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Taiwan silent partner at world's major sports events (series 2/3)

2018/07/10 18:59:10

CNA file photo

By Lee Hsin-Yin, CNA staff reporter

Although Taiwan does not have a team playing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the country continues to play an important behind-the-scenes role in Moscow and at other major sporting events around the world.

Thanks to a wide ranging marketing campaign targeting sports events, Taiwan has become a major exporter of high quality products - from sports gear to merchandise or services - according to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA).

"We have focused more intensively on sports marketing in recent years because it is more business-to-customer (B2C) oriented and can better boost Taiwan's image," TAITRA President and CEO Walter Yeh (葉明水) told CNA.

Unlike traditional TAITRA campaigns, which focus more on trade fairs and matchmaking events, sports marketing reaches potential buyers directly, he said.

Yeh said Taiwan is very strong on the production side, and although Taiwanese brands are not directly on show at the World Cup, because they are upstream suppliers to big brands, made-in-Taiwan products are everywhere on the football field.

A good example would be the "smart garments" made by Far Eastern New Century (FENC) textile company, which tracks athletes' body condition to optimize training and performance, he said.

A World Cup licensee

There is also a Taiwanese presence outside the arena, as Wagon International Co., one of World Cup's licensees, produces gifts and novelty items such as pins and 3D mini trophies.

With a wide range of product lines, TAITRA relies on effective marketing strategies to promote the "Taiwan brand" to the world through sporting events, said Raymond Chen (陳英顯), head of the council's Strategic Marketing Department.

In addition to helping Taiwanese companies have their products used during games, there are promotional strategies to make Taiwanese products more visible, including event sponsorship, Chen said.

For instance, TAITRA has helped the "Taiwan Excellence Award," a selection of innovative and added-value made-in-Taiwan products, to co-sponsor the Berlin Marathon for the past four years.

It cost hundreds of thousands of euros to sponsor the event, but it means merchandise that has received the award can be showcased at the event's pavilions, Chen said.

At the 40-kilometer mark in the marathon, there is also an arch decorated with the Taiwan Excellence logo that every runner sees, he said.

However, such sponsorship exposure is not an effective approach for big events like the World Cup or the Olympics, which would cost "hundreds of millions of New Taiwan dollars," Chen said.

More indirect campaigns have been adopted for such major international events, Chen said, adding that a short animation film featuring Taiwan Excellence products is being broadcast on German TV channel Sport 1 during the World Cup, and has so far been seen by 65 million viewers.

During the World Cup the magazines GameStar, GamePro, Giga and PCWelt in Germany and have offered lucky draws with prizes that include laptops and Taiwan-Germany air tickets, attracting tens of thousands of participants, Chen said.

Countries like Germany, the United States and Japan are target markets for Taiwan to promote high value-added products, Yeh said, adding that TAITRA is also focused on the markets of Southeast Asian countries, in line with the government's New Southbound Policy, to elevate Taiwan's presence in the region.

There are other approaches, such as agreements on government procurement (GPA), he said, through which Taiwan sells goods or services to foreign governments to support sports events.

Next focus: Tokyo Olympics

For example, TAITRA is looking at business opportunities at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, Chen said, explaining that a delegation visited Japan as far back as 2015 to match Taiwanese businesses with Japanese importers.

A total of 18 Taiwanese companies took part in that trip, including machinery company Nan Shiuh Enterprise and Tai-i Electric Wire & Cable, and have generated orders worth US$46.04 million as of July 6, Chen said.

For instance, Nan Shiuh won a bid for stainless steel trash cans, to replace those on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka, he said.

Chen said TAITRA continues to seek Olympics business opportunities related to information technology for Taiwanese companies, such as LED displays, security surveillance systems and uninterruptible power system providers.

Yeh said Shuttle Inc., which produces facial recognition systems, a technology capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a frame from a video source, could also be used at the Tokyo Olympics.

The company is looking to have its system installed at train stations across Japan to enhance safety for the event.

"We need to be very specific about what we are good at and introduce only the most competitive companies," Chen said, adding that another business delegation will visit Japan in October.

Chen said Taiwan also has an advantage over rivals in services like public bike rentals and real-time bus arrival systems, which TAITRA is seeking to introduce to the Olympics in Japan.

Strong in Halal business

Another sector in which Taiwan is relatively strong is Halal businesses, Chen said.

According to the Halal Japan Business Association, business opportunities for Halal-certified food could reach 150 billion Japanese yen (US$1.3 billion) during the Olympics since a surge of Muslim tourists is expected.

Chen said local food manufacturers, including those making porridge and fried chicken, have shown an interest in finding business-to-business partners in Japan.

Promoting products made in Taiwan not only makes money but also helps improve the country's image, Yeh said.

"When it comes to Taiwan, most Japanese perhaps think of night markets and foot massages, but that is not enough, and we need to make the world more aware of our economic strength," he said.