The already glittering crown of MS Dhoni received a new feather on 8th August, 2013 as he was appointed the brand ambassador in India for the Barclays Premier League by Star Sports that own the broadcasting rights for this tournament in this country. Dhoni is known to be a fan of Manchester United, which in fact has a huge fan base in this country. As a part of the agreement he will be asking fans to take part in a campaign named “Join The Game”, which is expected to be started in the first part of the coming week.
Star Sports had recently announced that it would be starting Hindi commentary for the English Premier League – this will be the first time that such a service is being launched for a football related tournament in India. Already cricket has seen Hindi commentary in matches involving India in both Star Cricket and Ten Cricket. For the BPL, the commentary in Hindi will be available for at least 100 matches being shown live throughout the entire season. While sharing his views on the deal, Dhoni has stated that whenever he is not playing cricket he follows the Premier League especially on the weekends.
Dhoni says that he finds football to be an exciting sport and it is one of his most favorite games. Incidentally, Dhoni started out as a goalkeeper in his school days before switching over to become a wicketkeeper. The Indian team now-a-days also takes part in football drills as warm up before matches. He is of the opinion that Indian sports’ fans should not only be restricted to cricket and should be lapping up various types of sports. He wants that they should respect other games as well while continuing to be passionate about cricket. Dhoni feels that such appreciation will be critical to the development of different sports in India.
This incident represents a trend of associating celebrities in order to market a product that is already successful in a particular area – Ranbir Kapoor, I believe, is already the ambassador for Barcelona in India. My contention is that the EPL is already very well known and widely followed in India. So does it need to add more marquee names to its brand in India? Perhaps yes, since it may be looking to spread the game to the hinterlands where the appeal of the product is yet to get through, let alone become a lasting one.
The second question would be why are not the Indian football authorities taking similar steps to promote the I League? Perhaps they too can take a leaf out of the book of these associations and try to take similar steps that make their products equally marketable or rather one worth associating with a lot more people in various areas. The European leagues are slowly gaining ground in India and soon there could be a day when the appeal of Indian football is limited only to the diehard fans if nothing is done about it.