‘Strategic, whole-of-government approach needed to boost sports industry, Visit Malaysia Year’

There were two world-class sporting events in Malaysia last week – the Maybank Championship’s LPGA golf in Kuala Lumpur, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Asia-Oceania Flag Football Continental Championships in Shah Alam, Selangor.

There was also the inaugural Malaysian Teqball League, which doubled up as a selection for the World Championships in Thailand at the end of November.

These sporting events happened independently of each other, with no cross-promotion or side attractions to attract non-sporting crowds to Malaysia.

And that, according to sports consultant Nur Jasni Mohamed, was a wasted opportunity.

Nur Jasni said sponsors need to relook how they ‘activate’ their sponsorships, as that can be a factor in attracting a crowd to the venues.

He also cited last year’s Petronas Malaysian Open as an example of how sponsors can do their bit in appealing to non-sports fans.

He said Petronas’ strategic partnership with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) during the Malaysia Open demonstrates the importance of leveraging sponsorship to maximise Return On Objectives (ROO) and engage fans. This partnership generated at least RM20 million in transactions, demonstrating the symbiotic relationship among key stakeholders in the sports industry.

Nur Jasni also said one of the ways to spur the sports industry was to hold other activities before, after, or during competitions.

The same, he said, could be applied to Visit Malaysia Year in 2026.

“For the sporting industry to be successful, it should not just be about hosting tournaments. We must get more people to visit the country while the tournaments are going on,” said the founder and group managing director of sports consultancy outfit, Sportswork Group Sdn Bhd.

“It would require a strategic, whole-of-government approach – meaning the Youth and Sports Ministry, Tourism, Arts, and Culture Ministry, Investment, Trade and Industry Ministry, and others, must work together to promote the events.

“Even the Agriculture (and Food Security) Ministry organises a huge event – MAHA (Malaysia Agriculture, Horticulture and Agrotourism Show). It seems every ministry has events, but they work in silos.”

As an example, Nur Jasni suggested having the Malaysia Mega Sale alongside the LPGA event to boost tourism, or for Genting Highlands to have promotions for its theme parks and hotels.

“Not everyone in a family may be a sports fan. If it is only the parents, by having other promotions or sales, they could bring other family members along for a holiday, as there would be something for everybody,” he said.

“The Malaysia Mega Sale could even be held after the tournaments, so that the families will spend more time in Malaysia. It will benefit foreign and local tourists.

“Last week was a wasted opportunity as golf, flag football, and teqball were happening within driving distance of one another. There should have been some cross-branding to appeal to a bigger crowd.

“If you look at the Singapore Formula One race, alongside the three days of action, there are concerts and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) activities going on simultaneously.”

Nur Jasni also suggested that local organisers learn from the 2012 Olympics, when marketing their events.

He said a study after the London Games found that 30 per cent of those who purchased tickets were part of the ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out – crowd.

“The FOMO crowd are people who are not sports fans but did not want to miss out on the experience of being at the Olympics,” he said.

“The organisers shared their findings with the other sporting agencies. They found a similar trend for other events like the Track Cycling World Cup, the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby League and Rugby Union World Cups.

“They started marketing their competitions as ‘events not to be missed’, and so on.”

He said Malaysia should adopt the same approach for future sporting events, and for Visit Malaysia Year (VMY), which returns in 2026.

When presenting the 2024 Budget, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government aimed to bring in 26.1 million foreign visitors in 2026, with RM97.6 million in domestic spending.

The government has allotted RM350 million to increase tourism advertising and activities.

Nur Jasni said Malaysia must tap into the ‘FOMO’ mentality to make the country a sought-after destination.

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