Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jet wears Raiders branding

14 September 2009

OAKLAND — Between the hash marks, the Oakland Raiders have their work cut out.

As a brand name, they're already king.

On Monday, this was exemplified when AirAsia touched down at Oakland International Airport on a plane named Xcellence, complete with Raider colors. Trying to match the teams motto "Commitment to Excellence," the Airbus A340 was branded almost entirely in silver and black. On one side were three Raiderettes, and on the others three unidentifiable players. The Raider Shield was on the tail.

"Internationally everybody knows about the Raiders, and we have a huge global presence" said Raider executive Mark Davis, son of owner Al Davis. "So to do this made a lot of sense."

This was the first time Air-Asia, the sixth largest carrier out of Asia, has been into U.S. territory. However, for fans who can't wait to fly on this plane and express team loyalty, there's a hitch. It could be years before AirAsia is in the United States again.

This was a special flight filled with AirAsia executives and flight attendants to announce the partnership.

For actual passengers, this single plane out of its 80-plane fleet will have to be boarded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. But by 2016 that could change.

"Undoubtedly when we picked the Raiders as the team we would feature, we obviously had Oakland on our mind," said Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia Group. "Because this airport has lots of low-cost carriers, in our mind it's a logical step to come here."

Oakland airport officials say they'd welcome AirAsia as quickly as possible.

"We can absolutely support this whenever they are interested in serving this market," said Rosemary Barnes, airport spokeswoman. "Hopefully this is the start of building a good relationship."

AirAsia X is the long-haul carrier affiliate of AirAsia.

The business strategy for AirAsia is to brand themselves in a market before it enters. For example, before it entered the market in England, it branded another plane similarly with the popular soccer team Manchester United.

"It's a very left-of-center thing to sponsor an NFL team, but this will help us establish our brand in the United States quickly once we decide to come here," Fernandes said.

One reason the Raiders were picked is that it's one of the only NFL teams that translates its site into numerous Asian languages, including Chinese, Japanese and Tagalog.

The sponsorship deal was pulled together quickly, as the sides first sat down on the idea after the Super Bowl.

"Who knows how this business relationship will work, but they're a forward-thinking company which we like," Davis said "We want to see where this goes."

Fernandes said he would love to one day see the Raiders play an exhibition game in Malaysia.

"Already the Raider brand is well known in Malaysia," Fernandes said. "But there's nothing that would be better than being able to see the live product."

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