Event marketers can go to top of the class

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 1999, 12:00am

The growing field of sports marketing and entertainment management is the focus of a new night school programme aimed at Hong Kong professionals.

The Centre for Sports Marketing and Entertainment Management is a 10-week course which has been introduced to upgrade the overall professionalism of the industry through specialist training.

Steven Feuerstein, a regional sport impresario who promoted the recent Perrier Hong Kong Open golf tournament through his company Sports International, said he had been developing the centre for four years to bring experienced people to an industry which was still in its infancy in Asia.

The school, which is just one part of the centre, provides strategic consulting services and 'below-the-line' advisory services, topic-specific seminars and custom-designed corporate workshops.

Its primary focus is sponsorship, the life-blood of the industry. Despite dwindling tobacco sponsorship worldwide, it is estimated more than US$17 billion was invested in sponsorship of events in the US last year. In Asia, it is considerably less but still a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Mr Feuerstein said there were no traditional sponsors. The vast majority had product lines which had nothing to do with entertainment or sport. The only common ground was that their target market should have a passion for whatever they were sponsoring, be it music, a conference or a sporting event. 'Our job is to find out what has value for the client. In the past, the industry gained a reputation for trying to provide easy benefits which appeared to be substantial but, frankly, were not,' he said.

'It did not increase sales or deliver recognition among consumers and there was no long- lasting image recognition. What you had was the title sponsor getting maximum benefit with the supporting sponsors getting insignificant benefits. Many arrived and left saying it didn't bring them value.

'In this industry, if you want to be in it long-term, you have to be a sports marketer and bring sustainable recognition to your client.' The centre's biggest target audience is the corporate community - people who hold such positions as marketing managers, advertising directors and public relations managers. These professionals might want to leverage maximum exposure for their brand through sponsorship.

Mr Feuerstein said people in these positions received more than 100 proposals from promoters each year and often they had little understanding of what sponsorship entailed and what it could add to a business.

Other groups targeted included organisations such as social clubs, sports clubs, government groups and individ uals interested in a career in the industry. Another group involved entertainment artists and athletes.

'Athletes in Asia are probably among the most underpaid individuals in the world. They are overachieving individuals with the least amount of reward for their efforts,' Mr Feuerstein said. 'Promoters in Asia have spent little time representing them and the government agencies which they deal with have insulated them to some degree. We will teach them how to get contracts, the brands they should represent, and what agencies are available to manage them.' During the Sports Development Board-endorsed programme, each 2.5-hour session will cover topics such as industry trends, sponsor psychology, dealing with the media, the art of the deal, television broadcasting and syndication, proposal writing, VIP programmes, and logistics. The class of about 60 will break into small groups to take on case studies. One representa tive from each group will present their findings to the class. Each session will feature guest speakers.

Mr Feuerstein said four courses would be offered each year. Next year, those who had completed the first course would be eligible for a more advanced course dealing with crisis management and more detailed promotions.

He said he was having discussions with US universities about an accreditation programme through correspondence to develop the course.

Local sports impresario Brian Catton, who promoted the recent Super-Power Challenge Cup tennis tournament, said the industry was struggling as companies cut back sponsorship deals.

However, he believed the school could help raise the awareness of marketing professionals about the ability of sponsorship could to benefit their brand or company.

'The principle is a good idea and, if the execution is followed through professionally with some third-party endorsement, then it could have some merit,' Mr Catton said.

The programme costs $1,250 and begins on March 16.

Athletes in Asia are probably among the most underpaid individuals in the world. They are overachievers with the least reward t


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