We are still cautious from a regional perspective, but from the MEC perspective, both regionally and globally, we firmly believe in our proposition and our core positioning in the market place. It has not been a good 12-15 months, but I think we have come out of it stronger, we have got a good senior management in place across Asia and consistency is what people are looking for, so we are feeling positive about the whole thing.
Mike Jackson, Managing Director - Asia Pacific, MEC Access, is responsible for integrating MEC Access services (the creation and delivery of strategic partnerships and sponsorships across nine different platforms: arts, brand-to-brand, broadcast, cause, celebrity, film, gaming, music and sport) into regional and local clients’ communications plans.
Jackson joined MEC from the UK after four years as Managing Partner with Performance, MindShare’s specialist content and sponsorship division. While at Performance, he ran BP’s global sponsorship account and was responsible for Castrol’s entry into UEFA Euro 2008.
In conversation with exchange4media’s Robin Thomas, Jackson speaks at length about MEC’s plans for India and leveraging sports as a category for growth.
Q. Between the sports and entertainment categories, which, according to you, is the fastest growing category for MEC Access?
Outside of India, the entertainment side is probably the fastest growing area, but it also depends on market by market. Cricket in India is not just an institution but a religion and, therefore, brands desire to be involved in cricket. However, I think there will be growth in other sports and we see that with the Commonwealth Games coming. We also see some very interesting trends in football, which we will see making inroads in the grassroots as India is a market that is under-exploited in terms of football. Interestingly, if you take a look at different parts of the world, for instance, in North Asia, while football has great positioning, you also have sports like basketball, baseball in Japan, basketball in Philippines is huge, boxing in Thailand is significant, and Australia loves rugby and cricket, and so on. So, you have got a diverse sports range, but I think entertainment and programming is still significant in Asia. So, sports certainly has higher profile in India, wherein I think we are doing perhaps slightly more tie-ups in the TV formats in other markets, plus music is another growth area.
Q. Speaking of sports, what are the lessons you think that the Indian Premier League (IPL) can learn from the English Premier League (EPL) or even the Superbowl?
The business models are different. In fact, the way IPL has come from scratch since the last three years is a greater phenomenon. EPL is a very interesting concept, it has been incredibly successful and a global financial phenomenon. The opportunity for IPL is that it has got a huge domestic audience, it obviously has been successful and we have seen ratings rising year on year. What we are seeing is higher level of viewing from India, great level of involvement, fantastic cricket, different teams, different players performing and the kind of investments made in the two new IPL teams is fantastic. So, what is going to be interesting is how this tournament will grow more at the international level. We know that domestically IPL is hugely popular and is here to stay. However, the further growth I believe will come internationally. The learning perhaps might be able to come from perhaps how you start marketing the IPL brand internationally and bring the international audience to IPL.
This is what EPL has done very well because they have created that level of engagement, for instance, if you go to South East Asia, they are not interested in SE Asian football, but they are interested in the EPL. The challenge that IPL has got is that cricket is cricket and football is football, because cricket has only got a passionate following in six or seven key test countries – of course India, England, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and so on... but, despite this cricket may still not have that global appeal.
Q. What is your vision for the company for the next three years?
We are going out there winning great businesses locally and attracting the right talent for the agency, we are creating compelling integrated communications and trying to drive the debate in the communication space. MEC has got a unique culture and personality, and we are seeing clients understanding more about the active engagement proposition. We need to actively engage our consumers and clients and our staff. The business position is not going to change, but there will be a greater focus on digital and content space because that’s where we believe that brands need to be and that’s where we believe that the agency needs to go, driven by insights as well. So, yes, we need to be driving digital and content conversation, but we constantly need to be aware of what our foundations are. Besides this, also making sure that we are getting the right talent and even retain the right talent that we have already got.
Last year was a tough year from a global perspective. I think we are seeing greater confidence in the market place but we need to see how that transfers back into budget. I think India is probably a slightly different market because obviously there is still huge GDP growth that we are seeing, in some other markets, on the other hand, the recovery is still slow. We are still cautious from a regional perspective, but from the MEC perspective, both regionally and globally, we firmly believe in our proposition and our core positioning in the market place. We have got good talent, we’ve got new planning process, we have got good integrated communications and, therefore, we are quite excited about the future. It has not been a good 12-15 months, but I think we have come out of it stronger, we have got a good senior management in place across Asia and consistency is what people are looking for, so we are feeling positive about the whole thing.