Football giants follow money trail to Asia

Updated: 07 July 2011 20:53 IST

The world's football elite is jetting into Asia for a promotional blitz targeting a swathe of booming cities as teams vie for a bigger slice of the region's growing wealth.

Football giants follow money trail to Asia

Singapore:

The world's football elite is jetting into Asia for a promotional blitz targeting a swathe of booming cities as teams vie for a bigger slice of the region's growing wealth.


Ten top European clubs, one national side and some of the sport's best-known players are joining the roadshow, which gets into full swing with Arsenal and Liverpool's arrival in Kuala Lumpur next week.

Star-studded Chelsea and Real Madrid follow later, while Manchester United players brandishing the newly reclaimed English Premier League trophy have already rattled through five countries and Hong Kong on a whistle-stop tour.

Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa are also headed east to raise their profiles - and those of their sponsors - in a region which already provides a significant chunk of English Premier League (EPL) revenues.

Simon Thompson, east Asian head of football for marketing agency World Sport Group, said that Asian and Middle Eastern broadcasters spent nearly one billion pounds ($1.6 billion) on the latest EPL TV rights contracts, roughly a third of the total worldwide.

He said European clubs were keen to nurture an Asian fanbase to provide a long-term market for their products -- which include shirts, memorabilia, tickets and in-house TV channels -- and to help attract sponsors.

"They're like any brand, any modern-day company," Thompson said. "Asia is a big part of the global economy now. Alongside Brazil and Russia, it's a huge growth market, and like any brands, they want a piece of it.

"They have to keep ever growing and Asia has the ability to drive good numbers."

Europe's summer swing will reach a peak at the popular Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong, a hotbed of football support, where Chelsea, Blackburn and Villa will play at the end of this month along with domestic champions Kitchee.

"It is important for the club to expand its brand in the Asian market, so that is important to show ourselves to them as well," new Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas commented this month.

Liverpool and Arsenal are both playing in Malaysia and in China, which will also host Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid in August along with the Italian Super Cup, featuring Inter Milan and AC Milan, at Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium.

In September, world player of the year Lionel Messi will grace the unlikely venue of Kolkata when he headlines Argentina's friendly against Venezuela. Argentina are also scheduled to play Nigeria in Bangladesh's Dhaka.

Last month, Manchester United winger Nani appeared in Singapore, and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Dutch World Cup finalist Giovanni van Bronckhorst both visited Indonesia. Scotland's Celtic are currently in Australia.

"The middle classes in Asia are ever growing and for every brand globally, that's their target," Thompson said.

"The more people register as a fan on Manchester United's website, the more valuable that club becomes. That's their target."

Thompson said he expected to see more Asian players follow Park Ji-Sung, Shunsuke Nakamura, Shinji Kagawa and Yuto Nagatomo to big European clubs, which in turn would target their Asian players' home countries for new fans.

"With so many Asian players now being on a par with some of the best of the world and playing in major clubs, there will be more tours with clubs playing in a country because they have a player originating from that country," he said.

"They're going there and they're playing, and that can only be good for football in Asia from a development perspective," Thompson added.

"Young players see that it's possible for them to go and play at a high level, which will only drive on the Asian game."

Apart from playing exhibition games against local sides, the visiting teams will embark on a series of promotional appearances including shirt-signing sessions and training clinics during their Asian tours.



Topics : Steven Gerrard Liverpool Chelsea Everton Blackburn Rovers Birmingham City Football Arsenal
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