Thursday, September 24, 2009

AirAsia spreads its wings to American football

20 September 2009

AIRASIA is fast becoming synonymous with sports.

It has already penetrated the hugely popular English Premier League market, is a partner of the AT&T Williams Formula One racing team and is also the official low-cost airline for Manchester United.

Now, it has spread its wings to American football with its two-year sponsorship of the Oakland Raiders in the National Football League (NFL).

Eye-catching trio: Three cheerleaders posing in front of AirAsia’s Airbus A-340 at the Oakland International Airport on Sept 14.

American football may not be as famous or as popular as soccer in this part of the world but that has not stopped AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes from trying to promote the game here.

“It’s a very popular game in the US and we also want it to be one of the sports in Asia. We (AirAsia), with the help of Oakland Raiders, will make efforts to promote the game in Asia,” Tony told a press conference in Oakland last week.

His made those comments after AirAsia’s “Xcellence’’ – its Airbus A340 – touched down at the Oakland International Airport for the first time last Monday. On board the flight was a group of 10 journalists from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

Also present were newly-appointed Malaysian Ambassador Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, the city’s Mayor Ron Dellums, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and CEO Amy Trask, AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani and director Datuk Lim Kian Onn.

“This is a very proud moment for us.

“We are excited to associate ourselves with an iconic team like Oakland Raiders. This partnership will greatly enhance our efforts to boost our brand globally.

“We are already a well known brand in Asia. We are on our way to becoming a household name in Europe.

“And now, our relationship with the Raiders will allow us to establish our brand in the United States,” said Tony.

The no-frills airline’s foray into the NFL is also a way for AirAsia to get landing rights in the US.

AirAsia had, in March, secured landing rights in Stansted, England, for the European tourists.

“We are now in the process of negotiating with airports in the United States on the possibility of operating flights into America,” said Tony.

“American destinations are very much in our long-term plans as demonstrated by our recent order of 10 Airbus A350 aircraft.

These planes will be delivered beginning 2016.

“However, we are exploring ways of commencing flights to the US by the end of next year.”

Tony also said that it would cost an American tourist just US$350 to fly from Oakland to Malaysia.

Once it takes off, Tony expects the NFL and Oakland Raiders’ fan-base to expand in Asia.

Speaking of the Raiders, the 10 journalists, including yours truly, were treated to the season-opening NFL match between Oakland Raiders and San Diego Charges at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Stadium on Sept 14.

Unfortunately, the Raiders lost 20-24. Raiders owner Davis was enthusiastic about AirAsia’s sponsorship, saying: “Not only is Xcellence the name of the plane but it is the driving force behind both our organisations to promote the game.”

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