Sports Marketing – Moving Beyond Cricket?

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Navroze D Dhondy Founder and Managing Director – Creatigies Communications

Navroze D Dhondy
Founder and Managing Director – Creatigies Communications

Just a few days ago I got a call, “Hello Navroze, we would like to meet…….Karate wants to do something ‘BIG’ in India.”
Karate?In India?Big? When I discussed this with a leading marketing man over a beer while watching the IPL game, he guffawed, and said, “Karate? What eye-balls will it get?”

Now where does all this come from?

Well, following on the heels of the Hero Asian Cycling Championships, and the Yonex Sunrise India Badminton Championships, this is a trend we all have to buck.

Over the last few years, the Monnet Group took up cudgels on behalf of Indian boxing, supporting the boxers and the team in their quest for metals at the Olympics, the World Championships and other slug fests. The boxing mania spread to smaller towns where the success of The Monnet Boxing Fight Night saw boxers from India face their toughest challenge yet as they battled it out with pugilists Russia ……and guess where? At the swanky premises of a hotel lawn at, Raipur.
For Hero Cycles, the Asian Cycling Championships is a rather simple and logical extension of its business and as Pankaj Munjal, Managing Director, hero Cycles said, “If Hero won’t do this, then who will? We are the world’s largest cycle manufacturers, and this helps further reinforce our position”

But while the Hero story is a simple extension of a mature cycle brand moving its mandate ahead, Godrej Eon Tour De India came as a shocker to most marketing gurus, sports managers and the cycling fraternity at large. Now what was Godrej thinking when they decided to move into ‘cycling’ territory? The Godrej Eon “one-watt” energy campaign synced perfectly with cycling, and going green is something that Godrej has espoused over the years. So Godrej Eon and cycling fit hand-in-glove.

And speaking of gloves, not just the boxing variety, when the drivers slip on their gloves, and the engines rev to a roar, Airtel steps in and creates history with the first Airtel Indian Grand prix making it an annual fixture for motor enthusiasts from all over the country (and some from neighbouring countries too) who book hotels, flights and their VIP passes to be at the spanking new F1 destination the Jay Pee Buddh International Circuit, in Noida.

Marathons were pooh-poohed when the idea was mooted 10 years ago, but found able support from brands like Standard Chartered, Airtel and TCS which believed that one of the biggest challenges a person faces is the challenge to better one’s own course record. It is not for the 100-200 off professional runners…. It not a spectator sport, but something that pumps the adrenalin in more than 25,000 people who train the whole year to be part of a unique experience.

Avantha and Kensville put their hand up to support Golf in the last few years, and after the success that Hero experienced with the Hero Indian Open, golf got its own version of the IPL, as the GPL took off early this year.

This was followed by the new avatar of the Premier Hockey league, HOCKEY INDIA LEAGUE, where IPL style hockey teams lined up face to face, to challenge the dominance of cricket and Hero MotoCorp shifted its loyalties from the men in flannels to those with the curved stick.

I love cricket, and have had this passion from the time I was born. It has grown to be more than just a passion and a key part of my business. But is it the be-all and end-all of sports in India?


The way people are willing to open their minds, hearts and wallets to lesser known sports are encouraging…..no, actually exciting. It’s the new bride waiting to take her first few steps into a new world.

Marriages will surely happen, and stay happily married.

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