By Nisha Ramchandani
SINGAPORE - It is crunch time for the Singapore Grand Prix as SingTel is mulling over whether to remain in the driver's seat as title sponsor beyond 2012.
"We have not yet made a decision as to whether we will continue our sponsorship. A decision will be made after this year's F1 event," said a spokesperson for SingTel in response to queries from BT.
Negotiations for a five-year extension to Singapore's Formula One (F1) contract are currently said to be at a stalemate.
SingTel has been the title sponsor for all five races thus far (including the 2012 Grand Prix), after announcing in 2011 it had renewed its partnership with F1 for a further two years till 2012.
BT understands from a source that one of the factors that will influence the telco's decision to remain title sponsor is whether the race is extended beyond two years. While the figure has not been officially disclosed, title sponsorship is said to cost between $10 million and $15 million per year.
Though the jury is still out on whether Singapore will remain a venue for the race for a further five years, the existing contract will require the nation to serve out a two-year notice period if it chooses not to, which suggests a title sponsor will be required till at least 2014.
Noting that sponsorship of the race has strengthened SingTel's brand awareness on a global level, the spokesperson pointed to other benefits that have come from signing on as title sponsor - a networking platform to entertain business partners and an opportunity to showcase its network capabilities and support infrastructure, since the telco is tasked with providing phone and Internet access around the circuit park.
One of the objectives from 2010 was to bring the race into the heartlands through a series of roadshows and events. "We have found that brand awareness has increased overall and that our key activities have resonated well with Singaporeans and directly created a shift from those who initially said they disliked the race to becoming neutral or even positive towards it," the SingTel spokesperson added.
"SingTel has been instrumental in ensuring the success of Singapore Grand Prix and we look forward to continuing this collaboration in the future," said a spokesperson for race promoter Singapore GP (SGP).
According to Andrew Georgiou, chief operating officer of World Sport Group, the success of sports sponsorship needs to be measured against the objectives that a company set from the get go - be it raising awareness, building market share, retaining existing customers, customer engagement or corporate entertainment.
"Continuity and reinforcement (of sponsorship) is as important as making the decision (to become a sponsor)," he told BT, adding that a title sponsor should look at whether the objectives are still being driven when deciding whether to remain a sponsor.