Icon expands in Middle East

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Founded in 1947, signage and branding solutions company Icon offers everything from original design, through in–house production to on–site installation and project management. It provides these services for an extensive range of domestic and international sporting, music and art events and more recently has applied its knowledge of hoardings, signage and overall event presentation to assist a number of cities with successful Olympic hosting bids.

The Middle East has become an important market for Icon in particular. The company handled all sponsor and event signage for the Dubai World Golf Championship (November 2009), the FIFA Club World Cup Abu Dhabi (December 2009), the 17th Arabian Gulf Cup in 2004, the 19th Arabian Gulf Cup in 2009 and the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships to name but a few events in the region. It also undertook a massive city dressing campaign for the Qatar National Day Celebrations at the end of both 2008 and 2009. Icon has enjoyed a physical presence in the Middle East since it opened an office in Qatar in 2005. With the move leading to more and more work for the company in the region, Icon decided to capitalise on this and future opportunities through opening an additional Middle East office in Dubai in June 2010. "Operationally, this is a smart move for Icon, " explained Andrew Hodson, sales and marketing director at the company. "We've previously been running events in both Qatar and the UAE from Doha, so it made sense to open an office in Dubai to make things logistically easier for UAE–based events. In terms of developing future opportunities in the UAE, being based in Dubai will definitely make that easier for us. There is fantastic potential here for the events industry. "Icon's director of operations for the Middle East, Steve Edwards, has relocated from Doha to Dubai and the company has partnered with a local production firm–a relationship that has also facilitated access to Abu Dhabi. "Most of the events–work tends to be in these two emirates after all, " explained Hodson. Despite the recent economic downturn having affected the UAE more than some of its Middle Eastern neighbours, Icon remains bullish about the country's potential. "We are already in discussions with organisers of events happening in the country over the next year or two, " said Hodson. "And with Dubai looking at the potential of an Olympics bid for 2020, there's every reason to feel even more optimistic. "In addition to the UAE and Qatar, Icon sees potential in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the region. It has also worked in Bahrain. "We are actively partnering with local suppliers in the region as it is better to source materials locally whenever possible, thus creating a sustainable business. "Finally, does Hodson have any advice for other facilities companies looking towards the potential of the Middle East's growing events industry? "Once you have fulfilled your legal obligations and found a local partner, make sure you do your market research properly and identify tangible business objectives, " he suggested. "And always make sure you appreciate local culture and customs–a lot of work in the Middle East is still sourced by word of mouth. "Case Study: Icon and the Arabian Gulf CupIcon helped ensure that the 17th Gulf Cup in December 2004 was the most successful possible. This was achieved by bringing its sophisticated international standard of event look to all the venues of this, the Arabian Gulf region's most prestigious sporting event. Appointed by QSi, the official rights holder of the Arabian Gulf Cup, Icon was responsible for scoping and designing the brand dressing at all five venues used throughout the multisport tournament, including all sponsor signage. In addition, Icon sent specialist personnel to the sites to project manage the development and implementation of the branding, using local production and labour resources, and to successfully deliver the overall look of the arenas. As a result, spectators and sponsors alike were presented with a strong and coherent message from the brands present throughout the tournament, and QSi's promises of a high quality and level of television exposure for the sponsors were fulfilled. During the event, all venues were generally full, due to Qatar's advertising and impressive planning and handling of the competition. The Arabian Gulf Cup has been running for over 30 years. Originally a football tournament, since the 2004 edition it has included three other sports – basketball, volleyball and handball in addition to football – and features national teams from Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Qatar. Icon also handled signage operations for the 2009 Gulf Cup, the 19th edition, which took place in Muscat, Oman, from 4 January to 17 January 2009. The event was won by Oman for the first time in its history by beating regional leaders Saudi Arabia in a penalty shootout. The 20th edition of the Gulf Cup will take place in Sana'a, Yemen, in November 2010. "Yemen is ready, economically and security–wise to host this competition, " Yemen's president Saleh said on Dubai Sport TV in late 2009. He added that preparation for the Gulf Cup was almost 70% accomplished in many areas. There had been speculation of whether security threats would impact the ability for Yemen to host, but the plans were still on track.

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