September , 2016
00:00 am

Varsha Singh and Ankita Chakraborty

In India, the sports sector is going through a small but  significant transformation. Several sports are coming out of the shadow of cricket, creating a dedicated base of followers and getting the traction needed to attracted business investors.

According to a comprehensive report on sports sponsorship by GroupM ESP and Sportzpower, the overall sports industry has grown by 10% from `43725 million in 2013 to `48069 million in 2015. Indian cricket, on the other hand, saw a dip in on-ground sponsorship (from `5083 million to 4647 million) and cricket team sponsorship (from `3892 million to `3478 million).

Sports marketing is growing. According to Vinit Karnik, National Director, Sports & Live Events, GroupM ESP, “The sports industry has grown by 10% in 2014.” C.V.L. Srinivas, CEO, GroupM, South Asia, speaking on the future of sports marketing in India, said, “Sports marketing is finally coming of age in India. Even though cricket has shown the way and continues to be the dominant sport, newer leagues are helping broadbase sports and making it a great platform for brands. Digital, especially social media is helping build a faster fan following.”

The league system in India started after Lalit Modi came up with Indian Premiere League in 2008. IPL turned out to be a great success. Soon after India’s impressive show in the Commonwealth Games in 2010, different sports started gaining attention in India. Players like Saina Nehwal, P. Kashyap, Vijender Singh and Sunil Chhetri became stars and garnered media attention.

Leagues like Hockey India League (HIL) and Indian Badminton League (IBL) were started in 2013 and went a long way in generating mass interest. Indian Super League (ISL) and Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) came the following year.

The International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) founded by Mahesh Bhupati in 2013 and inaugurated in 2014 was graced by stars like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic and Sania Mirza. The IPTL drew advertisers’ interest after the Coca-Cola Company bought 10% stake in the league and the title sponsorship rights for `20 crore. The Indian Table Tennis League is also expected to start soon.

Teams in leagues like Pro Kabaddi League and IPL are mostly owned by Bollywood celebrities and blend the industries of sports and entertainment leading to raked TRPs. Giant companies pump in money. Consequently, infrastructure for these sports has improved. Due to regular telecasts, local talents get exposure and are slowly becoming household names. This has also led to greater popularity of sports other than cricket.

Anirban Blah, Founder and Managing Director of KWAN, one of India’s largest entities investing  and running businesses in the entertainment space, said, “Several celebrities now own teams in sports other than cricket leagues and this is one of the main reason, people have started watching sports which were previously not so famous. There is an inflow of young and talented sportspersons, who are getting a chance to showcase their skills. A large part of the sports league’s success is credited to the interest that Bollywood celebrities are taking in it! Apart from Bollywood celebrities, the masses have now given sportsmen celebrity status too. We have sportsmen like Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan on Gigstart, which is a mobile app through which users can engage celebrities for events and appearances. This shift in perception is noteworthy.”

In 2014, 150 lakh people attended the 61 matches of the ISL tournament and in 2015, 7.7 crore watched the HIL. ISL that had 10 sponsors at the central level with almost `50 crore as sponsorship amount, saw title sponsor Hero Moto Corp paying `18 crore per year, while PKL and HIL contributed in driving on-ground sponsorship from `164.3 crore in 2013 to ` 794.8 crore in 2014. The opening week of ISL 2014 got nearly 170 million viewers, with the opening day garnering 75 million viewers.

The global sports sector is estimated to be worth between $480 and 620 billion. Sports are a full-fledged industry around the world and it is estimated to contribute around 1-5 % of the country’s GDP. Peter Watts, Director Premier Explore, told BE, “Investment has definitely increased but needs to be improved much further before India will start reaping the benefits of the investment on an international stage. A great example of this is the Olympics. For the wealth and population that India has, the country should be performing much better in Olympics.”

Branding and privatization in sports

A simple television commercial, a signboard advertisement or a player endorsing an organization, was what sports branding was about. Nevertheless, marketing through sports today has become a sophisticated affair with multiple innovations. Brands, domestic or international are generating new, unconventional ideas, which have revolutionized the entire sports scenario. Corporates often compete among themselves to rope in sporting icons for enhancing their brand value and a platform to engage their fans.

Brands like Red Bull, Coca Cola, and Pepsi have created unique sporting ideas to sell their products. The Red Bull Crushed Ice Series have won an IBC award for its excellent branding and broadcasting. Red Bull has also organized sport events like extreme sailing series, surfing events and motor sports. Coca Cola has also come up with innovative campaigns for the FIFA World Cup, which is one of the brand’s biggest sports sponsorships. Its integrated retail and digital campaign is one of the most interesting mobile activations which has a series of 18 miniature collectible bottles developed for the games and could be activated through a reality browser or the daily used Facebook application.

LG not only partners with sports events and activities but also propagates the importance of health and fitness among youth. The company has been associated with global sports events such as the ICC Cricket World Cup and the recent LG IFA under 19 shield tournament in 2016. LG India initiated its Signature Bat campaign in its World Cup Trophy Tour for Indians across six cities.

Nike has been into successful ventures associated with sports marketing and merchandising. It has done remarkably in its innovative marketing strategies. The company spends around $2- $4,000,000 yearly on major sports newspapers, magazines, and online sites. Nike also gives out attractive in-stores discount and has striking giveaways in various sports events.

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