Singapore sport: Change bulbs, 3am calls, book flights... all just part of the job

Sports marketing agent Jed Senthil was up before sunrise to cheer on his agency partner Mok Ying Ren at last year's KL SEA Games marathon.
Sports marketing agent Jed Senthil was up before sunrise to cheer on his agency partner Mok Ying Ren at last year's KL SEA Games marathon.PHOTO: ONEATHLETE

It is 3am. As most of Singapore is sound asleep, sports agent Jed Senthil's phone buzzes. An athlete managed by the ONEathlete co-founder wants to air his woes of dealing with school work.

Equatre Asia co-founder Hafidz Ja'afar once had to rush to meet a football club's officials at 11pm to help one of his clients secure a deal, while Red Card Global founder R. Sasikumar remembers players calling him at the oddest hours to help them change light bulbs, book flights and even when their car broke down.

Representing an athlete means being contactable 24/7 to provide not only canny advice on marketing matters but also lending emotional and technical support. Senthil said: "They have so much stress... from life, work and family. The least we can do is to support them. We are in the business of understanding them and you have to love them by serving and supporting them."

At last year's Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, Senthil was up before sunrise to cheer on his agency partner Mok Ying Ren at the marathon event.

Also in Malaysia, Hafidz and his business partner Kevin Wong delivered an athlete recovery product - an electronic device worn over limbs for a period of time to reduce muscle fatigue - to their clients at different locations, before lugging the 5kg gear back to Singapore.

While these agents are in the business to make money, they also want to help their athletes.

Senthil noted: "The developmental athletes are not cash cows as they are unproven. They could lose certain deals because of that but we'll still help them. For us, there is a draw to uncover talent and use our expertise to support them."

Agents also have to build and manage the public personas of their clients and this can be a delicate balancing act.

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong was a lightning rod for controversy last year; he got into public spats with both Singapore Athletics and Singapore National Olympic Council.

Although his sponsorship deals are managed by strategic communications consultancy Black Dot, its managing director Nicholas Fang believes the outspoken runner is good for the sport.

He said: "Rui Yong has strong opinions and will speak out if he perceives injustice. I respect that he sticks to his values.

"Compare that to an athlete who is always politically correct, you cannot blame the media for not showing an interest in a person who is bland or boring; these are a dime a dozen."

Wang Meng Meng

Lim Say Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Change bulbs, 3am calls, book flights... all just part of the job'. Print Edition | Subscribe