UPDATE 1-Motor racing-Singapore Airlines spreads wings into F1

Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:11am BST

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* Singapore Airlines takes F1 route to boost brand

* F1 chief Ecclestone welcomes the carrier

SINGAPORE, April 15 (Reuters) - Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIA) has been unveiled as the new title sponsor of the city-state's Formula One race in September as the carrier bids to promote its brand to motor racing's global television audience.

The Sept. 19-21 race will see the carrier's brand prominently displayed around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, although financial terms of the deal announced in a statement on Tuesday were not disclosed.

"We are thrilled to be taking up the title sponsorship of one of the most exciting races on the F1 calendar, and we are especially pleased to be doing so in the lead-up to Singapore's 50th birthday next year," Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said.

"Singapore Airlines has always supported the development of both sports and tourism. Through our involvement with the world's first F1 night race we will be able to enhance both for the benefit of Singaporeans and visitors alike," he added.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone welcomed the carrier's association with the "extremely popular" race, saying it "demonstrates Singapore's forward thinking, an attribute Singapore Airlines has always achieved".

The airline's sponsorship - succeeding local telecoms company Singapore Telecommunications Ltd - comes as premium carriers such as SIA seek ways to boost their brand while customers increasingly opt for budget airlines.

SIA faces stiff competition on its medium and long-haul routes from both Gulf carriers and Asian regional airlines.

'PERFECT MOVE'

Last year, Emirates Airline, Dubai's flag carrier, clinched a five-year sponsorship deal with the Formula One racing organisation as it bids to outdo regional rivals.

Sponsorship consultant Ben Heyhoe Flint called it a perfect move for Singapore's premium carrier.

"For me, Singapore Airlines is a very traditional brand, they have done nothing of this stature before. They've done the horse-racing festival in Singapore but this is leagues ahead of that," Flint, chief executive of the Asia Sponsorship News, told Reuters by telephone.

"It would reinforce its status as a premium carrier because the brand value of Formula One is premium. For me, Singapore Airlines really needed something like this."

The carrier would have to find innovative and create ways to leverage maximum mileage out of the sponsorship deal, he said.

"What's more interesting about it is how they are going to activate, how they are going to use it.

"Motorsports it not a big thing here but SingTel made the effort and I hope Singapore Airlines continue to do that for the grand prix," Flint added.

The Singapore Grand Prix was first held at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in 2008 and has been won for the last three years by Red Bull's quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel. (Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Additional reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and John O'Brien)

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