Singapore Airlines' title sponsorship of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix seems such a natural fit that one wonders why it was not sewn up from the start. SingTel stepped in earlier and headlined the event well for six years, although it is largely a Singapore-based brand which competes fiercely and has already made its presence felt here. SIA's global reach is critical for its business and it would benefit from the intense dazzle of F1 as it lights up the screens of almost 100 million television viewers globally and makes an impression on around 260,000 spectators over the three race days.
SIA's in-flight service, the Singapore Girl and its lush advertising visuals have earned the airline kudos in the past and even an iconic presence in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London. But there's no denying the keener competition that it is now facing from ambitious rivals for whom money is no object. Emirates, for example, spent around US$272 million (S$340 million) on sports sponsorships last year, including a deal with Formula One and one with the Arsenal Football Club (for shirt and stadium naming rights) that gives the carrier worldwide exposure during the British Premier League season.
In contrast, the SIA International Cup and KrisFlyer International Sprint, despite the millions spent, lack the mass appeal of F1 racing and football. The high-profile grand prix is expected to give SIA a branding boost. More than that, it can help imprint Singapore as an exciting tourist destination more firmly in the minds of global travellers, especially in the run-up to the nation's 50th anniversary next year.
Singapore spends about $150 million to host each race, of which 60 per cent is borne by taxpayers and the rest by by the local organiser. Hence, it is important for leading Singapore companies to pull together and help grow the incremental tourism receipts for the larger good.