set up and run an office out of here, and how many other companies out there had their regional office here," he said. "Singapore is the only place other than the UK where we have an international office. So, it demonstrates our commitment to the region and the opportunity that we see in the region," he said.

Although it wasn't a straightforward decision, Venkatesham was quick to add that he believes launching its regional office in Malaysia or Hong Kong, would have been equally successful for the Arsenal brand. But for the time being, it has no plans to open up more offices in other Asia Pacific countries, he admits. Currently, there are six people in its Singapore office, who are mostly from the sales team. But Venkatesham said the Singapore office works "really closely" with the marketing and digital team based in London. While the football club is currently not working with any agencies, it is open to opportunities.

"Part of the benefit of having the office in Singapore is that we're able to build good relationships with agencies. If we need their services, when we have a specific challenge we're trying to overcome, we can do that," he added.

This comes as no surprise given that Singapore has long been the Asia Pacific headquarters for many global brands. According to KPMG's Budget 2018/19 report, 46% of multinational companies (MNCs) are stationed in Singapore, compared to 37% in Hong Kong. These include Twitter, Google, Johnson & Johnson, LinkedIn and Mastercard. When it comes to technology MNCs, about 59% of them are based in Singapore while 18% are in Hong Kong.

What Arsenal is focusing on

Despite having a strong branding worldwide, Arsenal wants to continuously engage its fans in Asia Pacific more actively now that it has an office in Singapore. While Venkatesham declined to share specific numbers on Arsenal's investment in Asia, he said it spends "a lot of money" on digital marketing in Asia. To connect with fans personally, it is producing and distributing more digital content across its social media platforms, and tailors content to fit the needs of fans in specific markets such as China.

Additionally, among the list of on-ground activities include tour matches, such as the International Champions Club held in Singapore in July, open training sessions and fan parties. Other activities also involve bringing the Arsenal Legends to various markets and soccer schools.

When asked if Arsenal will be collaborating with more Asian brands for sponsorships, Venkatesham said the football club works with global partners. Some of its current partnership ties in with brands such as Emirates Airlines and Puma, which see Asia as a huge growth market for them. Moreover, the recent FIFA World Cup was a clear indication of the shift in power of spend by Asian brands, with three out of five major sponsors being Chinese companies.

Commenting on the partnerships made regionally, Venkatesham said, “We are also looking for regional partners that might be looking for a partnership in individual Southeast Asia markets to promote their brand globally.”