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28 Jun 2013

Helping the Lions roar

Giles Morgan

by Giles Morgan

Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, HSBC

HSBC Lions rugby

HSBC’s sponsorship of rugby dates back to 1980

The British & Irish Lions Tour is now one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar and this is the second consecutive tour that HSBC has been the principal partner and shirt sponsor. A Lions rugby tour is no ordinary sporting event. Fierce country and club rivalries are put to one side as players and fans come together under one badge. The tour encapsulates teamwork, tradition, and integrity, something that sits well with our business values at HSBC.

The strong relations which are developed with other countries during a Lions tour in many ways resonate with HSBC’s strategy to be the world’s leading international bank. Since opening for business in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865, HSBC has been supporting international trade and helping customers build overseas connections. Many of the Lions events are in the regions where the bank is strong – Asia and the Middle East.

Fierce country and club rivalries are put to one side as players and fans come together under one badge

As a bank, our sponsorship of rugby dates back to 1980 with the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, so we have a long and trusted association with the game.

We chose ‘The Legendary Journey’ theme for our 2013 Lions advertising campaign. The Lions is a major business investment for us, but it doesn’t mean we have to be too serious in how we approach it. We wanted the advert to be fun and relevant for people who love sport, and particularly the Lions.

Rugby fans will understand the references to the ship’s surgeon being former British Lion and real-life surgeon JPR Williams and the coded ‘99 call’ from 1974 Lions captain Willie John McBride. This heritage is what makes the Lions special and we wanted to celebrate that, especially in their 125th year.

Our sponsorship helps to give the sport greater exposure. TV rights and sponsorship support are the lifeblood of professional rugby. The funding enables elite sportsmen to train and prepare to the highest standard, although we recognise that for sportsmen promotional work can sometimes become a drain on their time.

Despite the obvious marketing potential, we don’t want to just focus on high-profile events. We have a duty of care to the communities we serve to develop rugby at grassroots level. We have sponsored coaching clinics in the Emirates and in the poor areas of South Africa and also worked with disadvantaged children in the UK teaching them to play rugby. In 2013, current and former Lions players (working as HSBC Rugby Ambassadors) are visiting Australian schools and local rugby clubs, helping youngsters to develop their skills and passion for the game.

The role of our ambassadors and guest speakers is central to the success of promoting the Lions tour and the game of rugby. They are able to articulate what it is like in the dressing room before kick-off and describe with passion what a capacity crowd sounds like with the scores level and four minutes left. They help us to enhance the experience for fans whether in the stadium Down Under or thousands of miles away at HSBC big-screen events back home.

Sport brings together international communities in much the same way as banking brings together businesses around the world and we enjoy being part of that.