Like Sri Lanka, SriLankan Airlines is all about outdoors & nature

Interview with Saminda Perera, Head of Marketing, SriLankan Airlines
/ New Delhi
SriLankan Airlines
Like Sri Lanka, SriLankan Airlines is all about outdoors & nature

The Marathon features perhaps one of the most prestigious venues in Melbourne, that is the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Like every year since 2017, in 2023, too, SriLankan Airlines continued as a Title Sponsor of the Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival, one of the largest sporting events in Australia, that saw the participation of over 45,000 people recently. In an interview with India Outbound, Saminda Perera, Head of Marketing, SriLankan Airlines, says that supporting endurance events like the marathon, gives greater visibility to the airline, not just among Australians but also the sizeable Sri Lankan and Indian diaspora.
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Saminda Perera

Saminda Perera

What does sponsoring Melbourne Marathon bring to SriLankan Airlines?

he fundamental idea has been to position SriLankan Airlines with the Australian audience that essentially loves the outdoors. They put a lot of emphasis on their well-being. So, this is one of the best ways to position ourselves in this market. SriLankan Airlines has taken a conscious decision to support only endurance events like marathon, cycling, and surfing to position Sri Lanka as a destination with great outdoors and nature.

In Sri Lanka, we use the natural landscape as our backdrop. We don’t need to build stadiums to hold our sporting events and hence we don’t add to any more than necessary carbon emissions as we are conscious of our carbon footprint. So, we support endurance events.

In 2017, as we were ready to launch our operations between Colombo and Melbourne, we wanted to see how quickly we could penetrate the Australian market. So then we zeroed into the Melbourne Marathon Festival as it is an international marathon with a rich history of over four decades and it comes close to the Colombo Marathon.

The event is organised by the reputed sports events company, IMG which also owns Wimbledon. On the other hand, we have always been supported by our valued partners, Melbourne Airport and Visit Victoria that have made our presence at the Marathon all the more impactful. We see that the share of the Australian leisure travellers has improved on our flights and we believe such an event definitely helps to create top of mind recall and brand awareness.

You mentioned that you have been associated with the event since 2017. How would you rate the return on investment?

Our return essentially for an event of this scale, is the pure visibility we can get which is compared to none. The Marathon features perhaps one of the most prestigious venues in Melbourne, that is the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Having been a sponsor of an event that has an appeal of this magnitude certainly helps establish our brand in the market. Through this, we get to speak to our consumer direct who can afford to travel and afford to look at Sri Lanka as a destination, can look at India as a destination, Maldives as a destination, which are the strong points in our network.

Our connectivity between Australia and the Indian Sub-continent is very strong. Currently, we fly daily to Melbourne, three times to Sydney, with onward connections to a range of destinations in India via our Colombo hub. Very soon we will be increasing our frequency once we have acquired the necessary aircraft. So, the return on investment is huge. Since the inception, Melbourne has remained a key market in our network.

We first sponsored the event in 2017 and continued in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 and 2021, too, we remained associated, even when the event was virtual. And now, it is back to its original form, and we are glad to be here.

Besides Australian clientele, does the event also bring you something vis-à-vis the Indian and Sri Lankan diaspora here?

The Indian as well as Sri Lankan diaspora have adapted to a very Australian lifestyle, to be honest. So they are also into endurance, fitness and are health-conscious people. It is always heartening to see their participation. On the other hand, with our consolidated presence in the Indian sub-continent, and our convenient connections, as a brand we are not total strangers to them. Currently, we are the only ones who are doing that.

You have been connected with the French Raid Amazones, is there a brand message here?

Raid Amazones chose Sri Lanka as a backdrop for two of its consecutive events. As far as the terrain goes, the lakes were not built for that, lakes were there, the mountains were there, the roads all that were there as a landscape natural. This again signifies our commitment to low-carbon emissions, using natural terrain whilst showcasing Sri Lanka’s hidden beauty. Raid Amazones is very special to us because it is also a women empowerment event. These French female athletes came twice soon after Covid-19 and it was one of the biggest events that the country has hosted which saw over 550 athletes exploring the country whilst competing their way through the adventure trail.

How important is the Australian market for SriLankan?

Australia was a bit of a bold effort on our side. We started flying to Melbourne in 2017 and then we added Sydney as well. Australia is doing well and once we acquire necessary aircraft, we are going to have plenty more flights to Australia. And of course, India. We are a firm believer that our proximity to India is a blessing. We are unstoppable. We already have over 90 flights per week to India and we want to increase it to 100 per week.

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