Swimming has traditionally enjoyed a relatively high profile for a sport in Singapore, but even its administrators here would concede that its exposure has shown an "exponential rise" in the last two years.
With athletes like Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen leading the way in making an impact on the international stage, the good results have also been accompanied by greater corporate sponsorship.
The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) yesterday welcomed its latest corporate partner, inking a one-year, $120,000 deal with Neo Garden Catering as its food and beverage sponsor.
The cash-and-kind partnership means the SSA has garnered about $1.23 million worth of sponsorship since June last year. Another $400,000 or so worth of deals with several global brands will be announced in the coming months.
Major SSA deals
The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) has received some major backing over the last year. These backers include:
Volkswagen and SSA renewed their sponsorship agreement until the end of this year. It will see Volkswagen provide 22 vehicles, out of which 20 are Volkswagen Tourans for guests, one commercial vehicle for logistical needs and one Passat for national coach Sergio Lopez.
The cash and value in kind deal is worth a six-figure sum and runs till 2018. The cash portion will support the athletes' training programmes across the four aquatic disciplines of swimming, water polo, synchronised swimming and diving.
Yakult and SSA inked a new deal worth $350,000 in cash for three years until 2017.
A two-year cash agreement will last through 2017. The amount was not disclosed.
It is a result of greater exposure, as well as better results in the pool, said the SSA's vice-president of finance Jose Raymond.
"There's a lot more awareness of swimming and that's also because of a lot of intense extensive marketing and outreach through media as well," he told The Straits Times yesterday, on the sidelines of an event at the OCBC Aquatic Centre to cement the SSA's partnership with Neo Garden Catering.
"Of course, it helps that our swimmers are doing very well, and that we have a world-class coach in Sergio Lopez. It forces everyone to really take a look at what we're doing."
Schooling, 20, recently won a bronze medal at the Fina World Championships in Kazan, a historic first on that stage for Singapore and one that earned him The Straits Times Star of the Month award for August.
It comes after his Asian Games gold as well as a Commonwealth Games silver last year.
He also won nine gold medals at the SEA Games in June.
Quah won a bronze in the 100m backstroke at the Moscow leg of the Fina World Cup, en route to clocking a new national record and Olympic "A" time, which allowed him to secure an automatic berth at the Rio Games next year.
Added Raymond: "Sponsors also see that there's a lot more value in supporting swimming... There's hope, there's potential, there's a chance our swimmers might actually make it."
Said William Lee, vice-president for diving: "With (this) support, the things that our divers need... to gain the experience and compete at the highest levels are more possible. So all these things help."
It also means the association has more funds for grassroots programmes, said SSA president Lee Kok Choy.
He cited the example of its swimming proficiency programme, which helps young swimmers master all four strokes.
Said Lee: "It gives us a lot more confidence to do things, and execute programmes without fear of running into a budget wall along the way."
Neo Garden's founder, chairman and chief executive Neo Kah Kiat, said his partnership with the SSA is a way of giving back to the community through a sport he believes in. The company already supports the Singapore Table Tennis Association.
Said Neo: "Swimming is an exercise that is affordable, accessible and suitable for people of all ages.
"We are proud to set an example of how home-grown companies can lead the way in inspiring and cheering on our very own aquatic talents."