I first met Marcus when I owned a Sports Events company in Thailand. He came out and spent a few days at one of our Yacht Regattas. It is awesome to see the business he has built up and I look forward to seeing what events he will be working with next.
What’s your story?
My story started in Cologne, Germany for the first 22 years of my life. I moved to the US to study and graduated with an MBA from TCU (Texas Christian University). During that time the US was awarded the FIFA World Cup and I ended up working at the event in 1994. Prior to that I also had the privilege to work on implementing American Airlines sponsorship program for the World Cup. The FIFA World Cup was such a powerful experience for me that I wanted to stay in the industry. I was always a sports nut so making money with something I love doing was too good to be true. I ended up with my first “real” sports marketing job in Hong Kong working for a small outfit at that time called “Asia Sports Group” (now World Sports Group). I was thrown into the deep end right from the start handling entire events and commercial deals for the Asian Basketball Confederation and then helped set up the Asian PGA Tour. Three years later with my “youthful ignorance” (at the age of 29) I started my own business, Total Sports Asia (TSA) during the height of the Asian economic crisis (1997-98). Eighteen years later we weathered many more Asian crisis and have grown to be one of the leading players in the industry in Asia and in some respect globally. I have now lived longer outside of my home country then in Germany itself. The last 20 years of it in Asia, so clearly Asia is my home and playground in all aspects of life.
What excites you most about your industry?
The sports marketing industry has plenty of challenges and opportunities and I love seeing how we help generate new revenue streams for events, clubs, Leagues, etc. Because of us, these entities can use the money to create bigger and better events and create career paths for athletes. Athletes and teams are able to “inspire” entire cities or nations with their performance. I love being in a stadium and watching thousands of people having a great time because of what we put together.
On the other hand our commercial partners have the opportunity to leverage the power of our sports entity clients and in return generate bigger returns for themselves and their stakeholders. I call it the “Greater Purpose” of TSA and that is to grow the sports side on one end and at the same time grow our corporate clients business as well. Being the agent and conduit in the middle and creating these opportunities for both sides is what gets me up in the morning.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I came here at the age of 26, set up my business at 29 and haven’t left since then (20 years later). My kids are mixed and my wife is Thai. So, I am part of this amazing part of the world in many ways.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore from an efficiency point of view. You can get lots of meetings done in a day. Most of the big Asian cities have their own charm and I actually enjoy going to most of them. Travelling in the region is one of my favorite things of my business. TSA allows me to do business in so many different places, with different cultures and way of operating. I love that challenge and diversity and have become quite a chameleon in terms of adapting to the different styles of doing business in Asia.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Watch your overheads. Don’t ever let that get out of control or you end up working just to pay your staff. From Donald Dell, one of the true pioneers of our industry and a dear friend.
Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from many people who have overcome the odds and/or have achieved incredible things in their life. I am a big fan of Michael Jordan and Michael Schumacher in the sporting world, Anthony Robbins in the field of Human Psychology and motivation. I have always been fascinated by Billionaire stories and how they achieved their wealth, especially the ones who came from poor backgrounds or had to overcome major obstacles to reach this level.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I am fascinated by the progress in medicine and what technology can do to prevent and also cure diseases in the future. In our industry, I am big believer in new technology in terms of content distribution and I have no doubt we will play a role in this space in the future.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
There are many mistakes I have made in my life and in hindsight I would do them differently. At the same time when I was in the situation I didn’t have the experience or foresight to anticipate the outcomes. So i guess I had to learn these lessons the hard way. At the end they are all part of my life and i am grateful for them.
How do you unwind?
I do sports, not just “talk” sports. I participate in Triathlon’s in the region and enjoy the training part. I train with my two kids at times and love connecting with them that way. Travelling actually is a certain form of unwinding. I like long-haul flights where you are “disconnected” from the world for a while. I wrote my book during plane flights. Just chilling at home with my wife is another simple pleasure in life.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thai Islands of any kind. I love sea, beach and sun. Anytime anywhere.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes, best sales/marketing book I know
Shameless plug for your business:
True Pioneers in Sports marketing in Asia. We have been there and done it and very little we don’t know in the commercial world of sports. We have a creative way of looking at challenges and have created many firsts for our clients. Come challenge us. Now we are also pioneering the world of “Branded Real Estate” and are the leading agency in the world in this space. Another great example of our creative thinking and out of the box approach.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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