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SC Global scores with tennis sponsorship
WHAT does a luxury property developer like SC Global Developments have to do with women's professional tennis?
Plenty, it seems, judging by how the local company is relishing every minute of its five-year sponsorship of the BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals tournament in Singapore.
SC Global is the presenting sponsor of the season-ending event, which will be organised at the Singapore Sports Hub once again this October. This year will be the third of five consecutive editions that Singapore is committed to host.
The week-long fiesta, which begins on Oct 23, features the top eight female singles players and doubles teams competing for a slice of the US$7 million in prize money.
Among those expected to make their way to the Lion City are the current world No 1 Serena Williams and this year's Wimbledon finalist Angelique Kerber as well as the top doubles pair of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.
BT Weekend met up with SC Global's chief executive and chairman Simon Cheong at his Newton Road office recently. The 59-year-old father of three who exercises daily and enjoys the occasional game of tennis explains why the WTA Finals sponsorship deal is the perfect fit to help his company become a global brand.
BT: Why did you decide to sponsor a tennis event?
Simon Cheong (SC): We've been a big supporter of the local sports scene over the years. Hosting the first night race was a historic moment for both Singapore and Formula 1 and we were proud to contribute to the event through our sponsorship of the Porsche SC Global Carrera Cup Asia.
When that F1 contract ended, the opportunity to be part of the WTA Finals in Singapore came up, and the timing was perfect. The event was available and we latched on to it very fast. We did the deal within a couple of months.
BT: What has this association with the WTA brought to SC Global?
SC: We're not a consumer products company, we don't sell washing machines or candy or TVs, so we're not so visible from that standpoint.
The WTA Finals is a world-class event, and it has helped elevate our visibility, both in Singapore and abroad. That's what we wanted, an event that would bring us up to a global platform.
The numbers show that we managed to get coverage in 164 countries around the world, and a TV audience of over 32 million. To have that many people see our logo plastered everywhere and to hear our name whenever they announce us as the tournament's presenting sponsor, it's a big plus.
BT: SC Global is also busy introducing tennis to schools in Singapore with the "Tennis for every child" programme. How's that coming along?
SC: When we first decided on this sponsorship, we wanted to make sure that society can benefit too. We have 20 primary schools on board this programme, with more than 11,500 students getting free weekly lessons in mini-tennis.
We provide the rackets, the balls and the coaching. There's a programme to have the teachers become tennis coaches. Our aim is to increase participation in tennis and build a lasting legacy for the sport in Singapore.
BT: How do your employees get involved in this tennis sponsorship?
SC: I'm happy to see how our staff readily volunteer their time and energy, and it's not only in October when the tournament is played. We're not a big company with thousands of employees, but we don't outsource either when it comes to the WTA Finals. We have to spend the shareholders' money prudently, so we double up and do a lot of things ourselves.
The staff help to run our stall at the fan zone at the Sports Hub during the tournament. They get to watch the matches too. We have others who go down to the schools on a regular basis throughout the year to oversee the "Tennis for every child" programme.
We could very well have said that every staff must complete a certain number of hours, but to me, that takes away the fun and it defeats the whole purpose.
As a company, we don't like to make this too structured. Volunteering has to be with a heart. When someone is instructed to do something, as compared to doing it voluntarily, the feeling is very different.
BT: Tennis is also more than just about the sport itself. There's also the opportunity for companies to use sports events to entertain clients.
SC: We've got a suite at the Racquet Club beside the Singapore Indoor Stadium during the tournament. The suite is quite popular because we, being in real estate, have the best location there. We dress it up like one of our show apartments, there's food and wine being served, and it's a very comfortable environment for everyone.
Not all of our guests are avid tennis fans, yet they are always bowled over by the tennis and their experience at the WTA Finals. The event has proved to be a great platform for entertaining our clients and business associates.
BT: Given your travel schedule and the extensive number of meetings you have to be at, how do you stay fit these days?
SC: Not exercising or playing sports is just an excuse; it's whether you want to do it or not. I always find time to exercise. I'm up at 6.30am every morning, and I do what I feel like doing - I usually spend about an hour, and it can be on a run or a workout at the gym. I just keep moving and build up a good sweat.
I have a 13-year-old son and I try to get him to play tennis or golf or any other sport with me. It's a great way to bond with him and that's a huge motivation for me.