Carlsberg and football a perfect fit

SINGAPORE - For John Botia, football takes up a big part of his life.

Born in London, he lived a mere 10 minutes from Stamford Bridge.

Supporting Chelsea, therefore, "was a very natural thing".

Said the 46-year-old managing director of Carlsberg Singapore: "Football is very tribal in the sense that it's about association with the community.

"Chelsea were such a big part of people's lives in that part of London where we live.

"My brother is also a huge Chelsea fan."

It is why Botia considers it a bonus that his employers are huge on sports, and especially football.

Carlsberg has wide-ranging partnerships in the football fraternity, including with clubs such as Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur (England), FC Copenhagen (Denmark), Hamburg (Germany) and FC Porto (Portugal) and with national teams such as England, Ireland and Serbia.

It is also one of the longest-standing sponsors of the European Football Championship, starting from 1988.

On Wednesday, Carlsberg Singapore announced that it had inked a three-year deal with the English Premier League to become its official beer.

A hit partnership

Just like himself and the Blues, he feels that the partnership between the Danish brewing giant and the Premiership will be a hit.

"The Premiership shares a lot of the values that Carlsberg believe in," said Botia, who declined to reveal how much the sponsorship is worth.

"They are both very international, cosmopolitan brands.

"That means when we communicate, when we activate the sponsorship, we do so in a very natural way.

"We are a very good fit in terms of what Carlsberg and the Premiership represent, for consumers. This is a company which knows football.

"We know the passion it generates, the excitement and we know beer and football go together very well."

While Carlsberg's involvement in sports is not limited to football alone, it is in the Beautiful Game that it has invested most of its efforts and resources.

The appeal and reach of the game make it an almost inevitable choice.

"You sit in a coffee shop or a bar. As you watch the football, you feel the range of emotions that takes place around you," said Botia, a former season-ticket holder who used to watch ex-Chelsea players Ray Wilkins and Kerry Dixon strut their stuff at Stamford Bridge.

"It's very rare that you get that from any other sport. You won't get it from golf, Formula One or tennis.

"Football is unique in the sense that it appeals to a wide range of people in so many countries.

"Singapore certainly has a huge football following."

That audience now includes Botia, who has been based in Singapore since June.

With Jose Mourinho back at the helm at Chelsea, he believes the Blues are serious Premiership contenders once more.

The instability at rival clubs also gives the Blues a slight edge, he added.

He said: "There's a lot of excitement, with Mourinho back as manager. 99.9 per cent of Chelsea supporters have a high level of expectation.

"If you look at the other clubs competing for the title, they are all going through changes.

"(David) Moyes is the new manager at Man United, and (Manuel) Pellegrini just started at City.

"Arsenal will be competitive but they have yet to land the two or three big signings they need to really challenge for the title, while Spurs are struggling to hold on to Gareth Bale.

"Chelsea have a very strong chance, but it's not going to be easy.

"Man City, in particular, will be a very strong, competitive club."

You can almost imagine Botia fervently cheering the Blues on from his living room couch for the next nine months.

With an ice-cold Carlsberg beer in hand, of course.

Get The New Paper for more stories.