SINGAPORE - The initial bid came to life in 2011 and it was an ambitious plan to attach its name to a sports city.
It sparked off a public debate which culminated in questions being raised in Parliament.
In the end, local financial institution OCBC was rebuffed in its bid for the overall naming rights of the Singapore Sports Hub, with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) clarifying in February that such a sale was never on offer.
A silver lining emerged yesterday, though, when it was announced that OCBC Group had won the Republic's first sports venue sponsorship deal.
In a 15-year deal worth over $50 million, OCBC and its private banking subsidiary, Bank of Singapore, had obtained the naming rights to the Sports Hub's multi-purpose indoor arena, aquatic centre, the National Stadium Club Lounge at both the north and south wings of the centrepiece 55,000-seater National Stadium, as well as the VIP lounge at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
An in-principle agreement for a "significant partnership" has also been reached with OCBC's insurance subsidiary, Great Eastern Holdings.
In what is believed to be the largest sponsorship deal in local sports, OCBC has also become the Sports Hub's Premier Founding Partner.
The $1.33 billion Sports Hub is a Public- Private-Partnership project between the Singapore Government and Singapore SportsHub Pte Ltd.
According to Sports Hub chief executive Philippe Delavaud, OCBC pipped "four or five major Singapore corporations" to secure the exclusive naming rights deal.
While Delavaud revealed that the Hub's other venues remained open to other potential commercial partners - except for banks and insurance companies - naming rights to the National Stadium and the Singapore Indoor Stadium will not be sold to preserve their status as national icons.
Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, was present at yesterday's announcement at the Sports Hub Experience Centre, and he said: "We were mindful of preserving the public character of the Sports Hub project, but at the same time we knew that it is important to get corporate sponsorship for venues.
"We need that kind sponsorship to activate and catalyse the sports industry in Singapore as well - so we had to find the right balance."
OCBC believes the deal is one that seems to have achieved a delicate balance between corporate ambition and responsibility to the community.
"Our involvement with the Singapore Sports Hub is one of giving back to society... but it would be disingenuous of me to claim that Corporate Social Responsibility is the sole motivator," said OCBC Bank chairman, Cheong Choong Kong. "We cannot deny the immense commercial value of naming rights and the prominent presence of OCBC in the iconic Sports Hub."
The goal is for all Singaporeans to embrace the Sports Hub at Kallang and visit it as often as possible.
"We have to make our activities affordable, we have to make them free when we can," said Delavaud, who revealed that the facility is on track to open its doors in April next year.
When the curtain goes up at the 35-hectare facility, Delavaud revealed that it is "community-type events" that will be what Singaporeans first experience.
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