Please tell us about your role at CSM.

I’m the Managing Director of CSM in the region, so I’m responsible for all of the agency’s work in this part of the world. We’re a sports and entertainment marketing business and broadly work across three key areas – brand consultancy, rights sales and live experiences. Our regional headquarters are here in Hong Kong, but we have people and offices in Singapore and Tokyo as well. We use those hubs to service our clients and partnerships across the region.

You play an important role in sports sponsorships. What do you think your clients are looking for in return of sponsoring an event?

Fundamentally, investments should serve a business purpose. Depending on who the client is, those business and brand objectives will be very different. One of my favourite stages of client work is simply listening to their current challenges over a coffee, what’s keeping them awake at night. We then look at what role a potential partnership investment might play in addressing these challenges. Ultimately, these platforms allow brands to talk to their target audiences in a different sort of way, through their passion points. That might be football, could be rugby or might be food, health and wellbeing. A key part of our work is setting benchmarks across business objectives and then scrutinising the return on investment at the end of the event or partnership cycle. We’re always evolving the solution with our clients and never stand still in that sense.

It will be a very busy 2 years for sports in Asia with the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup happening. Can you tell us how you are involved in the mega sports events in Asia now?

It is such an exciting time to be in the region and a window of immense opportunity. We are now less than 50 days from the start of the Rugby World Cup and I truly believe that Japan will put on a fantastic show. We’re working for a number of the tournament’s global partners, including Jaguar Land Rover and Tudor to amplify their partnerships and are also creating a number of bespoke client experiences on the ground for local and team partners. As a business, we are fully committed to the opportunity that Japan presents and now have 30 staff members on the ground in Tokyo. The 2020 Olympics is set to be a very busy period, particularly for our guest experience business, iLUKA, who are already in the planning stages of creating programmes for TOP Olympic partners and local Japanese sponsors. We’re also in the process of opening an office in Beijing ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. So never a dull moment!

How do you make the impact of these one-off mega events sustainable even after the event?

It’s not simple, but if you look at the most successful examples of events that have left a genuine legacy, fundamentally, the communities in which they have taken place have been involved and considered from the start. Working with the community and governing bodies every step of the way, making local stakeholders feel a part of the solution and the future is critical. This was approached effectively around the London 2012 Olympics in the views of many. Ultimately, these events should serve as inspiration to grow sport domestically and amongst young people, to get people moving and participating regularly. Sounds obvious, but I feel like communication is key. What is the ambition of the event and the plan once the circus has rolled out of town? As an example, in Japan, the hope is very much that the events themselves inspire increased participation and that domestic partners are inspired themselves to continue the investment into the future. Closer to home, we absolutely hope the same for Kai Tak.

We are seeing huge capital investment from Asian brands to the international sports scene, how has this changed the sponsorship and general sports marketing landscape?

There is a very clear macro trend in terms of Asian brands investing in sport, but the interest from rights holders is equally excitable. Quite simply, brands are increasingly seeing sport as a fantastic platform to put their business on the global map and equally rights holders see enormous opportunity in the volume, growth and commercial opportunity in the Asian audience. EPL and European football are good examples of where we are witnessing significant investment from Asian brands. We’ve just seen our client AIA renew their deal with Spurs until the end of the 2026/27 season, confirmation that the partnership is driving true business and brand impact within AIA’s key markets in the region. In the same week, smartphone giant OPPO extended its partnership with Barcelona for another three years, marking the longest running partnership between a Chinese brand and a European Football Club. With the ‘oppo’rtunity to reach out to Barca’s 200 million fans globally, you wouldn’t bet against it! This trend is only set to continue and, in my view, the more innovation in audience insight and targeting, the more powerful the opportunity for rights holders and ultimately brand and business growth for partners.

Do you see any new trends in the collaborations between sports and corporates who are looking to sponsor an event?

We talked a little bit about ROI earlier, but having a well-connected, highly engaged fan base is central to brands investing in partnerships, whether sport or otherwise. Engagement that ultimately leads to business growth. Happily, there is a huge trend in both rights holders and brands better capitalising on the data that emerges from partnerships and activation. As a business we have invested significantly in our offering from a digital marketing point of view, with a platform that allows our clients to attribute hard sales to digital activation and exposure. Ultimately, marketing chiefs are looking to tell a story of business growth internally, not just that their clients have had a lovely time. The world has definitely moved on from that and has inspired us all to be better.

You are leading a multicultural team on multinational projects that require frequent travels and working with local partners. Do you find it challenging?

Leading diverse teams in different markets is definitely the happiest part of my job. We are a people business at the end of the day - and I am biased but proud to work with bright, fundamentally good people from all over the world. The travel of course takes its toll by moments, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every day I feel privileged to have the opportunity to see new events in new parts of the world, often throwing myself completely out of my comfort zone, but learning all of the time. Every time we look at a new market, there is something different to navigate, culturally, linguistically and from a business point of view. Oh, and another food item to sample – which for those that know me, is absolutely crucial…

Are there any sports events that you haven’t seen but would like to bring to Asia?

Last month, as a business we took on one of the biggest global projects we’ve ever been involved in, which was bringing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to London for the first ever regular season MLB game, hosted at the London Olympic Stadium. It was an enormous operation, involving every part of the CSM business in multiple markets. We were so collectively proud to be involved and it was a huge success for all parties. I’d love to see something like that sort of occasion in this region. There is a huge amount we can learn about how the USA delivers sport to the fan. It’s more than sport, it’s entertainment in it’s purest and best form. It’s a commercial machine where everything from the merchandise to the hot dogs plays a key role in the experience. MLB at the new Kai Tak Sports Park… watch this space!

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

1. Tell us about the story about Appysport – how did it start and how does it operate now?

It all started with our founder Marine moving to Hong Kong from France 6 years ago. She found it extremely difficult to book a public tennis court from LCSD. And it does not only happen to tennis in Hong Kong. She hopes to facilitate sports in Hong Kong by unlocking sports services for everyone. Combining her innovation background and passion about Hong Kong, she built a small team of passionate sports lovers who believe in tech and in sport. In a small team of 15 talents, you will find one of the Hong Kong’s top 50 tennis players, a few pro wakeboarders, a muay thai fighter and an equestrian champion.

We are not only talking about regular sports users - literally EVERYONE! We would like to ‘convert’ non-sport users by introducing new sports experience to them. With only one click, you can make the booking online and go on your first kayak introduction tour in Tai Po with our experienced and verified coach.

Since we launched tennis and water sports only in March 2019, 5% of sports users in Hong Kong now use appysport to explore and book sports facilities, which has a higher usage rate than other similar platforms.

2. Can you tell us about the most key partnerships or sponsorships Appysport has now?

Currently, we have partnered with 90% of water sports businesses at the 5 key beaches in Hong Kong.

Our key partner and investor, Decathlon is the world's largest sports goods retailer from France with 1500 stores across the world. It enables us to widen our network, gain brand exposure across different channels and have quicker access to every sports business.

3. What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for Appysport and other similar service providers in Hong Kong?

Most of Hong Kong people use public sports facilities to practice sports. According to Nielsen survey research in 2019, 52% of tennis players tend to practice at public courts. Yet, LCSD tennis courts accounts for only 12% of all courts in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the government is not very open to facilitate sports participation by partnering with private businesses.

Different sports users also have different needs. We have to take care of the needs of leisure sport user, regular sport users and non-sport users, who have very different needs. Regular user looks for more players to compete or play with while non-sport user look for affordable single class entry without commitment.

The opportunities come with the challenges above. Currently there is not any booking platform in Hong Kong covers all sports and activities, that cater to leisure sport user, regular sport users and non-sport users.

Hong Kongers are active and engaged with sports. 92% practice and play sports. Public sports facilities and lessons are always fully booked. Most LCSD facilities are booked based on first-come-first-served while ballot system is used for the sports lessons registration. Based on the research by Nielsen, 40% of all sports players in Hong Kong tend to be increase the time dedicated to practicing their current sport if there are more facilities available to use.

4. When developing a partnership, what are the things that you consider the most concerning for venue providers and for tour companies or coaches?

The facilities or service provider might think we come to this space to take away their businesses. As many private sport businesses have been doing offline business, they have doubts whether technology can bring them new customers. For example a 100-year old private sports club uses a notebook to manage their booking schedule. But later on they realized we actually enhance and enable them to expand their businesses. For example, we brought 50% more business for freelancing coaches in the first month we launched water sport.

5. Currently Appysport covers water sports and tennis. Do you plan to expand your tech services to other sports as well?

Our vision is to cover ALL sports. Currently we are expanding on fitness, yoga and muay thai. We are open to gym, boutique studio and coaches for any group classes. But it is just the beginning! The more we grow, the more sports we will make accessible to the many. By showing people our impact, we introduce sports that are not common in Hong Kong, such as kiteboarding.

6. You have taken on partnership and business development roles for other corporates in Hong Kong as well as Singapore before Appysport. Why did you make the switch?

I am an active sport user since I was young. At the young age of 7, I started to participate in competitive sports like track & field and taekwondo. In my life growing up, sports has taught me about teamwork, perseverance and determination. I truly believe sports participation can shape our lives positively.

This opportunity came to me when I was planning to start a sport platform for freelancing coaches. Knowing that I cannot do this alone, a group of sports enthusiasts who share the same vision and want to do this together further confirm that I should take the step to switch to the sports scene.

7. Can you share with us something special about Appysport that makes it better than individual booking sports venues, lessons and activities on their own?

Along with better price and quality guarantee, we customize offers that sports users truly need.

We also have excellent customer services, making sure our users enjoy a wonderful customer journey.

Thanks to our guests who joined us last night at our Innovation x Sports: The Futurist Vision networking event. We shared an insightful evening with our speaker, tech savvy Jonny Stark, at Bobby's Rabble Wyndham St. The event was a great success with the support of our sponsors Regal Hotels, zkipster, KPMG, Bobby's Rabbles and our members.

We at BOSN plan to host more talks on the technological development and fan engagement in sports events as well as professional facilities, so stay tuned or sign up on to become our member if you work in the sports or events industry.