Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Quite a media event at Oakland International Airport, what with a water cannon greeting the touchdown of an Oakland Raiders-emblazoned AirAsia Airbus A340 jet and a news conference attended by notables such as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums; the U.S. ambassador to Malaysia, Jamaludin Jarjis; and AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes.

It was all in aid of publicizing the low-cost Malaysian airline's sponsorship of the Raiders. An interesting, not to say risky, marketing strategy, one might think, given that AirAsia doesn't fly to the United States; one doesn't normally associate Malaysia with Raider Nation, or any NFL fan base, come to think of it; and the Raiders haven't exactly been the cream of the professional football crop of late - except perhaps in ways they would rather not be. (Recent punch-up involving head coach and assistant coach, etc.)

Not much Fernandes can do about B and C. But the airline, one of Asia's most successful, is looking to rectify the missing transportation link, with Oakland International as its initial port of call. The Raiders sponsorship, said Fernandes, is intended primarily to "build our brand" here ahead of the airline's Kuala Lumpur-to-Oakland run. When might that be? "Sometime next year is a reality," he told me.

One hiccup already: AirAsia's plan to bring over several hundred Asian fans for Monday night's Coliseum opener ran afoul of Homeland Security obstacles. "It was a friggin' nightmare," said Fernandes. AirAsia folks might also want to check in with its new partner's front office. The Raiders' game day Web page features a big ad for ... Hawaiian Airlines.