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SEA Games to be a spectacle - and within budget: sponsorship chief

Sport Singapore's Richard Seow hails "unprecedented level" of support from firms

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'CATCH GAME FEVER': Mr Seow suggests taking some time off to catch some events and support Team Singapore.

Singapore

IT was about two years ago when a group of nine prominent corporate chiefs got together with one task in mind - to convince businesses here to sponsor the 28th South East Asia (SEA) Games.

Their pitch was simple: Being associated with the multi-sport extravaganza, to be held in Singapore from June 5 to 16 and in the country's golden jubilee year, would open many doors to access the rest of South-east Asia.

As sponsors of the Sea Games, companies will be able to tap the bustling region's combined population of 600 million and GDP of over US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion).

The sponsorship and marketing advisory sub-committee is headed by Sport Singapore chairman Richard Seow; his team counts the likes of DBS Bank CEO Piyush Gupta and Deloitte South-east Asia CEO Chaly Mah among its members.

The committee had a target of attracting S$50 million in sponsorship, but that was achieved long ago. The total stands at close to S$80 million from some 100 firms.

That will go a long way towards defraying the cost of Singapore's hosting of the biennial Sea Games, said Mr Seow, adding that organisers were diligently ensuring they spent within the S$324.5 million budget.

The 53-year-old former banker told The Business Times in an interview: "We are all cognizant of making sure the Games are within budget."

With this being the year of Singapore's SG50 celebrations, it was always the intent to put on an impressive spectacle and showcase the Republic to the region and beyond while exercising prudence.

"Where we can save money, we have. I don't think there has been overspending. It will be a good Games, it won't be lavish or over-the-top," he said.

This the first time Singapore is hosting the region's largest multi-sport event since 1993. Most of the 7,000 athletes and officials from 11 participating nations are already here to prepare and train for competition in 36 sports.

The fact that Corporate Singapore has "embraced the Sea Games" at an unprecedented level is proof of the progress made in getting companies to pump big money into sports.

The list of sponsors includes the big boys such as NTUC FairPrice, Singtel, Samsung, OCBC Bank and Singapore Airlines, along with homegrown SMEs like IT firm JK Technology and logistics provider CWT.

Mr Seow credited the ability to rope in SMEs largely to Chan Chong Beng, the former head of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

"We wanted to ensure this was not just about getting MNCs (multinational corporations) and GLCs (government-linked companies), but that we could get a whole tier of SMEs too," he said.

There are four tiers of sponsorship, with the lowest requiring just S$50,000 to qualify - and this can be a combination of cash and value in kind.

"It's about making it accessible in terms of the dollar amount, and what the companies want to do with this sponsorship. Many SMEs are expanding around the region, and the Sea Games is an ideal platform to raise their profile," he said.

With corporate support firmly in the bag, the focus now is to make sure that the stadiums and venues islandwide are packed with spectators. Half of the 36 events offer free admission.

Three-quarters of the 790,000 tickets on sale have already been snapped up. Both the opening and closing ceremonies at the 55,000-seater National Stadium are completely sold out, along with several popular sports like swimming and wushu.

Mr Seow hopes Singaporeans will support the host country's 749 athletes - including the likes of swimmers Joseph Schooling and paddler Feng Tianwei - on their quest for medals.

"We don't often host multi-sports games, and I hope Singaporeans will not miss this opportunity. I think our athletes will surprise and amaze. I encourage everyone to take some time off and catch the events," he said.