Formula One may get airtime with Singapore Airlines

COME next year, Formula One cars could discover a great way to fly. In celebration of its backing of the Singapore Grand Prix, national carrier Singapore Airlines could feature F1 cars on the livery of its jets.

As title sponsors to the tune of an estimated $10 million to $15 million per edition this year and next year, the ariline is keen to showcase its tie-up with one of the world's most dynamic and exciting sports.

Said Foo Chai Woo, SIA's divisional vice-president for sales and marketing: "This (sponsorship) ticks all the criteria for us. We were presented with this opportunity and after careful consideration, we felt that the time is right.

"It is also pleasing to note that we are proud and happy to play a role in the lead-up to Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations."

Although the alliance was only announced on April 15, the airline has not been in neutral gear while promoting its new partnership with the world's first night race.

In July, a four-day event was hosted at London's Canary Wharf where Marussia driver Max Chilton demonstrated his skills in an F1 simulator.

Merchandise such as teddy bears, commemorative gold coins and model planes were also rolled out. An Internet microsite is online, too.

All-in-one travel packages ranging from $2,199 to $21,399, comprising airfare, accommodation and admission to the Marina Bay Street Circuit, were sold, aimed squarely at F1 hotbeds Britain, Germany and Australia.

And SIA has also decked two of its Hop-on buses, that ferry passengers to various tourist attractions, with F1 livery.

This concept could be expanded to its jets next year.

"The livery is one of the things we are looking at. We want to look for the right platforms to make as much noise as possible," said Sheldon Hee, SIA's vice-president for marketing communications and development.

Last month, the airline also hosted a carnival called Light Up The Night, giving the public access to the Pit Building where they had a go at driving simulators and watched a supercar parade and stunt driving displays.

"We wanted to give everybody an opportunity to taste F1," said Hee, 39.

"It was a happy and healthy turnout. The people were really passionate about their cars. We also gave out car decals, which were oversubscribed. We helped to bring the race closer to the customers."

But SIA will not follow the examples of Gulf airlines that splashed money on sport.

Two years ago, Dubai's Emirates struck a five-year shirt sponsorship deal worth £150 million (S$307 million) with English Premier League club Arsenal.

In 2004, it also handed over £100 million to the Gunners for the naming rights to their stadium, a deal now extended to 2028.

Manchester City banked £400 million from Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways in a 10-year arrangement in 2011, while Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia is the shirt sponsor of Queens Park Rangers.

But SIA's sports sponsorship has been restricted to the $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup horse race and it has offered air ticket rebates to the Singapore Sports School.

Foo, 43, explained: "Our strategy is always to promote (the brand) across a wide scope of events.

"Our aim is all about developing Singapore as an exciting global city. That means, we have to appeal to various market segments and that includes promoting Singapore's sports events."