Abu Dhabi: With the just concluded Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship growing in status and popularity, both with the players as well as the fans, title sponsors HSBC says it feels its backing of the event represents money well spent.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Giles Morgan, HSBC’s Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, said his firm’s investment in sports sponsorship, while reflecting the bank’s business and brand, was solely aimed at tapping into the passions of its customers worldwide.
HSBC is involved with quite a number of golf events. Any particular reason why you are playing so much focus on this sport?
HSBC uses its international sports sponsorship portfolio to provide a platform to build relationships with our most important customers in our most important markets by creating spectacular brand experiences. Golf is a sport which embodies many of the values we hold dear, so it makes absolute sense for us to invest in golf, especially in emerging markets where there are huge opportunities for growth.
As a global banking and financial services organisation, we pride ourselves on opening up a world of opportunities for people, and our investment in golf has done this all over the world, from Abu Dhabi to China, Brazil to Singapore, the UK to North America and from grassroots to the elite.
What are the other sporting events HSBC is involved with?
HSBC has a number of major flagship events around the world. In golf, these include title sponsorship of this tournament in Abu Dhabi, the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore — both [China and Singapore] of which we have just extended our backing for a further three years — plus we are a patron of the oldest golf tournament in the world, The Open Championship, which this year returns to the home of golf, Scotland.
In rugby we are proud sponsors of the British and Irish Lions, who tour Australia this summer, plus the HSBC Sevens World Series, with its major showpiece events in Dubai and Hong Kong. We are also a major sponsor of the Wimbledon Championships.
Regarding the Abu Dhabi Golf event, what dividends have you reaped?
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is of huge significance for HSBC, not just in the region but internationally too. Abu Dhabi is a major hub for international trade/connectivity, so it makes absolute sense for HSBC to sponsor one of our major events here. Now Abu Dhabi is famous for trade but, in the future, Abu Dhabi will also be a world-famous golfing destination.
We’re proud of the hospitality we offer here on course and work closely with some of the world’s best players to maximise the media coverage of the tournament. For example, this year we had World No 1 Rory McIlroy, World No 2 Tiger Woods and World No 5 Justin Rose taking part in a traditional Emirati welcome ceremony to officially launch the event. Last year saw record crowds for a golf event in the region, and we’re building on that success this year with a range of innovative promotions.
What are the guiding principles which HSBC follows to decide whether to support a sport/event?
As mentioned earlier, HSBC uses its sports sponsorships to provide a platform to build relationships with our most important customers through spectacular brand experiences. We are an investor, stakeholder and influencer in sports, which many of our customers are passionate about.
With the banking industry facing troubled times around the world, has this in any way affected sponsorship of sport?
The current financial climate means that these sponsorships are important to reflect our business and brand, but that it also becomes even more important that they are meeting the needs and goals of the business and that they are a sound investment. We see this as an investment to help grow our business around the world.
I can’t say that we look at our sponsorships more carefully, because we couldn’t be more careful and diligent than we are already. But we have a duty to ensure that these sponsorships are money well spent and, as long as they remain money well spent, we will continue with them and continue to refine the portfolio to meet our business needs.
Does HSBC follow any policy when supporting sport in different continents?
Our sponsorships are a metaphor for our business, which is why most of our activity is rooted in the future of the sports we’re involved in. The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is a great example — we invested here because we saw there was an opportunity for growth and that we could be the catalyst for that growth. The tournament is now a key part of our global golf programme and, through our partnership with the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, we are now looking to drive the championship — and the game of golf — to the next level in the Middle East.
The same is true in Asia — when we first came to China in 2005, our ambition was to create a world-class international golf tournament in an emerging market. Eight years on and it really feels like we’ve achieved that ambition with the WGC-HSBC Champions event, which is up there at the very top table of global golf events and commonly referred to as “Asia’s Major”.