IN JUST a couple of weeks' time, more than 11,000 cyclists will take to the streets and pedal for glory at the OCBC Cycle Singapore event. This will be the sixth edition of Singapore's largest mass participation cycling event on closed public roads. Local bank and title sponsor OCBC has seen both the number of participants and corporate sponsors increase over the years.
Support for the event has been encouraging so far. In 2012, at the Singapore Sports Awards, OCBC Cycle Singapore was crowned Best Local Sports Event, cementing its status as one of the signature sporting events here, says the bank's head of corporate communications, Koh Ching Ching.
She shares more about the bank's plans to build on the event's success and why the bank is committed to supporting cycling in the long haul.
How did OCBC end up choosing cycling as the sport for the bank's flagship annual sports event?
Back in 2008, cycling was becoming popular and there wasn't a mass cycling event. There were several running events but there were none for cycling. This is a sport that encourages team work and bonding, which resonated well with our corporate values of People and Teamwork.
Cycling is also a sport that anyone can take up, from children to seniors and from novice riders to serious ones. Picking cycling was not a difficult decision for us. But before we could stage our first event, the global financial crisis hit the banking industry hard in 2008. That did not deter us, and the inaugural event was held in February 2009. We believe that if we can afford it, giving back to the community should go on. We are glad we did it. Today, OCBC is so entrenched in cycling and our brand resonates well with the community through the event and the support we give to the sport.
What are the signs that cycling has become more popular in Singapore?
Just look at our streets on weekends and some weekdays. There is a growing number of cyclists taking to the roads for leisure. More people are also commuting by bicycles. During a recent visit to Yu Neng Primary, the principal told me that more of her students are coming to school on bicycles.
OCBC Cycle Singapore has also grown in numbers, doubling to more than 11,000 over the past six years.
The event is the most talked-about topic in our office before, during and after the event. Staff participation has grown from 300 in 2009 to a record 1,300 this year. We are also seeing more staff commuting to work by bicycle and taking part in spin sessions every week.
The charity element is also very strong in OCBC Cycle Singapore. Some thoughts on this?
OCBC has a strong corporate social responsibility programme. Whether it is the OCBC Skyway at Gardens by the Bay and our partnership with the Singapore Sports Hub, or our donations to the Singapore Children's Society and our active staff volunteer programme, we have an ingrained habit of giving back to society. Being able to help the less privileged in our society using OCBC Cycle is very natural for us. If we have the means to give back, we should, and this is what we believe in.
We are happy to partner The Business Times for the charity element of OCBC Cycle Singapore. The Business Times Charity Challenge has raised funds and awareness for local charities since it started three years ago. Dover Park Hospice and SingHealth Transplant TRUEfund are the event's adopted charities this year. The response from companies and individuals has been really great.
More sponsors have come on board in recent years. How can we encourage more firms to support cycling, and sports as a whole?
Seeing is believing. Having something tangible to show helps. When companies can see and feel what sports sponsorship can do for their brands, more of them will come on board.
The initial success of OCBC Cycle Singapore and the OCBC Singapore Pro-Cycling Team is visible. That is why more Singapore companies are joining the growing list of sponsors, such as 100PLUS, Rudy Project and Champion System to support our Pro-Cycling Team. This year (luxury time piece) DeLacour and our insurance subsidiary, Great Eastern, became sponsors of the OCBC Pro-Cycling Team for the first time. It is DeLacour's first foray in sports sponsorship.
With the opening of the Sports Hub and the increasing number of sports activities organised in Singapore, I believe more corporates will come forward to embrace sports sponsorship.
- OCBC Cycle Singapore takes place at the F1 Pit Building from March 28-30. Visit www.ocbc.cyclesingapore.com.sg for more details