The current year has many major sports events lined up and what's most interesting is that the festive season will coincide with these. Apart from Cricket being one of the most commercialised sports events, Indian audiences are now also watching other sports like Pro Kabaddi league, Football, Wrestling and Tennis.
Speaking on sports being an opportunity for brands to shine, R Venkatasubramanian, President - Investments and Head - Havas Sports, Havas Media Group India, said, “With the growing need for brands to engage with their key TGs in a meaningful manner, brands are in a constant pursuit to find newer platforms for engagement. Sports is one such engagement platform which offers great returns and engagement. It offers immediate connect with audiences and consumers, by involving and engaging them in a meaningful manner through fan engagement. IPL – Season 15 has proven to be a huge success with over 100 brands investing huge marketing budgets across teams.”
The year is full of festivals from now on along with many long weekends on the calendar. Sports events scheduled during the year are going to fuel the brand’s reach to various cohorts. Venkatasubramanian said, “The biggest cricket festival – the ICC T20 World Cup starts on October 12 in Australia and will attract brands to capitalise on this cricket high season with local promotions, contests, and ground activations.
“Categories such as Consumer Durables, FMCG and Fashion and Lifestyle who spend large marketing budgets during festive period will find it exciting to indulge and get their SOV in an already high-pitched market. These category brands will leave no stone unturned to utilise this ICC T20 World Cup and lure customers through promotional offers, such as Buy and Win tickets to World Cup or even a fully paid trip to Australia.”
“Leagues such as PKL and ISL also start right before the festive season and will offer great audiences and viewership. With the easing of Covid-19 related norms, the leagues will be opening doors of the stadiums for fans to come and engage with their choicest teams and players to celebrate the sport. Brands have already started talking to leagues and teams to associate and create meaningful brand engagements,” he added.
IPL is a huge property which involves brands across categories, no brands would want to lose out a marketing opportunity during the tournament.
Dhruv Jha, Co-Head Mediabrands Content Studio, India, said, “IPL is a big event. All brands see value and they need these kinds of events to have a brand reach.”
Venkatasubramanian shared that earlier this year, Havas Sports & Entertainment India had facilitated a two-year landmark deal with Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for on-boarding Swiggy Instamart as the official on-ground partner for IPL 2022 and 2023.
According to several estimates, India’s adex this year is likely to be in the range of Rs One lakh crore, and a large part of it is spent during the festive months.
The future of sports marketing in India
It is proven that there is a collective passion towards sports in India. Similar to how people celebrate festivals, they also celebrate sports especially Cricket and now other games too are getting popular amongst audiences. Along with physical games, E-sports is also gaining momentum. Therefore, a separate and a dedicated team of specialised people dedicated towards the marketing function during these events is on the cards for many Indian agencies.
While many media agencies have teams dedicated to various parts of the business, sports marketing requires a different approach as it involves different aspects such as physical activation, digital presence, a constant update about what’s happening on the ground and the most important element - passion towards the game.
Agencies have identified the need to have a fully dedicated team for sports events considering this year is studded with some major events around the world, wherein Indian teams will also be taking part. Speaking on the need, Jha said, “If you get into history, we have all been looking at sports in a conventional way. Sports has become a media platform. At our company, we have MediaBrands studio which looks at opportunities apart from branding and visibility, what are the other things that we can build around it. So, it’s a platform not just an event. One can have content around it, activation, programmes running for trade and consumers. We are very sports inclined as a nation.”
Karthik Nagrajan, Chief Content Officer Wavemaker India and Head - Branded Content, GroupM India, which has a sports marketing wing for close to 16 years, said, “Advertising and content are all parts of levering and creating the culture. Nothing is as big as sports when it comes to defining pop culture. Sports and brands have always been together, sports marketing is a slightly more nuanced space and if you are in the business of communications. In the business of making interventions in pop culture, it becomes almost imperative. So, we are specialists who understand sport as a culture.”
“Whether it is Wavemaker or GroupM, the people who run this business are all specialists in this. Many of them have studied sports marketing. Sports management and sports marketing is a very specialised course,” he added.
Every segment of business requires a certain skillset and expertise. As mentioned before, one thing is apparent that zeal and passion towards the game is required while marketing during sports events. Nagrajan listed out a few expertises which one needs to have while working as a sports marketer.
He said, “Sports in many ways is like mythology. You are working with people and talent who are larger than life. Then you are trying to inspire society, inspire the audience cohort. Secondly, you need to understand which is the most specialist function, when a sport is happening on-ground, what do we need on grassroots level of sports, what happens at the endorsement deals, what goes into rights management, etc. There are elements of legality and an element of understanding sport as a business.”
“And above all of that, sports marketing is a marketing at the end of the day. So, one needs to understand brands, what is good for a brand, what will help a brand to succeed, sports marketing is not different in its fundamentals,” he added.
Talking about the futures of sports marketing in India, Venkatasubramanian, said, “Sports industry in India is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing sectors and is expected to grow at a rate of 12% YOY. By 2022, FICCI’s vision document estimated that there will be 43.7 lakh human resources across the sports sector. India over the last decade has become the sporting hub of the world, with sports leagues like Indian Premier League, Pro Kabbadi League, Indian Super league already creating a special slot and presence in the world sporting calendar. This has helped in creating a congenial environment for new leagues like Ultimate Kho Kho League and Handball league.”
“Brand marketers are harnessing the power of technology, innovation, and creativity in sports for powerful storytelling in campaigns that increase affinity and loyalty with audiences. NFTs and fan tokens are fast shaping as rewards to bolster fan culture in a digital age. The space of Sports Marketing is increasingly becoming technology dependent with huge amount of data and analytics available in terms of teams, leagues and players. It is enabling marketers to take bold steps and go forward with the conviction to associate with sporting events rather than on the basis of just a gut feel,” he added.