HSBC has a longstanding connection with the sport of rugby

Giles Morgan is Global Head of Sponsorship and Events at HSBC. He talks about the value of sports and cultural sponsorships to HSBC, how the bank decides what to support, and the responsibilities that come with being a high-profile sponsor.

How does HSBC choose what to sponsor?
Sponsorship is a way of promoting our brand, engaging our customers, inspiring our staff and connecting with the communities we serve.

Our strategy is to associate ourselves with partners who reflect our business priorities and help us make connections with customers. We have two flagship global sponsorship programmes – rugby and golf – as well as a number of investments in sport, art and culture at a national level.

Why the particular focus on rugby and golf?
We are hugely proud to be associated with rugby and golf. Both have a special resonance for HSBC. Just as we see our history as a strength, rugby and golf have a long heritage. Their best elements – fair play, sporting behaviour, and team spirit – reflect our own values of being open, dependable and connected.

Rugby and golf are also popular in markets that are crucial to the bank’s future. In rugby, the HSBC Sevens World Series is played in 10 cities around the world; eight of these cities are in HSBC priority markets. Golf is gaining profile in places such as China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. There is a match between the demographics of the people who watch and play both sports, our customers, and those we aim to attract.

Because we want our flagship events to leave a lasting legacy, we invest heavily in grassroots activity

What’s the balance between support for grassroots and elite events?
As a major sponsor, we have a duty to help the sports that we sponsor to grow and engage future generations. Because we want our flagship events to leave a lasting legacy, we invest heavily in grassroots activity. Over the past eight years, we have introduced hundreds of thousands of children to rugby with free coaching and taster sessions, while our grassroots golf initiatives have seen millions of young people take up golf in countries including China and the UK.

Supporting grassroots also reflects what sport really means to lots of people. It’s not just something they watch, it’s something they do – an everyday passion. We recently signed an eight-year deal to sponsor British Cycling. Millions of people in the UK get on their bike each year, so as well as backing the elite riders, we will be supporting mass-participation events for families and children.

You mentioned that you sponsor arts and culture, too. What kind of things do you support in these areas?
We get involved with a number of art and cultural events at a national level, ranging from associations with museums in Hong Kong to backing a major photography prize in France. We tend to focus on events and exhibitions that reflect our heritage and strategy. In London, for example, we sponsor the Cutty Sark, a museum housed in a 19th-century ship built to enable trade between Europe and Asia – much like HSBC was founded to support international trade.

How do you want to see golf and rugby develop in the future?
I am proud of the stance we took in relation to The Open, when host venues were voting on whether to allow women to become full members. The Open is a fantastic competition and one of the most important events in the golfing calendar. But we have also made very clear that we believe it is right to host it at clubs where everyone, men and women, can join as full members.

Similarly, when we renewed our rugby sevens sponsorship, it was important to us to create more opportunities for women to take part at grassroots and elite level.

It’s vital to make sport inclusive. Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, we think golf and rugby need to adapt to attract new fans and players by focusing on fast-growing markets, harnessing new technology, and experimenting with new formats. We want to challenge and work with governing bodies to help these fantastic sports thrive for years to come.

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