BY MARISSA LEE
REPUTATION is everything in the events planning business.
And for newcomer Exceed Sports & Entertainment, Singapore’s open market is the best place to build that reputation, away from other more opaque regional centres.”All the other South-east Asian markets are a lot more about who you know, not what you know. It can be
bureaucratic, and networks become important,” says Exceed’s executive director, Mr Ben Pember. “But Singapore as a market is very open, and it’s very easy to meet the decision-makers in different firms.”
For this reason, the 31-year-old Australian says he had no trouble at all setting up Exceed’s office last year.
Besides, the Republic’s bustling business hub is a strategic place to be for Exceed, which promotes fun runs
and depends heavily on company sponsorships to survive. “In this industry, the challenge is always sponsorship. It’s one of the first things companies tend to cut when
times are tough,” says Mr Pember.
To manage that risk, Exceed has to show clients that its events add value to the firm, and simply make its
presence felt. “Singapore is a regional hub for a great deal of our clients and partners so it’s a must for Exceed to have a
presence here,” explains Mr Pember. Exceed Sports & Entertainment is a two-year-old company started in Hong Kong by Mr Pember’s British
friend and former colleague, Mr Martin Capstick. Mr Pember joined as a partner last year, and has been swept up in sponsor-searching and other preparations for Exceed’s maiden event here.
A hit with crowds from Jakarta to Yangon, the Music Run will come to Sentosa in April. It is a 5km fun run powered all the way by runner-selected tunes from digital music service Spotify. “People in Singapore quite rightly have high expectations and the team is working hard to deliver an amazing event,” says Mr Pember. Ticket sales have been strong and he is confident the run will be a sell-out, hitting its target of 10,000 participants. Ahead of that, Exceed has already confirmed with the Music Run’s rights holders that the event will be held here for the next three years – till 2018.
This is a vote of confidence in how developed the Singapore events planning market is, says Mr Pember.”Putting on events here is a lot easier because Singapore holds many big events so the industry – suppliers, contractors – is well- versed in running these events.”
Sponsors too are always interested in new ideas, which is good news for a fledgling firm. Though Mr Pember can no longer find time to take part in marathons and triathlons, he eyes a major growth opportunity in what he calls “innovative mass-participation events”.
In other words, the lucrative business of fun runs. In Singapore, in particular, the national obsession with healthy living makes for a healthy market. “People are increasingly drawn to living a healthy lifestyle, but they want to have a good time doing it,” says
Mr Pember, who got his start in sports marketing here in 2005, working for global agency IMG, managing golf tournaments in the Asia-Pacific. Nine years on, he is a permanent resident with a Singaporean wife. They have a two-year-old daughter. For now, Exceed is mainly a promoter of the Music Run and has been rolling out the concept in Asia, country by country. This year, 10 Music Runs have been planned. New markets include mainland China and Taiwan.
Exceed operates as a travelling team of 11, going where their next event is. On an as-needed basis, freelancers and volunteers assist in event execution. The firm intends to diversify its menu of events to include concert promotion and football, as well as more
fun runs. Mr Pember is in discussions with rights holders of successful fun runs in the United States and Europe to bring their events to Asia. Mr Pember says: “Asia is an incredibly diverse region and the range of business opportunities in individual
markets is incredible.”