“Nothing motivates and binds a crowd more than a sporting game. The atmosphere and camaraderie at the stadium was more intense than any national day event. The power of sports is not to be underestimated.”
This was what I typed into my mobile phone while watching the semi-finals of the Asean Football Championship match between Singapore and Malaysia at the National Stadium on Saturday.
The teams played in front of 55,000 screaming fans – the stadium was full to capacity – and every little right or seemingly wrong move by any of the players elicited a response from the crowd. From the ‘We want goals’ chants to the ‘Referee Kayu’ taunts to the obscene gestures, everyone was a soccer critic that night.
It was my first time at a live soccer match since the days of Singapore’s participation in the Malaysia cup and this time, I only went because I thought it would be a nice change from the usual Saturday lounging in front of the tele (watching the boyfriend watch soccer of course).
I went expecting to be bored so I charged up my mobile phone and prepared to play Scrabble alone all night, but boy was I completely wrong.
A mere 10 minutes into the game, I found myself sitting at the edge of the bench, cursing under my breath at a sneaky Malaysian tackle, and egged on by the vocal fan in front of me, was fully participating in all the cheering and jeering soon after. This same fan orchestrated about four ‘Kallang Waves’ and the longest wave went round the stadium like… five times!!!
It was a nail-biting match. Full-time ended with a 1-1 draw and the entire crowd held its breath as the penalty shootouts began. One by one the two teams alternated in taking shots at the goalies and each shot found the goal until… the last possible shot by the Malaysians was intercepted by Singapore goalie Lionel Lewis. Espnstar.com has the story.
I can still taste the victory in the air. The stadium erupted with ecstasy and my friends and I, who had earlier on positioned ourselves at the exit, ran like school children out of the stadium whooping and cheering.
I spent the ride home that night remembering the Thursday before when Marketing held our first roundtable event. The Singapore Sports Council (SCC) sponsored the session and invited seven really senior marketing practitioners to a cosy lunch at My Dining Room and the topic was ‘Sports Marketing’.
One of the things I took away from the event was that while cost is a large entry barrier for companies wanting to get a piece of sporting action, the SCC says there are actually lower entry levels available.
I’ll leave the juicy discussion details to our March edition but it was interesting to me how marketers from Great Eastern, HSBC, Aviva, Coca-Cola and so on really see the benefits of investing in sporting events as a way to reach an audience.
After experiencing that almost magical evening on Saturday and feeling proud of my country, I’m starting to be more convinced of the power of sports marketing. Come on, ask me which brand sponsored Singapore’s new away, home and training jerseys?