VENUE COMMERCIALISATION: Interview with Ed Sanderson, Vice President – Business Development, Total Sport Asia

Katie McIntyre discusses sports content and branding, particularly in regards to KL Sports City, host for the 29th SEA Games and 9th ASEAN Para Games and its recently re-named Putra Indoor Stadium, now the Axiata Arena, with Ed Sanderson, Vice President – Business Development, Total Sports Asia (TSA), the company behind the naming-rights deal.


Ed, can you start by telling us a little about your background and experience working in the sports venues/events sector?

I’ve been in the Venue & Events industry for over 15 years, starting in Sydney. Whilst completing my Bachelor of Sport Business degree, I was fortunate to fall into a job that I loved and suited me and my personality. The realisation whilst in this role, as a 19-year-old, supervising the Sydney Athletics Centre that the Venue & Events business was a worldwide industry, one in which I could meet amazing people and deliver joy and fulfilment to many was an exciting realisation.


Since that day, I’ve taken on board every challenge that comes my way, you only live once, I want to experience, learn and broaden my horizons in every way possible. Fortunately, I have a supportive wife.


From working at the Australian home of sport, the Australian Institute of Sport, to opening the world’s third largest building (at the time) in developing Macau, the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macau Resort Hotel to the Adelaide Oval and the phenomenal redevelopment that happened there to more recent times including transforming business operations across Australia’s largest community sports precinct, Sydney’s Centennial Parklands and Botanic Gardens to my role now with TSA, working to commercialise and support Venues throughout the South-East Asian region.


I am passionate about this industry, I have made great friends but most of all I love to work in places that matter to people. That’s what our Venues are, they are places that inspire passion and they matter to people.


In regards to Total Sports Asia (TSA), can you provide details regarding your involvement for the Kuala Lumpur Sports City project? And brief details regarding TSA’s services, clients, etc?

TSA is a global content, branding and commercial consultancy that was founded by Marcus Luer in 1997. The company has had a tremendously successful 20 years, which includes making significant financial gains for many of our major partners, e.g. WWE, Glory Kickboxing and many others. In 2016, TSA was awarded an exclusive contract via the Malay government to oversee the commercialisation of the KL Sports City (KLSC) precinct. Core functions including naming rights partners and a suite of corporate opportunities, key procurement activities for major services, e.g. ticketing, plus infrastructure and equipment procurement opportunities, LED screens, audio equipment and many more.


In January of 2016, we announced Malaysia’s first sports Venue naming rights partner, the Axiata Arena replaced the Putra Indoor Stadium, this 15,000-indoor arena is currently being renovated in preparation for the South-East Asian Games (SEA Games). For the Malay government, partnering with the region’s major Telco, Axiata, was ideal in bringing together a renowned brand with an entertainment facility focused on delivering a premium customer and technology experience.


With TSA, I am looking to extend the organisations full-service offering in providing Venues in the ASEAN region with a support mechanism from which they strive for industry best practice and challenge their traditional revenue streams. If you are an Asian venue, TSA can help you improve your Venues capacity to meet customer expectations through improving your bottom line and maximising opportunities through your unique spaces. Get in touch.


TSA brokered the naming rights deal that saw the Putra Indoor Stadium re-named the Axiata Arena


What are the main drivers for the KLSC project and what is the time table for construction, completion, etc., for the RM 1.6 billion project?

The KLSC development came about via the government’s desire to inspire the nation through sport couples with the hosting of the South-East Asian Games (SEA Games) in 2017. The Bukit Jalil precinct, originally constructed for the Commonwealth Games in 1998 had not had major investment since this time.


The Malaysian government deserves credit for exploring innovative funding channels to make the precinct development possible, MRCB [Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd] a large local developer has partnered with the government agreeing to fund and construct the precinct redevelopment whilst in return receiving a significant parcel of land in close proximity within which they can develop. So, it’s a win-win for both parties as the new KLSC precinct will create an exciting basis for the developer to create unique branded real estate space next to it.


The development team, led by the government have set firm goals for the sports and entertainment precinct – to deliver a seamless customer experience whilst delivering world-class facilities.


At the recent Axiata Arena launch, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said “This is our first stadium partnership with a corporate name. I’ve always wanted an iconic and inspiring venue for Malaysians. Today, I’m proud. We could not have grabbed a better partner than Axiata. Axiata Arena will be the crown jewel of the KL Sports City. It’ll be equipped with the latest technology with world class facilities. The users will enjoy a good experience”.


Stage 1 of the redevelopment will be complete by August, in time for the SEA Games. Stage 1 will incorporate the redeveloped Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Axiata Arena, National Aquatic Centre, National Hockey Stadium as well as a large-scale plaza following an undercover walkway to the local train station.


Stage 2 will commence following the conclusion of the Paralympic SEA Games in late 2017 and will include a shopping mall and convention centre, a sports hospital, a hotel and youth hostel plus a sports themed youth park and a further indoor entertainment venue.


Youth Park, KLSC
Bukit Jalil National Stadium, pre-redevelopment works
Stage 1 of the redevelopment of KLSC will be complete by August, in time for the SEA Games. (Venues undergoing redevelopment include Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Axiata Arena, National Aquatic Centre and National Hockey Stadium.) Stage 2 will commence post the ASEAN Para Games


The KLSC is being billed as Asia’s newest sports & entertainment precinct. What kinds of new generation technologies, products and solutions will be employed?

The KL Sports City has set ambitious goals for itself, both the presiding Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, and the CEO of the government organisation responsible for the venues, Mr Azman Fahmi Osman, have publicly spoken about their goals to see the sports city attain a new benchmark for the ASEAN region. The Venues will be equipped with the latest technologies, LED screens as you would see in venues throughout North America and Europe, Wi-Fi capacity that rivals any through the developed world supporting a range of website enabled activities and mobile applications.


We are currently exploring beacon technology to use throughout the precinct, as with many technologies, adapting these to the cultural specifics of a region or country are key. What works in the US, won’t necessarily work here. Companies and partners with experience in developing countries have a significant point of difference when providing their services to environments like ours, its these companies we are very keen to seek out and develop closer ties.


TSA is working with PSM, MRCB and Populous on this prestigious project, what benchmark venues and best practices are you hoping to replicate at the KLSC?

The development team have used major benchmarks throughout the world, they have visited with these venues, picked their brains and brought their thoughts back to the design table to make the KL Sports City an iconic sports and entertainment precinct the country of Malaysia can be proud of. Populous are instrumental in this, they are world-leading authorities in this regard and they will bring something to the city of Kuala Lumpur that the ASEAN region has never seen before. Take the best parts of LA Live! in Los Angeles, Wembley Stadium and Wembley Park, and we’ll see a combination of built environments and open activated spaces tailored to the Malaysian environment and culture, providing something for the event attendee and the local community within the precinct.


What other sports venue projects &/or sporting events has TSA been involved with?

TSA has a 20-year history of providing innovative commercial and branding solutions to partners, take Branded Real Estate for example. TSA was the first company in the world to align successful brands with property developments delivering phenomenal results for our clients and putting high-profile brands and names on places people want to live. Take a look at the Branded Real Estate website for more information.


TSA also have a long history of successful event delivery including recent activities such as the Spartan race in Malaysia and the Axiata Cup, a major international badminton tournament run throughout South-East Asia.


The KL Sports City is the first time they have brought this skillset and experience to Venues specifically and evidenced by the Axiata Arena announcement it’s been a successful venture for our client and TSA. My employment was driven by a desire to further enhance the company’s knowledge in the field of Stadia and Events. We want to continue to offer our services, skills and experience to sports and entertainment Venues throughout the South-East Asian region.


If you are building or renovating a Venue you shouldn’t proceed any further without first talking with us.



For further information on Total Sports Asia (TSA), go to: or for details on Branded Real Estate, visit:


TSA VP – Business Development, Ed Sanderson



Many thanks to TSA’s Ed Sanderson for taking the time to complete this interview.



Images, courtesy: TSA




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