I recently announced some new services at League Cultural Diplomacy for ambitious individuals seeking to build relationships and gain influence abroad or across cultures or raise their profile. These new services use the tools of cultural diplomacy, which have long been used by governments, to allow individuals to fulfil their corporate ambitions whilst indulging their personal interests and passions.
While these services were being conceptualised and designed, my mate Craig McAvinue was busy implementing an initiative which uses sport to help both himself and Offshore Investment Brokers’ (OIBME) to achieve their corporate ambitions. Craig is OIBME’s Regional Manager for South East Asia, and I caught up with him recently to discuss his initiative.
In 2016 Craig brought former champion snooker player and all round British sporting legend Jimmy White to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to play some 9-ball exhibition matches. Held at the beautiful Evita Bistronomie, the event was very successful with the audience enjoying not only the opportunity to watch Jimmy and other professional players close-up, but also have a chat, get an autograph or take a selfie with ‘the people’s champion’. Pleased with his achievements in 2016, Craig will be repeating the event on the 9th and 10th of June 2017 in HCMC with an additional date in Pattaya, Thailand, on the 11th (click here for more details).
Craig’s main motivations for bringing Jimmy out to South East Asia were to create opportunities to secure clients for OIBME and build both the OIBME brand and his own personal brand. These events are good examples of how individuals and organisations can use aspects of culture to help them achieve their corporate objectives. It’s also a good example of celebrity and brand alignment, how such culture based events needn’t be prohibitively expensive and how they can be self-managed.
As I wrote in my last post, snooker and billiards in general are great for cultural diplomacy and building relationships. To start with, one variation or another is likely played in every country, and whilst you don’t need to speak the same language to play it, the game presents plenty of opportunity to chat with your partners or opponents and get to know each other. It’s similar in this way to golf, but a heck of a lot less expensive. Remember too, that in some parts of the world such as the UK, and increasingly so in Asia, professional snooker is a BIG THING. When I lived in Ireland/UK for three years in the mid-2000’s I was surprised how many people enjoyed watching the snooker on the TV, how much the public knew about the players and how they would often talk nostalgically about former players and past championships that they grew up watching with their families. In the annals of professional snooker, there are few bigger names than Jimmy White.
Craig is a chartered accountant by trade and his background is trust and company management in Jersey, Channel Islands. Having sat on investment committees and therefore acted as a ‘gatekeeper’ with trustee monies, often substantial portfolios, he was able to see firsthand how wealth and fund managers performed. His employer, OIBME, has been providing investment advice and financial planning to clients in the Middle East since the mid-nineties and they expanded their reach into South East Asia in 2015. Having opened their first office at the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City, they now also operate in Bangkok, Pattaya and Hanoi and are soon to be opening another office in Kuala Lumpur. Craig looks after this region with seven full time brokers operating at the various offices and his time is largely divided between these offices. Craig’s wife of fourteen years is Thai, and she has also spent several years living in Jersey – together they have two kids. In his role at OIBME Craig works as part of a team, but an important aspect of his role is attending one-on-one meetings with clients and potential clients, as well as securing new clients.
About the Offshore Investment Brokers Jimmy White events
I asked Craig why he decided to link up with Jimmy to deliver these events.
“It’s purely the glitter that a celebrity brings; Jimmy’s personality and the fact that he was truly one of the world’s great snooker champions in the 80’s and 90’s, and people who grew up in that era in the UK are a large part of our target client market. Jimmy’s a bit of a superstar and rightly so; he’s a genuinely nice bloke”.
“I’ve known Jimmy for many years through a friend of mine and I’d been in his company a number of times and I know that he spends a lot of time in South East Asia. Putting all these things together I realised that he would bring a little bit of sparkle and provide something to talk about with potential clients. From my marketing point of view, I was looking to manage these events and then go out and play myself in the Saigon Pool League, and then of course I would get that recognition of being the guy who brought Jimmy White out and a dialogue would start. In my line of business, it’s all about being able to have a dialogue with people and then seeing if you can provide some sort of service for them. It’s a bit of glitter and fun”.
The challenges of international event management
I’m a professional event manager and I’ve been managing events since I was at high school. I’ve managed events of all sizes, from small VIP functions through to international orchestral concert tours and large festivals, and one thing I’ve learned is that unexpected challenges present themselves with every event. Like many professional event managers, most of what I’ve learned has come through learning from my mistakes, and hell, I’ve made some big ones (which is perhaps a post for another day!).
Event managers need to be calm under pressure and if you’re prone to losing your shit at the first sign of stress then this is not the job for you. When I’m on a turbulent flight, I look at the faces of the cabin crew to see if I should be worried or not and likewise, clients look to their event manager for calm reassurance. Stories of successful events with behind-the-scenes organisational nightmares are usually kept quiet as event managers know that ultimately, it’s the success of the event that they will be judged and the client doesn’t want to know that problems expertly solved along the way even existed.
In my discussion with Craig he was very candid about his experience managing the Jimmy White event in 2016, which was a classic example of an event that was challenging to organise but came together well at the last minute. For instance, the sponsored beer supply was held up at the docks by over-officious Vietnamese customs officials and Craig had to find new sponsors for the event at late notice. The original batch of beer still hasn’t turned up!
I asked Craig what he will be doing differently this time around, and his responses are typical of any event manager after staging their first event; he highlights the importance of maintaining a high level of attention to detail, not having blind faith in people and getting things organised sooner.
The importance of continuity with event centred initiatives
Craig appreciates that continuity is an important aspect of using events or celebrity alignment. It’s often neglected and I’ve observed companies managing an event who threw the strategy into the ‘we-tried-that-once-but-it-didn’t-work-so-won’t-ever-work’ bin when the event didn’t deliver as well as hoped, or was more challenging to organise than anticipated.
Wisely, Craig is in it for the longer term.
I asked Craig if he had any advice to people looking to self-manage initiatives that centre around celebrity/brand alignment.
“Recognition is what it is all about and someone like Jimmy will always deliver and people that meet him will always have a good experience. He’s not going to be a moody so-and-so. If you are aligning yourself with a celebrity, you need to know what that person’s like. The last thing you need is someone turning up and they’re in a bad mood or they can’t be bothered and they’re still taking their fee. Jimmy is well known for being someone who is a people’s person; he’s known as the ‘people’s champion’ and rightly so – you know what you’re getting”.
“It’s about giving people a happy experience, and that’s what it’s all about, giving people an experience which they enjoy and then they associate that experience with you. That’s why picking the right celebrity is so important. A Jimmy White or Ricky Hatton or one of these guys you will be absolutely fine with, they are genuinely lovely blokes who will do their jobs with a genuinity about it”.
There are a lot of cowboys in the financial services and wealth management industry in Ho Chi Minh City. I know this because they bug me all the time (hint – if you’re planning to attend networking meetings in Vietnam, don’t give your card to a wealth manager!). Thankfully, Craig and OIBME are the real deal and hounding people into their services isn’t their style.
Buying funds which own good companies and finding managers with proven track records is where Craig believes the foundation of all portfolios should be to obtain the capital growth desired. As with any industry there are some managers who are better than others and therefore consistently outperform the market, and Craig cites guys like Terry Smith and Nick Train as examples. Craig is a great believer in “buying the brains”,of managers who produce result over time, and he reminds me that it’s all “a bit like the old sporting adage; form is temporary but class is permanent”.
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Jimmy White Event Details (HCMC & Pattaya):
Ho Chi Minh City. 9 June 2017
Snooker exhibition – watch Jimmy take on current top Asian Snooker player Moh Keen Hoo.
Where: Masse Pool Hall, L2 150/9 Nguyen Trai, D1 HCMC
Enquiries: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 094 834 9992 or 0120 345 8205
Ho Chi Minh City. 10 June 2017
The Offshore Investment Brokers Saigon Pool League end of season Prize giving.
All welcome – watch Jimmy take on some of the league’s players and even pay the man yourself. Also see what a great job Chris Lee does in organizing the league and maybe get involved next season.
Where: Masse Pool Hall, L2 150/9 Nguyen Trai, D1 HCMC
Enquiries: email email@example.com or call 0120 456 0263 or 0120 345 8205
Pattaya (Thailand). 11 June 2017
Watch Jimmy take on Pattaya’s finest pool stars and play in a completion to join them
Where: Bootleggers Bar , Rompho Complex
For enquiries and bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Robin on +66 86 551 9248
Craig McAvinue website: www.craigmcavinue.com
OIMBE website: www.oibme.com
Saigon Pool League: www.saigonpoolleague.leaguerepublic.com
Masse Pool Hall: www.facebook.com/massesaigon/
Bootleggers Bar: https://www.facebook.com/BootleggersBarJomtien/
Pattaya City Uncovered: www.pattayacityuncovered.com