SQREEM Technologies CEO Ian Chapman-Banks Tells Us Why Sportstech Will be Bigger than Fintech
In January 2024, Singapore-headquartered SQREEM Technologies announced their surprise partnership with leading English Premiership rugby club Saracens. The move made them the first Singapore company to sponsor an international sports brand and CEO Ian Chapman-Banks (who is an avid rugby and sports fan) gave Rugby Asia 247 the full story and explained why he believes there is so much potential in this space.
Feature Photo – SQREEM Technologies CEO Ian Chapman-Banks visiting Saracens Rugby club
Before we got into the nitty-gritty details of the exciting partnership with Saracens, Ian told us fondly of his time attending the first Dubai Sevens in the 1990s before the current Emirates Sevens Stadium was built, and of many years attending the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
He obviously has good taste as a Liverpool Football Club fan and was previously linked to a potential takeover of Birmingham City FC before the successful Tom Brady-associated takeover by US-based Shelby Holding Companies.
What Does SQREEM Technologies Do?
“We are a Singapore HQ company and I am one of the co-founders. We essentially set up 12 years ago and it’s taken five years to build the backend and five years to build the front end. Essentially what we’ve been able to accomplish is to have the ability to take a pulse of a population,” Ian told us.
This is all in the context of the more recent buzzword of Artificial Intelligence which has dominated headlines for the past 12 months.
He continued, ‘We can understand what websites people are going to ask on and it opens up certain geospatial abilities – we can really understand, at quite granular levels, what cohorts of people are interested in. And that’s where the AI comes in. Because we have vast amounts of data (it is a machine he explains but AI has become a very popular term. He adds that a decade ago when they started the company – not many people understood it, but they did).
“We have lots of brands that are now using our platform. For example, in Singapore, HSBC and OCBC Singapore Bank use our platform to understand people’s intent when acquiring a credit card, for example.
We split the business into three areas; we have a very strong pharmaceutical business where every pharma company in the world employs us to give insights on doctors, we have an advertising business where the advertising brands (such as Mindshare PR and Omnicom Media Group) use our services for better insights, and we have a data business, which governments subscribe to.”
Ian explains that they have a presence in around 80 countries but only have human resources in Singapore and Japan, with their focus on tech and building the platform.
How Can SQREEM Technologies & Saracens Help Each Other?
SQREEM’s founders had a vision to enter the United States and United Kingdom markets and to raise their profile which is what led to the Saracens partnership.
“I’ve always been interested in sports brands, the power of sports brands from a business perspective because I understand the power of the sports brands.” This led to a series of conversations and an introduction to the Saracens ownership group and what Ian explained was a surprisingly quick turn of events.
“It happened remarkably quickly, I would say in the space of about three weeks, from our first conversation to signing a contract with the sponsorship deal” He added that is also a trait of his – a philosophy that when coming to signing contracts that he doesn’t get bogged down by them.
Ian told us, “Saracens is a really well-established club and sports brand, maybe one of the top five clubs sports brands in rugby, certainly in the European context Saracens is quite well known, and I really wanted to get visibility for us.”
He added, “If you look at the demographic of Saracens, the supporter base tends to be a lot more white-collar followed by a majority of fans in London. And really, our epicentre is going to be London, in terms of raising our visibility it helps us recruit people and helps us have awareness.”
There is a great opportunity for increasing brand awareness and synergies to raise revenues. Over the past year in the UK Premiership, there has been a financial dark cloud hanging over the league, which saw the unfortunate folding of some well-known clubs (Wasps, Worcester and London Irish in the top flight as well as the Jersey Reds in the league below).
“What I’m excited about is that we’ve kind of built out really some nice verticals in pharmaceuticals, advertising agencies, and data. And I think we’re all starting to realise the power of the sports brands is quite extraordinary. The Middle East is investing in sports brands, and what the Americans have done for 20 years in the US has been phenomenal with the marketing around the sports brands.”
There have been countless recent reports highlighting the commercial growth and value of sports brands, especially recently with the rise of investment and visibility in women’s sports. Even since we spoke with Ian, Saudi Arabia’s PIF investors have now been linked to English Premiership rugby.
As part of the partnership, SQREEM Technologies now appears on the Saracens men’s and women’s playing kit, both for the UK domestic league and in Europe (the Champions Cup, for example). The logo also appears at the Saracens ground on the sponsor sideboards.
How Will SQREEM’s AI Help The Partnership?
“We want our API to be able to work for this partnership, and to survey a deep analysis of the fan base at Saracens – who are the fans, what do they love, what are they thinking about and what interests them? And then how do we find fans that had intent but have not actioned it?
A really great example could be that London is one of the major capital cities in the world if you’re going to come to London, at the right time, why not have a sports package and go and watch the Saracens in North London, and take the kids to a really family-friendly day?
Our goal is to uncover those nuggets of insights that allow Saracens to reach out to those untapped potential of potential season ticket holders and/or people that want to have special occasions.”
He is confident the relationship will help Saracen’s attract other sponsors that have a crossover appeal with the fan base.
Fan engagement has been a keyword that rugby has now started to deal with better than it has in the past. So there are aspects of brand exposure that will benefit both parties but fans might be concerned about the use of data.
Ian was quick to address this valid concern, saying that they are very compliant with all EU and UK regulations adding, “that the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is exceptionally important. All the data is GDPR compliant as defined by the EU and we just take a census of that data to understand it in aggregate, what websites and what apps at a population level people are going to.
So that’s the data capture. We are probabilistically calculating using our AI models, so if we bundle 1 million mobile devices and if they have an interest in Saracens because they’ve been looking at content about rugby and they live in the North London area but they’ve never Googled Saracens – these could potentially be identified as somebody that could be interested in Saracens,” Ian explained.
He further described some of the mechanics of how the tech works, adding that they have personas (like avatars) which can talk to customers which can help identify fan behaviours and interests which will also help diversify revenue streams and attract sponsors for the rugby club. “We are not using any Saracens data and we do not have access to the database. We are taking publicly available data. So I would reassure the fans,” he reassures.
We firmly agree that rugby unions, federations and clubs should be better at using technologies and helping their fans who might not be too tech-savvy but is also important to understand the sentiment and optics of introducing new styles of engagement with fans.
Presenting Partner ‘Inside Training’ Content
When the partnership was announced, it was mentioned that SQREEM Technologies would also be the Presenting Partner of the ‘Inside Training’ videos posted on the Saracens’ channels in the build-up to each match.
When asked what kind of content this would entail, Ian said he was flying into the UK that weekend to meet the players and Saracens family to run through some ideas.
“With the AI models, we’ll be able to think about what we can do if we can build a profile around the player and find out what people love about him or her and build profiles around Saracens, the club and the players. Then we can run profiles about what fans want to see. What content are they interested in?
So I think what we’ll be doing is we’ll be using our AI to help build the content platform that will guide the teams or the people who are running this particular program. It could be for YouTube or little shorts on TikTok. Maybe fans want to understand some of the strategies behind the training, what’s the right nutrition or the pre-match preparation for example.”
This type of information and the “nuggets” as Ian refers to them, will be crucial for building players as brands and this will apply to the male and female players. “I’m especially excited about the women’s rugby team and how we can use those as role models,” Ian confirmed.
Beyond Rugby – The Future Of Sportstech
Ian told us that his trip to the UK would also see him meet with other sports brands and clubs including an English Premiership football club.
He mentioned that SQREEM’s tech and know-how would be great for a brand like Sevens Rugby and how they can help increase fan engagement in rugby.
In terms of the types of businesses adopting AI, they have seen advertising agencies and the pharmaceutical world adopt AI, almost wholesale Ian told us.
“I don’t know if there are businesses bigger than sports businesses, but it’s a multi-billion-dollar global business. But in terms of adopting technology, this technology is so inexpensive to adopt, that you can literally implement it overnight. So I think the sports clubs will be able to adopt it faster and benefit from it very quickly because it’s all built and tested. And once one sports club has it, then another sports club has to do it right. Because all of a sudden, there’s a kind of an unfair advantage.”
Ian concluded, “So I’d say that there’ll be some early winners. The philosophy we have is that the company or the sports team that uses AI is going to be more successful than the company or sports team that does not use and adopt AI.”
Rugby Asia 247 would like to thank Ian Chapman-Banks for his time and we look forward to hearing more announcements. We would also like to thank the team at Redhill Asia for helping to organise the interview.
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