Mark Davis (middle), Rod Martin and Ted Hendricks and AirAsia executives along with AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes (1) enjoy a tour of the interior of the plane.**
A contingent of Raiders executives, Raiderettes and Legends, including the Raiders Director of Multicultural Initiatives Elena Valenzuela, spent a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the announcement of the new sponsorship agreement between the Silver and Black and AirAsia.
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Greetings from Kuala Lumpur!
The meeting point for the Raiders' contingent was the Raiders facility to prepare for the trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After a car ride to the San Francisco International Airport, it took two flights and a short stop in Hong Kong to travel to the city where the headquarters of AirAsia reside.
The reason why a Raiders' contingent was invited to visit Malaysia is because of the dynamic relationship forged between two organizations that are committed to excellence - The Oakland Raiders and AirAsia.
The Raiders group includes Mark Davis, Meka White (Corporate Sales Executive), and myself, Raider legends Ted Hendricks, Rod Martin and Cliff Branch and Raiderettes April, Amanda, Angel and Shonte. Since I am part of such a group in an executive and blogger role, I am taking the pleasure of chronicling our adventure in Malaysia.
First night in Kuala Lumpur…dinner. Malaysian food is quite spicy, if you're not sure about this, just ask Rod Martin! We enjoyed our first night in this intriguing city by having dinner in an authentic Malaysian restaurant. We were not intimidated by the rumblings about Malaysian cuisine having such heat in its spices, so we challenged ourselves to order traditional dishes. We talked with much excitement about the next day's main event as we ate our meal and then headed back to the hotel to rest.
Raider Legends Ted Hendricks (83), Cliff Branch (21) and Rod Martin pose for a photo with the plane. - *Elena Valenzuela*
The main event had been awaited quite a while by members of the AirAsia and Raiders staff. After many months of working together, the unveiling of the Airbus "Xcellence" was finally going to take place at the airport terminal. The Airbus "Xcellence" is a plane adorned with the Raiders logo, painted with Raider colors and features Raiderettes and Raider players.
We were taken to the airport knowing what the schedule read but without knowing the magnitude of the event as we were about to see the AirAsia/Raiders airplane for the first time up close.
The group was divided once we got to the airport. Meka took the Raiderettes to rehearse the routines they were going to dance at the event while Mark, the legends and I went on to take a tour of the AirAsia facility led by no less than AirAsia X's CEO Azran Osman-Rani. He explained to us at the entrance that there is only one door to access the building and that it is a testimony of how important it is for AirAsia for all their employees to feel like family. Once in the facility, every person welcomed the Raiders with much warmth and people made tunnels on the hallways to salute the former players with cheers and smiles.
When it was time to go back to the terminal, we said a quick goodbye to make our way to the main event. The members of the media and guests received us with much excitement and the flashes of the cameras could not get enough of our Raider legends. Rod, Cliff and Ted took their seats while Mark greeted AirAsia's CEO Tony Fernandez.
Things got started with the MC's opening words, it is important to note that the MC was sporting Raiders gear, and he opened the podium to Tony and Mark. Tony stressed the fact that both organizations are committed to excellence and he shared the future AirAsia plans to open routes to the United States. He finished his speech by sporting the Raiders' helmet to compliment his personalized Silver and Black jersey. Mark's speech followed and included a thank you message to AirAsia for being such a gracious host and welcomed formally AirAsia to the Raider Nation.
Azran took the stage right after to invite Mark Davis and the Legends to receive a token of appreciation from AirAsia, small-scale versions of AirAsia planes. While the flashes of the cameras continued capturing all the moments of the event, the Raiderettes took their positions on the stage to participate in two dance routines. The ladies' energy and enthusiasm were contagious and after done performing they escorted all the guests to the terminal to see the airplane.
The feeling was unbelievable, the excitement indescribable, the airplane was not an airplane at sight, it was an airbus… a very, very, very large airplane. It looked pristine, it looked magnificent, it looked like a shiny helmet on game day and as we walked in awe for the outside and inside the plane photo shoots, we all felt a bit home with the Raider logo emblazoned on the tail and the eye patch on the front windows of the pilots cabin. The legends and Raiderettes posed for pictures in every setting possible and Mark entered the airbus next to Tony to see it for the first time. I believe hundreds of pictures were taken between the media members (all major Asian newspapers, radio and television stations), the AirAsia staff members, and the guests of the event. We felt physically the heat and the air characteristic of an airport terminal but what it is most important is that we felt the pride of seeing the Raiders and AirAsia organizations together for a relationship that will last through the years.
Once the photo shoots were over, the Raider and AirAsia representatives went back to be a part of a Q&A session where the media had the chance to find out more details about the Airbus and the future of the relationship between both brands.
The Raiderettes perform at the AirAsia/Oakland Raiders sponsorship announcement. - *Elena Valenzuela*
Tony decided to take the group to the AirAsia training facility once the event was over. We were treated to a personal tour from the brain behind the brand, the person who believed in a concept and took it to the next level. The AirAsia group expands to four airline carriers and the training facility serves specifically the AirAsia X airline, which is the one that covers long-haul flights and the one that the Raiders airbus belongs to. However, the person that head-spirited the concept and execution of the airbus, as mentioned before, was AirAsia X's CEO Azran with the support from Tony.
The training facility reflected the friendliness of the brand and we were greeted by pilot and flight attendant students. The highlight of the visit was participating in a simulated flight. The flight simulator was driven by Rod having Ted as copilot. We trusted in our Hall of Famer and Super Bowl winner! The experience was fantastic and we "took off" and "landed" safely with the help of the AirAsia aerial trainer that was on hand.
The tour helped us confirm the belief of how similar both brands are. The Raiders consider their staff, current players, Legends and Raiderettes as family and so does AirAsia with their own staff, flight crews and engineers.
We left for the hotel to freshen up and get ready for the party. AirAsia knows how to celebrate! The group received another warm welcome at the reception, which took place at Luna Bar in the Pan Global Tower. The bar is located in the rooftop and it provides a superb view of the city of Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia had a stage area that read touchdown in the background and the Raider logo was prominent all throughout the reception. We were called on stage for an acknowledgement ceremony and it was at that moment when our beloved Raider Legends gave spontaneously AirAsia their autographed jerseys to say thank you for the hospitality.
The group spent the day sightseeing because we were ready to immerse ourselves into the Malaysia culture and enjoy the many places the city has to offer.
Mark Davis and the Legends visited the famous Petronas Towers. Meka, the Raiderettes and I decided to visit the Batu Caves, which are 400 million years old. We were braved enough to climb 272 steps to see the caves up close and observe the shrine ceremony that was taking place in the Indian Temple that it is at the top of the caves. The experience was simply wonderful.
I believe that everyone used their shopping time to bring home Malaysian handcrafts to our family members, friends and coworkers. We said goodbye to Kuala Lumpur the same night by having dinner in a restaurant located in the middle of the rainforest.
The meeting point for the Raiders' contingent was the hotel lobby to prepare for the trip back to the United States. After a car ride to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, it took two flights and a short stop in Hong Kong to travel to the city where the headquarters of the Raiders reside – our home.