Air Asia Promoted to Premier League

Well not Air Asia exactly but QPR, the football team that has Air Asia’s boss, Tony Fernandes as its main shareholder, was promoted back to the Premier League at the weekend.

The economics of football can seem to defy logic but the investment in QPR by Mr Fernandes originally made a great deal of sense. The British Premier League is hugely popular throughout Asia with many games shown live on television. Air Asia is a major sponsor of QPR and its logo and billboards are highly visible on matches played at their ground. However, beyond that, every time the team is mentioned in Asia it is referred to as “Tony Fernandes’ QPR” or “Air Asia’s QPR”. The investment in the football club has been huge but the benefit in hidden advertising might even make the cost look good value.

This is not the first time QPR have won promotion to the Premier League under Mr Fernandes’ watch though. When they were originally promoted, the club went on an orgy of over-spending to ensure they stayed in the division. The club was taken to the cleaners by various football agents and others. They hired the wrong people to run it and paid for their mistakes by being demoted after just one season.

Mr Fernandes cannot claim to be a hands-off owner. He attends many matches and appears genuinely passionate about the club. The serious mismanagement of the football club coincided with a period when Air Asia was going through a bit of a dip as well. Too much expansion, not enough thought. Mr Fernandes almost god-like status as a business hero in Asia was looking seriously tarnished.

Now, after just a year away, the football club is back. Maybe its constant presence on Asian television will help bring back some of the glitter to the airline’s performance.

Virgin and the art of self-promotion

The Sunday Times Business News section has a long and unillustrious record of producing “news” items on Virgin which appear to have come direct from the company’s PR advisers and are closer to wishful thinking than proper news. If we saw in one of these pieces that “Sir Richard Branson is predicting that tomorrow will be 1st January 2011″, we would check our diaries to be sure.

Last week – obviously a slow news period for business publications – they had a front-page story suggesting that Tony Fernandes of Air Asia and Air Asia X, might bid for Virgin Atlantic.

The immediate thought is that this is Virgin themselves trying to gee-up the market by quoting a figure and trying to encourage other bidders. Of course, a bit of publicity to show what a valuable airline Virgin Atlantic is presumed to be, won’t do any harm with the paying customers who read The Sunday Times either.

However, Tony Fernandes is very friendly with Richard Branson and has copied some of his techniques. Could this by Air Asia’s PR people trying to show the UK market how big and important they are?

Air Asia have officially disowned the story but then they would – and Virgin Atlantic is a pretty unlikely fit for them anyway. You never know, it might even happen. However, one thing you can be fairly sure of is that this story has more to do with airlines and their PR companies than any proper journalism.