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.

Please tell us about what MYLAPS offers and about your role at MYLAPS.

MYLAPS, originally AMB-IT, was founded in 1982 as a way for twobrothers to solve an issue of how to time their radio-controlled cars through developing the first electronic timing system. In the 35+ years thereafter MYLAPS has specialised in developing timing systems and services for sport events and athletes. Our goal is to enhance the experience of the athlete. I have been with MYLAPS since 2006 and am currently the Managing Director of the 4 local MYLAPS offices in the Asia Pacific Region (Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Beijing). On a yearly basis, we estimate that more than 20 million athletes are being timed with our systems.

China version

Marathons and road races are being very popular in China and Hong Kong. How is MYLAPS involved in these markets?

We do see a steep increase in Marathon & Road racing participation in China and in Hong Kong. Most of the major city marathons in China (Xiamen, Beijing, Shanghai) and Hong Kong are using MYLAPS’ hardware and software to not only give athletes an accurate finish time and a split time every 5km, but also to deliver a great experience before, during and after the event with services like online registration, EventApps and photo/video.

What makes MYLAPS stand out from other similar products in the market, especially now that many phones and wearable devices offer the GPS tracking function?

Actually, you should ask our customers this questions!

In official races it is not possible to have each runner use their wearable device for an official timing as you will never be 100% sure on the accuracy of the device and the reliability. As an athlete, it is very interesting to compare your times (split times and finish times) with the professional athletes and so this information is shared via the official results. If an athlete was to share their own personal results from their device, it would be hard to compare times with others.

Next to that we offer full-suite solutions where we use the data collected by our timing systems for software services (apps, websites) to enhance the event experience. Think of the EventApp for running races, where spectators can follow the progress of their favorite runners live in a mobile app.

We are also a long-time player in the market and always in search of the next innovation in sports. Our products are used in a lot of high-end athletics and racing events, including the Olympic Games, Giro d’italia, Nascar, IndyCar, MotoGP and so on. These high-end events and customers are choosing us as we have the most accurate and most reliable systems. We are also already more than 35 years in the market and have therefore built up an enormous expertise in these markets.

How is China or Hong Kong different from other APAC regions, or even Europe regions, on the technical side of things?

The Hong Kong Marathon is one of the largest road races in the world. With around 74,000 participants, it is very important for the organiser to make sure that the loss of start and or finish-times is as low as possible. With our technology, the race organiser gets almost zero complaints on the timing part as we have the best detection rates in the world. This is one of the reasons why all these major marathons are choosing companies that utilise the MYLAPS technology.

On the technical side, in China, we do have challenges with our services as the social media platforms in China are so very different from that in the rest of the world. In China, there is no Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter available;  Android Phones are not supported by the Google App Store and Chinese users are not using apps a lot. They do use platforms like Weibo, WeChat and Youku though. Just getting our website up and running in China took us about 9 months due to all the procedural formalities that come with developing a website specifically for the Chinese market and having it approved.

We are currently in the process of getting our other services up and running for the Chinese market - having a local office in Beijing is an enormous help in that.

See for more background info on the Hong Kong Marathon here.

Race management can be difficult for outdoor road races in a new environment. What challenges has MYLAPS faced working in a new race location and what are the solutions?

We are very blessed with long-term partners who are aware of the Chinese market and the Chinese challenges. Our system is using 3G / 4G technology (and soon also 5G technology) to send the data from the 5km points back to the timing laptop. In new race locations you always have to verify which provider is the best for that.

Next to that, the setup time becomes more and more important. In the past you could close the roads hours before and after the race. Nowadays people in the larger cities would like to keep the roads accessible all the time which allows us less time for setting up our systems onsite. One of our latest innovations is a timing system which can be setup (and also cleared) within only a minute.

China version

Can you share with us some significant or interesting experience you had in China or Hong Kong races or sports events?

Basically in every event in China there is always something interesting happening. :)

An interesting one was a recent event we had in China. Few weeks before the event, the government swapped some working days and declared the Sunday, also the supposed event date, to be a working day, which meant that the race organizer had to move his race date to the Saturday right before it. Changing the event date so urgently is a nightmare to every event organiser… I lived for a couple of years in Malaysia and in there the same thing happens a lot. When a local soccer team wins an important match, the city government often declares the next day(s) to be a public holiday. This is something I had never seen in any other country before.

Another one was the massive disqualification of runners during a Chinese Half Marathon last year. This was all over the news and the Chinese Athletic Association banned these individual cheaters from the races for life. I have not seen situations like this in many other countries - a timing system with checkpoints on cut-off places is of great help for preventing this.

Also the delivery of the timing Systems after the race back to the collection place is sometimes a challenge as you can see in the enclosed photo. I do believe the truckdriver wanted to be home early…

Nowadays everything is about fan engagement. How does MYLAPS' technology also help engaging fans in events?

Fan engagement is getting more and more important. MYLAPS started about 4 years ago with new ways to enhance the experience for fans and also for athletes.

During a number of major marathons, we have introduced EventApps with Live Tracking and Live Photos. During this year’s Boston Marathon, we had more than 246,000 users of this app, while the number of participants is “just” around 27,000. On the race day, the average session duration of the users was 30 minutes, 38 seconds. The app was opened 856,900 times and users watched 18 screens per session on average, resulting in a dazzling total of 15.4 million screen views.

During last year’s Boston Marathon, there were 14,487 app users following the US athlete Shalane Flanagan. Of course, when you compare this to the fans of Michael Jordan that is not a lot, but for the running industry, this is really a record-breaking number as there are not a lot of celebrities in running (try it yourself - ask a random person passing by who is Eliud Kipchoge. I bet that less than 1% of the people are able to tell you that he is the world record holder of the marathon).

Furthermore we try to make it easy to share people’s progress via online channels like Facebook, Twitter and Wechat.

The technology of MYLAPS is usually B2B-based, do you plan on making it more B2C, maybe enable the public to track their own timings and statistics when they are training?

Our technology for the timing itself is B2B. However, we are currently also creating products more focused on individual consumers in an event. A great example is our free-to-use EventApp. Consumers like friends and family of racers can download this app and follow the racers. The service is paid by the event organiser, but it fully focuses on the consumers.

We have something similar for the motorized sports; there we work with “personal transponders.” Each racer buys her or his own timing transponder and is then able to track their progress over the years via their own Mylaps account where their results are stored. Through the free Speedhive app racers can see their results and we have some cool sharing features there as well. We do offer this functionality as well on cycling tracks and ice skating rinks all over the world.

Hong Kong is building a world-class smart sports park now. Do you think the technology of MYLAPS can be introduced and utilised here?

Yes. We are aware of this and we do believe our technology can bring the sports park some additional benefits, especially when you are talking about training facilities and permanent timing systems, as we are also introduced in the Hong Kong Velodrome and on many other high-end sport facilities all over the world.

Know more about MYLAPS:


The Business Of Sport Network is hosting a networking event with a presentation on sport tech trends by Jonny Stark. Contact us to reserve your spot if you haven't.