ASTRO makes a small but significant branding blunder

Rugby is an increasingly popular sport just about everywhere. According to a recent Mastercard report, the overall global growth in the sport is estimated at 15% per year.

The main rugby event is the rugby world cup which is held every four years. The first rugby world cup was held in 1987 and attracted a global TV audience of 300 million. Twenty years later, the 2007 Rugby world cup attracted a global audience of 4.2 BILLION TV viewers, and the Rugby world cup is now the most watched sport after the Football world cup and the Olympics.

The six nations rugby tournament is the second most important international rugby tournament after the rugby world cup. It is held annually between England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, France and Wales and was watched by over 69 million TV viewers in Europe in 2011.

The six nations, only a few games live on TV in Malaysia

According to Wikipedia, in Malaysia there are sixteen rugby unions, associations and councils affiliated to the Malaysian Rugby Union and more than 300 clubs and 600 schools and universities nationwide that teach the game.

There are 41,050 registered rugby players in Malaysia (I don’t know who they are registered with), and the country is currently ranked 57th in the world.

There are also countless other rugby players and fans who are not registered but have an interest in the game, such as expatriates from rugby playing countries.

When the commonwealth games were held in Malaysia in 1998, it was estimated that over 50,000 people watched the Rugby Sevens part of the tournament live and 20,000 were at the ground to watch the final, won by New Zealand.

It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say there are probably 250,000 to 500,000 people connected to or involved in some way with rugby in Malaysia.

So it has caused somewhat of a storm within the rugby fraternity in Malaysia to discover that ASTRO, the only satellite TV provider in the country has decided to show only a small percentage of this top class global event live on TV.

One corporate subscriber that spends almost RM100,000 per annum subscribing to Astro was stunned to learn of Astro’s poorly thought out decision not to show the games live and said, “I am shock (sic) to learn of this decision. I don’t get it, why would you not show this popular competition live? We know Astro can do it so why don’t they?”

Another domestic subscriber summed the situation up thus, “I’m sick and tired of the crap they show on Astro and then when something I really want to watch isn’t on live, it really makes me angry and I wish I could change provider.”

An audience of 500,000 is relatively small (although it does equate to about 25% of total Astro subscribers) but this is a lucrative segment with influence and with related content, advertisers would have a captive audience. Such an event should be on the radar of destinations, financial institutions, hotels, automotive companies, schools and universities, real estate agents and more.

One potential local advertiser would be Mastercard which supports rugby on a global scale. Credit cards are sold in many ways in Malaysia, including a sort of hijacking of prospects at petrol stations.

Personally, I would be more likely to be influenced by a Mastercard advertisement linked to rugby than I am by the current tactics.

Astro spends a lot of money acquiring customers but spends little on retaining customers. It may be that because Astro is a monopoly, it doesn’t think it has to listen to its subscribers and it may have a point.

But with a new provider due to launch in 2Q2012, the growing penetration of IPTV providers such as Telekom Malaysia and the growing trend for downloading programmes from the Internet, now may not be the best time to alienate a small but wealthy segment.

What do you guys think?


4 thoughts on “ASTRO makes a small but significant branding blunder

  1. We will see if the new provider willing to invest not only money but bandwidth as well for live shows.

    It’s all business, if they want to cater to this ‘small’ish group, they will need the ROI to be better than some of the things that they have now like football, tennis, or even the NBA.

    You have some good points but your whole write up sounds more like a bummed Rugby fan not getting enough attention.

    If it makes you feel better, your write up is interesting enough for me to read all the way to the end. 🙂


    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to read to the end!

      The primary issue that I’m raising is that too many firms are trying to reach everyone with the same message and hope that it sticks with some of them. They don’t bother going after segments or at best stick to traditional segments like 18 – 34 year olds, Chinese, Malay or Indian etc.

      Rugby players, ex-players and fans in Malaysia maybe a smallish group but they are generally better educated, more affluent and many are foreign. These segments have higher disposable income than larger segments but Astro doesn’t look past the numbers (nor for that matter do advertisers) and more people will watch the premier league than watch rugby but volume is vanity, value is sanity.

      I bet Astro doesn’t have a strategy to sell airtime during rugby matches (they can’t have because until people like me started hassling them, I don’t think they were even going to show the six nations). With the right brand strategy they could make money out of events like the six nations and other global rugby tournaments that are watched by a wealthy segment.

      What was even more incredible/amatuerish/irritating was that the start of the live international rugby match with a global following was delayed by the prize giving at a table tennis tournament in Qatar so when the live telecast began, the game was already 20 minutes old!

      As a rugby fan I’m certainly annoyed at not seeing global matches live because of poor planning but I don’t get the attention dig.

      But as a brand consultant, what really annoys me is that I can’t get business from Astro even though we provide the kind of solutions they need. Their data collection is poor, their attempts to upsell or increase share of wallet are incompetent and their website is a nightmare to navigate and full of dead links. As an example, go to this link and try to subscribe to the six nations!

      If you are in Malaysia you will know they have little regard for their consumers and how bad the service is. Traditionally Malaysians and those living here have accepted a level of mediocrity with most services. But with the advent of free applications and Internet TV that is changing and it will be interesting to see how firms like Astro look in 10 years.


    1. Sean, most of the Ireland games are shown live or slightly delayed. The first game of their NZ tour next month is live. The rest of the schedule isn’t out yet but I am sure the other games will be live. 6 nations is generally live unless it clashes with football in which case the games are delayed but Geof at normally finds a way to show the games live. All of the RWC games are live. As a bonus you get most of the super 14s, some Aviva and some Heineken cup games. I’m pushing astro to show the final which should make Irish fans happy! So I guess it is safe to take the job!


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