DDMC Fortis rebrands as Football Marketing Asia

DDMC Fortis, the agency with the exclusive mandate to market Asian Football Confederation commercial rights in the 2021-28 period, is rebranding as Football Marketing Asia (FMA).

The agency launched its new branding and logo today. Board member and CEO Patrick Murphy said the rebrand was timed for the beginning of the company’s move into an ‘operational’ phase.

FMA has a wide remit with the AFC, amounting to a commercial overhaul of the confederation’s competitions and rights properties. In the two years since it secured the deal, the focus has been on planning and rights sales. In the second half of this year, the operational phase will begin with marketing campaigns and the launch of new branding for the AFC competitions.

FMA’s rights begin next March with the third round of 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, that also double as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup. These matches were originally due to start towards the end of this year, but due to Covid-19 match postponements are now expected to take place from March next year.

“As we are transforming into a fully operational business with our rights commencing in 2021, the name change allows us to better reflect the nature of our business and our position in the market,” Murphy said in a press release.

“Football Marketing Asia was built with a single purpose in mind, to exclusively market and commercialise AFC football in Asia to fans, brands and broadcasters respectively. Over the last eighteen months we have built an exceptional, multi-cultural team of industry experts who combine passion for Asian football with unmatched knowledge of and expertise in the Asian and global markets. We are confident that we, together with the AFC and Super Sports, will create a truly new era of Asian football and change the way football in Asia is consumed and commercialised.”

In an exclusive interview with SportBusiness published today, Murphy expanded on the thinking behind the rebrand and gave an update on the progress of media and sponsorship rights sales.

The DDMC Fortis name arose from the fact the company is a joint venture between Chinese sports, media and entertainment group DDMC and Fortis Sports, an agency set up by Murphy and David Tyler, both former executives from the Switzerland-based Team Marketing agency. In the material announcing the rebrand, FMA is described as “a Super Sports company” – Super Sports Media is a division of DDMC and one of the leading sports marketing organisations in China.

In the press release, Yu Lingxiao, chairman of the board of directors at FMA, said: “As part of Super Sports Media Inc, Football Marketing Asia plays an important role in globalising the group’s business. We fully support FMA with our best resources and we are looking forward to continue to actively promote the growth of Asian football in and beyond the continent.”

David Tyler, COO at FMA, said: “We remain laser-focused on our mission and continue to challenge the conventions together with the AFC to accelerate innovation across all fields including sponsorships, media and broadcasting, operations, technology, competition marketing and fan engagement.”

Rights sales

At the heart of FMA’s remit with AFC is the sale of media and sponsorship rights for AFC national team and club competitions globally, with the exception of the Middle East where the confederation is selling its media rights in-house.

FMA acquired the rights in an historic deal agreed in 2018. It beat a rival bid from the MP & Silva agency, and a combined bid by Lagardère Sports (now Sportfive), Dentsu and Perform.

FMA’s deal ended a 27-year relationship between the AFC and the team at Lagardère Sports. That relationship started in 1993 with a deal between the AFC and the Singapore-based World Sport Group agency, which was later acquired by Lagardère.

FMA far outbid its rivals to secure the rights, in terms of the minimum guarantee it offered the AFC, and is considered within the industry to have a giant task on its hands to turn a profit on the deal.

FMA has announced just three deals for the 2021-24 cycle so far – media-rights deals in Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan. However, CEO Murphy told SportBusiness that more than a dozen further media and sponsorship rights deals have been finalised but are yet to be publicised.

In the press release on the rebrand, Oliver Duss, EVP media at FMA, who is leading the media-rights sales effort, said: “We are devoted to bringing AFC competitions to more places, more devices and more screens in Asia and beyond. We are aiming to bring the excitement of Asian football to fans across the continent and huge Asian audiences around the world through a wide range of media segments…[and] are working hard to transform AFC competitions into truly world-class media properties through elevated TV and content production standards.”

Ned Negus, EVP partnerships, who is leading sponsorship sales, said: “We are excited about the challenge of leveraging the regional power of football in a way that embraces the varied on-ground realities of each market, in turn addressing the specific needs of our sponsor partners and delivering locally.”

Negus spoke to SportBusiness recently about the impact of Covid-19 on the global sports sponsorship business.