SINGAPORE: While sport as a marketing channel may not be as developed in Asia as it is in some other regions, it offers great opportunities for Asian brands, according to industry practitioners.

Speaking at the Sports Matters conference, Ben Heyhoe Flint, CEO of market intelligence service Asia Sponsorship News, urged brands to give more consideration to sports sponsorship in their marketing mix, The Straits Times reported.

Citing Singapore Airlines' sponsorship of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix as well as the Women's Tennis Association's decision to hold its end-of-season final in Singapore, he hoped the success the sponsors enjoyed would encourage other Asia brands to be less hesitant.

"Right now, there's no deep-rooted sports culture in most of Asia. That contributes to why brands are holding back in sports sponsorship, and hopefully that situation can improve," he said.

China, in particular, is on course to become a huge sports market, according to Sam Xie, general manager of sports business development and marketing at Chinese ecommerce giant Tencent.

Speaking at the same conference, Xie pointed to evidence that the "sports industry will naturally break out" once a country's GDP per capita reaches $8,000, Campaign Asia reported.

With per capita GDP of $7,575, China is "almost there", he said, while noting that nine Chinese provinces already have GDP per capita of at least $10,000 and "these spots are more than ready for this boom".

"The Chinese government is predicting that the local sports industry will be a mega market worth Rmb 5,000bn ($785bn), growing 16 times over the next 10 years," he said. "The government is hoping that the industry will be a key driver to economic growth as well."

Tencent Sport, the company's sports broadcast and community division, is not holding back after securing a deal to broadcast live UEFA's Champions League football tournament and the UEFA Europa League from 2015 to 2018.

In addition, Tencent agreed a five-year deal in January 2015 to broadcast National Basketball Association matches online.

"Users watching the matches at the same time can communicate with each other as well or even throw virtual eggs," Xie said.

Data sourced from The Strait Times, Campaign Asia, NBA; additional content by Warc staff