AIA committed to Thai football

AIA committed to Thai football

By Matt Riley (follow Matt on twitter at @mattRiley16)

Matt Riley, who earlier this week spoke with Thai national team coach Winfried Schafer, has today sat down with Sahapol Polpathapee, Assistant Vice President - Football Sponsorships at AIA to discuss their involved in Thai football.

Sahapol Polpathapee, Assistant Vice President - Football Sponsorships at AIA

AFF: How long have AIA been in Thailand?

Sahapol Polpathapee: We have been here for seventy five years; in fact we have just celebrated seventy six years.

AFF: When did you first decide to get involved in Thai football?

Sahapol: Three years ago, but if you remember we are the subsidiary company of AIG who have been involved with Manchester United for the last seven or eight years so we are not new to football

AFF: What attracted you to Thai football as a way of connecting with Thai people?

Sahapol: Mainly because of our CEO, mister Ron van Oijen. He is a football lover from Holland but sponsoring football is not only about being a football fan. He also saw the marketing opportunity for football. When he was in Korea he lead the ING sponsorship to be one of the company’s strategies. They also sponsor the Suzuki Cup, which has been very successful.

AFF: Tell us about some of your football projects.

Sahapol: For the last three years we have sponsored twenty three teams around the country from all three leagues. Last year we sponsored thirty teams and also this year it is likely to be the same number.

AFF: Tell us about your involvement in the tournament at Chiang Rai this week.

Sahapol: Firstly, at Chiang Rai they want to have a football event to promote the area annually and get more people to attend each year. In the north last year they had two teams in the TPL, but now only one. So Chiang Rai feel they represent not only their province but the north of the country.

AFF: How do you plan to develop your brand through Thai football?

Sahapol: In the past when we conducted brand surveys, many people saw us like a Mercedes Benz or BMW. They look good but are expensive. So football was one of our strategies to get to fans in one place. We don’t only sponsor the team but we do lots of activities before the game, at half time and after the match.

AFF: As we are about to start a new Thai season, how do you think football here compares to the game in other ASEAN countries?

Sahapol: There are around one hundred and twenty teams in Thailand and they continue to get better compared to other countries. For example in Vietnam, the V League used to be very popular but now they have some problems. Also in Indonesia. So, in this region, Thailand looks to have a bright future.

AFF: As a sponsor, are there areas of the game and its management that concerns you?

Sahapol: As you see in many developed countries football is also the biggest sport and they get a lot of popularity around the world. But many people have success in their league, but not with their finance. This is one of the worries that our CEO is thinking about. Now, Thai teams are growing very fast so many teams just buy, buy, buy with no youth academy or development. They don’t have good foundations so we are thinking to help them develop knowledge and the basic foundation for football. We brought PSV Eindhoven here last month. But not only to bring to play with the Thai champions; we also organised a football clinic for the youth academy and the team management. We asked the PSV management board to tell the Thai clubs how to manage the team in every aspect on and off the pitch. We want to help Thailand to grow together.

AFF: Should we force everyone to have a centralised academy system?

Sahapol: Yes! That would be perfect if we can make it happen. Actually we are talking with other companies to develop a programme like this.

AFF: What measurable benefits for your business have you seen from your connection with Thai football?

Sahapol: We have increased our brand popularity. Our brand survey tells us that everyone knew about AIA. but, when we asked about brand preferences four or five years ago we can see that we are now getting better from that point and local brand popularity has increased. You can see in many cities, especially the smaller ones, when they have a football match they close their homes and come to the match. We sponsor Lamphoom and, when they play the city is empty. They are all at the stadium!

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