Cricket has been the most favoured sport in India and that at the expense of others. But, of late, that image is changing and we have come to patronise other sports as well. There is noticeable participation of fans, investors, sponsors, broadcasters to make the other ones too popular. The recent Pro Kabaddi League, World Kabaddi League and the upcoming football event, Indian Football League (ISL) prove that sports marketing can make things happen, make sports get noticed, increase fans and followers, advertise players, bring in masala through stars into the sport– that is what sports marketing is all about. It’s a business, which of course is elevating other sports that have been ignored by people and organizers for a long time. According to a recent survey, expenditure on other sports is forecast to grow.
Impact of sports marketing
“Sports marketing is tremendous and indeed the best in Asia now. Sports like kabaddi, football, tennis and many other disciplines are gaining popularity because of sports marketing. The most recent example is the ISL”, boasts Ghaus Mohammed, commentator. The broadcasters have a big role to play when we talk about sports marketing.
“Pro Kabaddi on Sony Six was a huge success. Hockey India League on Star network and also the IPL had done immense coverage of the event. After sometime Volleyball Pro League will also begin. The successful coverage of Kabaddi League on Star network brought the game into every home. Sports Marketing is getting fans to the sport, making the sport popular and roping in finance for the welfare of the game. In India, two categories – cricketers and actors – are nothing less than god for the people. So when both of them come together it obviously creates hype and attracts the fans and organizers to the sport. Celebrities and popular players have been drawn into the sport which has turned out be a huge success. The involvement of famous cricketers and actors in these sports events have made them trendier. The upcoming football league will see all the excitement. The inaugural match is on October 12 in Kolkata,” he tells us enthusiastically.
Sports marketing as a profession
Youngsters are looking upon sports marketing as a great job opportunity. A mix of commitment, liking, energy, enthusiasm for the sports and the profession is a must. In addition to that patience and perseverance towards sports, athletes and media attention is vital. Experienced players who are no longer into the game can take up sports management as a career and work towards the development of sports with their vast and valuable experience on ground. Good business and communication skills are central to the sports marketing arena.
“Whatever you can sell and whatever the sponsor wants to buy, in which he sees a benefit – that is sports marketing in India. Kabaddi League had no sponsor except Star just because they took the onus of it. They made the sport fashionable and admired. Seeing the popularity of the sport, they might get more sponsors in the next season because it’s a hit among fans. Altogether it’s a gamble in India,” explains Capt Nitin Pant, Deputy Head of Operations, Procam International Limited, one of India’s oldest home-grown sports management company.
Sports as a business
In India, advertising investment in sports has almost doubled in the last five years. Team sponsorship, players management, media expenditure, the eye-catching arenas have all contributed to this increase.
Earlier, a sponsor’s name would be visible only on ground and tournament banners. It enlarged its value by putting the sponsor/company’s name on jerseys of athletes. But now, it’s not limited to that. It no longer means just attaching their name to a stadium. It’s a relationship between the sports team, the sponsor and the fans – all together contribute towards the recognition of the sport. Fans follow a particular brand if it’s associated with their favourite teams and go ahead to purchase an item of that brand.
So, sports marketing benefits from this relationship between the fans and teams. Sports marketing in India has given sports a new meaning and the players are upbeat about this development in our country. “Sports marketing in India is indeed very good. It is good for the players and the development of the sport. It creates zest and enthusiasm in sportsmen and attracts more people to the sport, which is of course a positive thing,” admits Rafi Mohammed, team Atletico de Kolkata, Indian Football League.
Though a majority of players and administrators agree that sports marketing has brought positive things to sports in India, a few believe that there’s more that can be done. “Sports marketing might have changed other sports but swimming has no marketing at all. I think sports market is yet to discover swimming in India. We have Arena as the one and only sponsor,” says the 25-year old Sandeep Sejwal, who recently won a bronze medal for India in men’s 50 m breaststroke at the ongoing 17th Asian Games.
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