Telum caught up with Franky Wong as he shares his experiences through COVID-19 and the firm’s expansion as a sports comms professional and sports lover.
2020 was a year like no other. How did Yello weather the storm last year as a sports marketing agency?
With the unpredicted impact and duration of COVID-19, basically all sports events and competitions in the city were postponed or cancelled and these were the major business for Yello. Around the end of 2020 Q1, we foresaw that the situation wouldn't be as easy as during SARS and that's why we undertook a few mitigation measures. These included unpaid leave and the shift of business focus to PR and Digital Marketing.
What are your expectations for sports comms in 2021 and how are your team preparing for the upcoming challenges?
The haze of COVID-19 will still be around in 2021 and I don't think there could be a high number of sporting events in the market - even if there is, the number of audiences will be cut for social distancing. I believe there will be a heavy shift to online communication and online viewing. I am lucky that I come from an IT background, so my team and myself have geared up substantially with digital marketing skills through projects completed in the last few years. I hope that this will help Yello tackle the upcoming challenges.
Yello expanded its business into Singapore and Shanghai in 2015 - what are some of the differences you’ve noticed between the three markets?
Singaporeans have a very active lifestyle and the public sector is very supportive and motivated to promote sports in the community. For Shanghai, with the tremendous support from the public and private sectors, aided by the huge population and vibrant lifestyles, the sports market is growing strong and rapidly. For Hong Kong, the increasing awareness of well-being and healthy lifestyle in the community has prompted demand for sports over the years. The drive is rather bottom-up than top-down.
How has your experience as a veteran sports coach helped with your work in sports marketing?
As a sports coach myself, I’m used to keeping communications simple but precise, keeping the players motivated and interested in the sport. This helps me a lot when we roll out any events or PR campaigns, in which creating the best audience experience and customer journey is always our priority. Making the message simple and engaging is the same skill set necessary in a good coach and in a good marketer.
When compared to other sectors in PR, what are some of the unique challenges or opportunities that only sports marketers encounter?
Sports is fascinating because you can never predict the outcome. Effort will likely pay off, but how about talent and luck? Teamwork is always important, how about good tactics from the coach? As a sports PR, you always prepare for unexpected outcomes (who wins, who loses or a draw) and happenings (weather changes, referee issues, anti-doping, etc). The experience as a sports PR can be as fascinating (and adrenaline-rushing!) as that of a sports player or spectator (I actually wrote about this in my blog
Do you have a favourite sporting anecdote throughout your career?
After the final of the Hong Kong Snooker Masters in 2017, we held a post-event celebration party with the players and the crew. I had the chance to play a few rounds of billiards with Neil Robertson, the champion of the tournament (he was ranked world No. 3 by that time) and it was fun. At the end of the game, Neil laughed "you really suck!" and I took his comment more than happily. I knew I was not at the pro level, yet.