Sports redefining the new age marketing mantra

Professional Sports and Amateur sports have experienced a tremendous growth in India over past one decade. The use of sports sponsorship as a marketing communication tool has increased remarkably over the past few years and has been acknowledged as an important element in the communication strategy by marketing heads in order to reach their customers. Some of the key reasons that marketers today are using sports sponsorship are to generate brand awareness and brand recall through exposure, build on the brand image and generate goodwill towards the brand and company.

Objectives that Sports as a marketing tool serves

The three main components that allow brands to benefit from sports association are
1. The positive values of sports.Sport has many positive attributes such as ‘youthful’, ‘fun’, ‘healthy’, ‘teamwork’, ‘commitment to goal’, ‘fair play’,’respect for others’, etc. By associating with sports, sponsor benefits from transfer of these values to its brand image.

2. Emotional connect that a fan/participant has with the sport. Sports is all about ‘passion’ and ’emotion’ and it creates an instant connect among people. A sports fan / participant has an emotional connect with the sport that he or she follows or plays. This attribute is essential to any brand and its marketing campaigns to create connect with audiences and target groups at an emotional level. Brands benefit from exploiting this passion and emotional connect that the participant/fan has with the sport or sports event. In case of amateur sports properties/events, the brand, by associating with the sporting property, is seen as an enabler of the ‘great’ experience.

3. The universal reach of the sport. By associating with sports, brands get great exposure on the ground as well as on Television and other media platforms. The key here is that people pay attention when there is something they value. Brands exploit this to reach out to their customers.

Young India passionate about sports

Given that the Indian demography is highly skewed towards youth, sports provide brands an excellent platform to interact with and appeal to a big chunk of the Indian population. In a research that we conducted recently, around 65% of the brands believed that passion and emotions involved in sports was the top reason for them to invest in. Marketing through sports has a distinct advantage because of this reason. The admiration and devotion fans have towards their favourite teams and athletes naturally gets directed to the brands associated with it. E.g. Aircel, who have been associated with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) gains instant credibility in the minds of CSK fans.

A wellness revolution in India

With awareness about health and fitness growing in India, many Indians have made sports a part of their lifestyle. Clearly,there is a huge surge in participative sports events across India. This is manifested by large participation seen in running events, badminton and football programs. Brands are associating with these amateur/participative sports programs and leveraging on the wave. Brands are picking up an intelligent set of rights and effectively promoting the association. For example, Coca-Cola has been sponsoring the National Sub-junior Championships for the past 3 years. This program called the ‘Coca-Cola Cup’ attracts over 3000 schools and 45000 players. Coca-Cola benefits from using this platform to promote Active and healthy living among teens.

Building Marketing programs around a sport

Brands have great opportunities to choose a particular sport and build marketing programs around it and benefit from it. PNB Metlife, for instance, has chosen to associate itself with Badminton worldwide. In India, apart from sponsoring the prestigious BWF Championship, it is running several programs targeted at children, residential societies and companies through Badminton-led programs. In case of amateur/local sports, sponsorship of a sports event shows that the sponsor cares about its community and is prepared to invest in its future and welfare of the people. The DNA newspaper has been sponsoring the DNA Women’s Half Marathon in Mumbai for the past 4 years with an aim of celebrating the spirit of achievement amongst women and empowering them to be the best they can ever be. DNA benefits immensely through this community connect program.

B2B Marketers leveraging sporting events

Many brands are using sports to entertain and connect one to one with their customers. For example, ICICI Bank sponsors a golf event to entertain its clients and prospects. It leverages the golf program to create engagement opportunities with its customers and prospects. Marketers are also using mega sports events like the ICC World Cup and IPL to take their clients to entertain them at these events. These platforms help marketers give their clients a great experience, helps them build relationships and importantly gets them quality time with their clients/prospects.

India – One Sport nation to Multiple Sports nation

India is moving from a one sport nation to a multiple sports nation. Yes, there is still a long way to go, but big corporations and media houses are now investing in sports beyond cricket. Exposure of non-cricket sports to Indian masses is now much higher as compared to the past. With the explosion in the number of sports channels and other mediums to view the sport, coverage in the media and success of these sports internationally, the interest levels and popularity is set to grow among the people and hence will provide great opportunities to marketers. IMG Reliance has a 15 year deal with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and a 30 year deal with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). It has already launched the Indian Super League (ISL) successfully and is planning to launch the professional basketball league in the near future. Star Sports is a partner in both ISL and the newly launched Pro Kabaddi League. There are several other leagues in Badminton, Tennis, Volleyball, etc. in addition to large scale running events and multi-sport amateur sports events. Clearly, these will provide great opportunities for brands to look at alternative platforms to associate with beyond cricket. Hero MotoCorp is the title sponsor of the ISL. Millions of youngsters across the country are taking to football with great enthusiasm and Hero wants to leverage this passion towards the game. The most conclusive indicator is how top sports TV channels are picking up stakes in non-cricket sporting IPs.