Games Marketers Play

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Pitch-April-May-issueSports can be entertaining, engaging and emotionally exhilarating. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat makes sports forge a deep, impassioned and meaningful connect with people. And it is this relationship that brands hope to leverage when they associate themselves with sports, whether it is by riding on the mass hysteria that cricket generates, or sponsoring other emerging sports in the country. Not to forget taking advantage of the idol-worship of sports personalities, especially cricketers; marketers hope to rub and translate some of the fascination and fervour they command on to their own brand.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report, the business of sports in India will generate annual revenue of $1.89 billion by 2015, posting an average annual growth of five per cent. Though the Indian sports industry has continued its upward trajectory since the year 2011, it accounts for a meagre 1.3 per cent of the worldwide revenues of $145.3 billion.

While these statistics aptly signify the breadth of opportunities and untapped potential that is yet to be unmasked, we also need to take a closer look at the existing dynamics of the business of sports in this country and factors that are propelling, or in some cases, inhibiting its growth.

There is any seldom any brand that doesn’t associate itself with sports in any form and this generalisation can be made across different industry verticals. In 2012, a survey conducted by sports management company, SportzConsult with 125 senior marketing professionals in the country across a gamut of sectors revealed that the percentage of respondents who used sports as a marketing tool ranged from approximately 79 per cent from the Services sector, 80 per cent from Consumer Goods, 66 per cent from Finance and a 100 per cent from Technology.


Hic-hic hurray!
Attributes such as passion, youthfulness and association with an active lifestyle are often cited as the key reasons for choosing sports over other marketing tools. Also, with the country’s demography highly skewed towards the youth- the core TG of most sports-brands find it an attractive bet to attach themselves with sports to fuel engagement and interactivity.

Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior VP, Marketing, UB Group

Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior VP, Marketing, UB Group

Speaking for alcoholic beverage brands, Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior VP, Marketing, UB Group, says that historically, alcohol, especially beer, has had a close association with sports throughout the world. For United Breweries in fact, sports represents the single largest marketing activation platform for both Kingfisher and Heineken – the two beer brands from the group. While Kingfisher has been associated with cricket in India since several years, Heineken, the iconic global beer brand launched in India in 2011, has been sponsoring global tournaments like the UEFA Champions League Football and also the Rugby World Cup.

“Sports and alcohol have a perfect connect, both from a historical perspective as well as the fact that it has a bang-on appeal to the relevant TG – the youth – who are either playing sports or following it. Sports is all about positive values of victory and celebration, and these are alcohol consumption occasions,” says Sheikhawat.


Subodh Marwah, Marketing Director, Carlsberg India echoes a similar view and says that it is really a matter of who the brand’s consumer is and what his passion points are.

Globally, Carlsberg has been associated with the Euro Football Tournament since 28 years and also the Danish National Football team. It recently signed a three-year deal with the Barclays Premier League (BPL) to be the official beer of the league.

During the London Olympics last year, Seagram’s Royal Stag launched a campaign featuring the Indian hockey team captain Bharat Chetri to promote Indian hockey. Previously, cricketer Harbhajan Singh has also featured in its ‘Have I Made It Large’ campaign.

The non-tipsy cheer
Sponsoring sporting events and having sports personalities as brand ambassadors is a core part of non-alcoholic beverages’ marketing strategy too. Both Coca-Cola’s and Pepsi’s association with global sporting properties and domestic tournaments for football and cricket runs into years. Pepsi, for instance, has bagged the title sponsorship rights for India’s greatest cricketing spectacle, IPL, for five years.

Apparel and automobiles are the other sectors actively pursuing both mass sports and niche, alternative sports as a marketing tool. Many sportswear brands like Reebok, Puma, and Adidas among others have been the apparel sponsors for the Indian Premier League. For the ongoing IPL season, Adidas is the official apparel sponsor for two teams – Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils. Tushar Goculdas, Brand Director, Adidas India reminds us of the long association the brand has had with cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar – since 1997.


Tennis and fashion are often used in the same breadth and to leverage this stylish connect, Marks & Spencer recently tied-up with India’s only ATP World Tour Championship, the Aircel Chennai Open 2013 as the official fashion show partner.

Subodh Marwah, Marketing Director, Carlsberg India

Subodh Marwah, Marketing Director, Carlsberg India

In the Automobiles space, HMCL (formerly known as Hero Honda Motors) is amongst the largest corporate promoters of sports in India. The company has been supporting various sporting disciplines like cricket, hockey, shooting and golf. For Olympics 2012, Hero MotoCorp was the title sponsor of the men’s and women’s hockey qualifying events. Hyundai Motors too, has had successful associations with the FIFA World Cup and cricket.

There are also sectors like Telecom and BFSI, who have no clearly established connection with sports but are active sponsors of different games. Last year, telecom major, Bharti Airtel announced a new football initiative in association with Manchester United – Airtel Rising Stars, an under-16 soccer talent hunt, which will be conducted across 16 cities in India to choose talented footballers, who will get to train with the Manchester United Football Club.

“Airtel’s brand identity is fresh, youthful and dynamic – one that appeals to the young and those young at heart. We are always looking for new ways of being relevant to this target group, and what could be a better way of engaging with them than sports. Be it cricket (a cult sport that often terms as our country’s religion), soccer (a game that today’s discerning youth population truly enjoys) to Formula 1 (a passion for the young and increasingly global India) – Airtel continues to associate with all sports categories that appeal to discerning urban youth audience of today’s India,” says Ramesh Menon, Hub CEO, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat , Airtel.


Meanwhile, competition brand, Aircel has been associated with the Chennai Super Kings IPL Team and also India’s only ATP World Tour event. In fact, the telecom player has extended its association with the tournament as its title sponsor until 2016. According to Anupam Vasudev, Chief Marketing Officer, Aircel, the decision to sponsor the Chennai Open is to do with the brand’s strong presence down south. At the same time, it also helps the brand target a well-defined audience. “The Chennai Open appeals to a more professional, upper middle class community. In Tamil Nadu, it is also more popular compared to other markets of India. It helps us target a select community of tennis watchers. It is like the English Premier League where there is a relatively small percentage audience but in terms of reasonable numbers, it isn’t that small. In India, we tend to take numbers for granted; things are looked in percentages. Here the volume may not be small, but the percentage share is small. There is a reasonable population watching it, and being in the Chennai market allows us to play it to our strengths and to target the corporate and high network customers,” he explains.

Adding to this Anirudh Dhoot, Director, Videocon, says, “Associating with such tournaments not only leads to brand innovations but also it helps in meeting set marketing objectives, whether those of brand building or even rewarding one’s employees and customers.” Videocon DTH has tied up with the Hockey India League and Videocon Mobile Services (VMS) has signed up with Mumbai Indians to be its associate sponsor in this year’s IPL.

Samsung, along with Amul and ONGC were the chief sponsors for the London Olympics last year.

The IPL Frenzy
IPL, with its high glamour and entertainment quotient, provides brands an ideal ambience and an effective, large scale platform for consumer engagement. As the IPL fever catches on, so do marketing wars, with a deluge of brands competing with each other to woo customers.

PepsiCo, which has won the title sponsorship of the IPL for the next five seasons starting 2013, has planned a slew of initiatives such as interactive contests and engagement in-stadia, on-air and on-line marketing activities and product and branding innovation. There will be a Pepsi Tweet20 tournament on Twitter and the company also plans to launch a special can during the IPL season. Pepsi, which has brands including Mountain Dew, 7UP and Tropicana, has also tied up with eight IPL teams as their official drinks partner for the event. Coca-Cola India, on the other side, has its association with Mumbai Indians and has picked up a significant inventory on SET Max to launch its campaign.

Many telecom and mobile players are leveraging the IPL through broadcast or team sponsorships. Aircel has launched a consumer initiative with Chennai Super Kings – Extra Talk Time with CSK. With its full talk time of Rs 164, the company will offer extra talk time whenever CSK scores above 164 runs.

Another telecom major, Vodafone, one of the first partners with IPL, has been successful in creating an IPL mascot that, over the years, has become a significant part of the brand’s DNA. This season too, the quirky and humorous Zoozoos are back with the brand’s latest campaign to drive the adoption of mobile internet among non-Internet users.

Though Zoozoos are seen to have
minimal cosmetic changes, this year’s campaign shows the characters to be busier and up to something new and big- recruiting and training an army. The campaign is a build to something bigger as the TVC shows many mini Zoozoos buzzing, shaping up and speeding up things. As a part of Vodafone’s 360-degree communication, the campaign will be supported by a series of consumer engagement and advertising innovations. “On ATL, we will lead with products that drive people to use mobile Internet for the first time – music and picture downloads, social media, and job and matrimony search. We will also be supporting the campaign with an education drive, on-ground for people to feel comfortable using internet on mobile,” adds Anuradha Aggarwal, Senior Vice-President, Brand Communications and Insights, Vodafone India.

The action is even more pronounced on digital. Disney UTV’s Indiagames has launched the official IPL season 6 mobile game -’IPL Cricket Fever 2013’and has tied up with Parle for in-game branding. Parle Products, for the first time, has become the associate sponsor of the IPL league.

According to Vinit Karnik, Head of Sports and Live Practice, GroupM ESP, the content, sports and entertainment arm of GroupM Media India, the total value of on-ground deals enabled and activated by GroupM ESP in IPL 6, has been estimated at a whopping US $ 15 million. GroupM ESP has been an active intermediary and enabler, for clients and their brands and team owners and their franchises seeking to leverage the IPL on-ground sponsorship platform, by providing end-to-end IPL related solutions.

Looking beyond Cricket?
In a cricket-crazy nation, IPL with its high-impact format has been able to churn up reach and viewership like no other sporting spectacle in India. However, over the years, its popularity has seen a downslide with fall in advertising rates and viewership.

Hyundai Motors, for instance, decided to stay away from the IPL League but does sponsor other cricketing tournaments like the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup. At the Pitch CMO Summit held earlier this year, Nalin Kapoor, Senior General Manager and Group Head – Marketing, Hyundai Motor India spoke on the relevance of cross-media digital activations and value of cricket that goes beyond just a sport. In his opinion, cricket is a means of entertainment, bonding and engagement apart from being a regular sport.

He adds that cricket lovers want to watch the sport in any form, whether it is IPL or ODI. “We found ICC fulfilling all the guidelines. However, if there are opportunities, we would definitely like to look beyond ICC,” he said.

At the same time, with so many cricketing tournaments being played through the year, an element of fatigue gets generated among viewers.

It is perhaps because of these shortcomings that many brands are moving away from cricket and embracing other sports that do not have the same reach as cricket but score on several other fronts.

According to the SportzConsult Report, while 86 per cent of the respondents favoured cricket for their marketing campaigns, football came second at 45 per cent followed by hockey at 28 per cent, golf at 27 per cent and marathons at 25 per cent.

Getting kick-started
The spurt of football-themed bars and cafes, football merchandise stores and training camps by international football clubs isn’t the only sign of growing football frenzy in India. Marketers are also cashing in on the latest sport infatuation in the country and associating themselves with global football properties. The sponsors for the Euro Cup 2012, for instance, included Carlsberg, Cadbury, Reliance, DHL and Intel, while advertisers included Airtel, Coca Cola, Samsung, Nokia, Hero Moto, Sony, Titan and Vodafone.

Vinit Karnik, Head of Sports and Live Practice, Group M ESP

Vinit Karnik, Head of Sports and Live Practice, Group M ESP

Last year, handset maker, Nokia India became FC Barcelona’s regional partner for the whole of India. Airtel, with its tie-up with Manchester United, is promoting the game amongst youngsters with its Airtel Rising Stars tournament. Coca-Cola India has also been sponsoring various football tournaments in India to develop the game at the grassroots level. Mahindra is the title sponsor
of Mahindra Youth Football Challenge (MYFC), an under-14 school-level football tournament played in several cities across India with the objective of creating a competitive grass root but professionally managed platform for the youth to play football and thereby get an opportunity to showcase their skills.

However, when it comes to sponsoring global events, brands need to build in a certain level of localisation to increase its appeal amongst the Indian audience.

Sheikhawat says that while the messaging and the overall promotion plan is global, they do add local top spin in terms of the promotions that are run which include distribution of free tickets and merchandise.

“We follow a more glocalised approach and look at bringing global properties in a way that will appeal to the Indian consumer, rather than being completely global or local. First time ever, we got the UEFA Euro Trophy to India last year across a number of cities so that the sports fans could get a feel and experience the magic. We also gave consumers a chance to go to Ukraine and see the quarter finals of the tournament,” says Carlsberg’s Marwah.

While traditionally, the sport has enjoyed a cult following in certain pockets of India, especially North-East and Kerala, many brands feel that there exists a huge interest in the game amongst urban youth as well. While it may not enjoy a nationwide appeal commensurate to cricket, football fervour is slowly gripping the cricket-crazy nation.

On the other hand, Vasudev of Aircel, which also sponsors the Shillong Lajong Football Club in the North-East, feels that appeal of football is limited to local terrains.

“In case of sports marketing, we have tried to get as wide as we can, but ultimately it all comes back to cricket. And that is a limiting area; it makes the cost of sports marketing very difficult to do because then you are only working with one sport. The biggest challenge is that sports in India aren’t broad based enough,” he opines.

A perfect Formula?
After two successful editions of the Indian Grand Prix, the arrival of Formula One has surely seemed to have helped arouse interest in the virtually non-existent motor sports landscape in the country.

The glitz, glamour and adrenaline rush associated with Formula One has caught the eye of not just enthusiastic sports fans but also brands. “What Formula One gives you, is a big boost in brand value,” says Askari Zaidi, VP Corporate Communications and Official Spokesperson of the Jaypee Group, adding, “F1 has given a boost to India’s image, that we are capable of hosting international mega sports events.” Jaypee Sports International has been the official organiser of F1 in India.

Airtel, which is the title sponsor for the Formula One Grand Prix in India, and has a ` 34 crore worth five-year contract with Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is of the opinion that the “interest in the sport”, particularly amongst the youth has gone up.

However, on a thorough analysis of the brands associated with the sport, one finds that the premium nature of the sport mostly attracts bigger brands that have international stakes and deep pockets rather than smaller, local brands. Sahara, JK Tyres, P&G, GSK, MRF, UB Kingfisher, Mercedes, Shell and Puma are some of the participating brands.

The list of brands that associated with the sport on-ground, and on television in last year’s F1 included Petronas, Samsung and Vodafone as sponsors and 14 others: MRF, BPCL, Pernod Ricard, Sony India, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Bharti Cellular, Total, Exxon Mobil, Malayasia Tourism, UBS, Singapore GP, Q Net, India Tourism and DHL.

Auto brand, Mahindra has had a successful association with MotoGP, with Mahindra Racing being the first Indian team to participate in the FIM MotoGP World Motorcycle Racing Championship. Speaking about Mahindra’s association with MotoGP and the scope in India, Mufaddal A Choonia, Chief Executive Officer, Mahindra Racing SRL says that India is drawing a lot of attention as a big destination for motorsport events and the country is no longer a one-sport loving nation. “MotoGP as a sport has grown across the globe over the years, which does not leave India out. The youth at large has shown tremendous response towards the sport with a fan base that is growing into tens of thousands,” he says.

On the advantages of sponsoring such a sport, he adds, “MotoGP, being a global sport has a wide reach globally with millions following the sport both live on track and through television broadcasts across more than 207 countries. Thus MotoGP is a spectacular platform to showcase brand Mahindra to the world. Also participation in MotoGP, the pinnacle of 2 wheeled road racing, also gives Mahindra a great platform to showcase its technological and engineering capabilities, on a platform where the best in the world compete.”

Game for niche?
While Formula One, football, and even hockey to some extent, enjoy a fairly sizeable fan base, there are certain sports that serve an extremely well-defined target audience; polo, golf, adventure sports, and marathons being a few examples.

Over the years, there has been a surge of brands associating themselves with such niche sports either by way of sponsorships or by creating their own sporting properties. What makes such sports an attractive bet for marketers? What are the advantages over other mass sports which have both high reach and impact?

Most brands which attach themselves to such sports are of the opinion that unlike cricket, which sees a clutter of brands competing with each other, niche sports help brands in establishing a definitive connect basis the brand’s attributes that are in sync with the sport.

Austrian brand, Red Bull, is one of the most popular examples of a brand that has innovatively and successfully woven in adventure sports into the very ethos of the brand. Broadly, aggression, freedom and youthfulness are the key attributes portrayed by Red Bull and it has associated itself with sports that signify similar characteristics.

Along with sponsoring racing and football events, it also sponsors a multitude of adventure sports. While some of its popular global events include the space diving project, Red Bull Stratos, Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series and Red Bull Rampage, last year saw the brand bring the popular Red Bull SoapBox race to India.

Another beverage brand that has attitude, adventure and exhilaration as a core part of its brand DNA, Mountain Dew, is globally known for taking on niche sports, particularly extreme sports. Last year, the brand brought ‘Mountain Dew Xtreme Tour’, featuring renowned athletes in skateboarding, BMX and freestyle Motocross to India for the first time. Mountain Dew has also joined hands with Super Fight League, the first India-based Mixed Martial Arts property, as its official beverage partner. Recently, the brand also launched the ‘Push for Wrestling’ campaign with its brand ambassador Sushil Kumar. The campaign is aimed at garnering support for reinstating wrestling as a core sport in Olympics.

Explaining the association with such adventure sports, Ruchira Jaitly, Category Director- Flavours, PepsiCo India says that these associations give Mountain Dew the opportunity to leverage the passion that is building among Indian consumers.

Through this strategy, the brand is using a more targeted approach to build credibility in the consumer’s mind and cut through the clutter rather than latching on to a mainstream sport which will see sponsorships by many brands.

“Wrestling is a very connect sport in the northern part of the country, a region where Mountain Dew has a strong presence. This association helps us target the smaller towns, and Sushil Kumar is one of the biggest heroes of the game in the North,” says Jaitly.

Officer’s Choice Blue, the whiskey brand from the ABD portfolio has been associated with boxing and in a bid to promote the sport, has sponsored ‘Fight Night’, a boxing property created by Percept Limited. UB has also attached itself to several niche sports. The Kingfisher Derby, one of the most popular events in horse racing has been running for more than 25 years. Kingfisher also sponsors marathons like the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, and Airtel Delhi Half Marathon among others.

The automobile sector is also seeing brands tying up with adventure sports. Maruti Suzuki’s Raid-de-Himalaya Motorsport Rally has been successfully running for more than 14 years, and is a highly
anticipated competition for motoring enthusiasts across the country.

Cult brands Royal Enfield and Harley Davidson are other well-known examples of brands engaging their loyalists in hair-raising adventure sports and riding tours. In 2013, India will witness its first National HOG (Harley Owners Group) Rally. Harley owners will ride into Goa from across the country for what is essentially a giant Harley fan club meeting.

For Swedish luxury car-maker, Volvo, golf is an intrinsic part of the brand and the sport enjoys considerable affinity amongst its target audience. The brand has had a long association with golf and is the only car company which owns golf tournaments that are part of the European Tour or Asian Tour, such Volvo World Match Play, Volvo Masters and China Open. These are strategised, planned and executed by Volvo Events. It has also brought the Volvo World Golf Challenge, a global event for amateurs, to India.

“Golf is a niche sport if you take the entire universe, but so is our brand, and so is the luxury cars segment. Of 2.4 million cars sold, only 30,000 are luxury. Amongst, our TG, there is a lot of affinity towards our prospects playing golf,” says Sudeep Narayan, Marketing and PR Director, Volvo Auto India.

PepsiCo’s Jaitly feels that with their exclusionary nature, niche sports are easier to deal with than cricket. In case of cricket, with the sheer number of brands associated with the game, brands face the tough task of establishing their credentials that they are all about cricket.

For apparel brands, the association with niche sports is explained by the common attributes of style, perfection and sophistication. Raymond, for instance, has sponsored the RWITC Polo Championship 2013 while Louis Philippe is the title sponsor for the second time for the golf tournament, the Louis Philippe Cup.

Explaining the connect, Samrat Som, Director, Marketing, Louis Philippe says, “ We looked at several parts of a man’s life and what we want to be associated with. As people grow professionally, they also start cultivating interests in other areas- art, culture and finer things that make life. We considered various options in sports and entertainment. Golf has certain sophistication and it is nicely poised as a game. Louis Philippe, as a brand, is not one-dimensional, it is a lifestyle brand. Sports like football and cricket do not have a lifestyle around it. Golf, for us, represented that lifestyle.”

Another brand that has successfully leveraged its commonalities with a niche sport like chess is NIIT. NIIT’s 13-year long relationship with Anand has been built on the basis of the similarities between the game of chess and the brand personality of NIIT. Explaining the powerful synergy between the two, Prateek Chatterjee, Vice President, Corporate Communications & Marketing at NIIT says, “Just as chess helps to develop the young mind and enhance lateral thinking skills; NIIT has also been shaping minds by bringing people and computers together.”

For Profile or Money?
Sponsoring a niche sport whose attributes seamlessly fit in with the brand values helps marketers establish a connect with their target audience but there is no denying that such sports enjoy the partisanship of a select few. It definitely helps in creating brand imagery but what about monetary considerations? Are such sports looked at from a profile perspective or an ROI one? In Volvo’s case, it is both an ROI and an engagement tool. According to Sheikhawat, the ROI, in this case, is calculated more in terms of brand associations, recall and brand values that associating with such events drive on the overall perception of the brand. “I don’t think any of them are looked at from an ROI perspective. These are identified brand platforms and the ROI for us are scores in terms of brand health indicators and brand perceptions rather than sales volumes. You can’t get sales volumes and market share through this. But yes, in terms of associating with the right platforms to touch the right TG, I would rather do something that will allow me to get a significant and large number of target audience in one place than do several smaller activities wherein I have to reach out to them separately,” he says.

PepsiCo’s Jaitly feels that the ROI, in this case, is calculated in terms of just the sheer consumer connect and engagement that the association generates. “When the Mountain Dew Xtreme Tour was brought to India last year, we did see a lot of buzz generated in those cities. We saw an increase in the sheer recognition of the brand, association of the brand with such properties and also a bump up in consumption and volume,” she adds. But how financially viable are such associations?

“Our association with golf is financially viable because we involve our dealers,” says Volvo’s Narayan. “It is more like a sales tool for us, not just a tournament. We engaged with 1,000 people last year and this year we are targeting around 1,600 people. The selection happens on certain criterion which enables us to talk to the kind of people who will buy or the golfers who are in the window to buy a luxury car within six months to a year,” he adds.

Aircel’s Vasudev, however, has a different opinion on this. He believes that in case of niche sports, it becomes difficult to measure the financial impact. “Beyond a point, you can’t put everything in black or white. It is not a financial return analysis you do, you have to make some judgement calls on this. If it is appealing to the emotional side of a person, and building your brand affinity, the immediate thing that people do is to translate that into numbers,” he says.

While brands enthusiastically claim that they view sponsorships from a long-term point of view, GroupM ESP’s Karnik differs in his opinion. He believes that a most brands do not know the reason behind buying a certain sponsorship; most of the times it is entirely based on ROI considerations.

“Today, most sports sponsorships are bought from a tactical point not a strategic point. I would struggle to find more than five brands in the country who have consistently invested in one property on a long-term basis,” he says.

Playing a risky game
Ultimately, the risk-return trade off in sponsoring a niche sport depends on the consumer passion towards the sport. “If your consumers are not watching the game, ultimately you cannot do anything beyond a point,” says Vasudev. You need to ride that wave, and somewhere with the marketing that you do for an event – it does help to create interest in the sport. The core product has to be strong enough for the consumer to watch it. Marketing can help it increase its frenzy, but marketing cannot change the basic product story.

Does this make owning or sponsoring a niche sporting property a riskier bet than leveraging mass sports? Jaitly seems to disagree. “Risk happens when you pick up something from the global menu and put it here. We did a lot of work, to figure out whether the consumers identify with the sport. Once you’ve done that, then it is about going to the right place. It is not that risky as going out to literally create something,” she says.

Narayan echoes a similar view. “We have around 800,000 golfers in India now so it is not just an elite sport. Several middle-level to senior level executives in companies have started playing golf and they are our target customers in the next one to two years. Thereby, it makes our property that much more engaging with our prospects rather than shooting in the dark,” he says.
At the same time, according to most marketers, sports engagement is viewed from a long term perspective rather than merely as a tactical tool. “Your youth target audience doesn’t change in the short term, so it is for sure a long term direction, not a tactical approach,” says Sheikhawat.

The findings of the SportzConsult report also corroborate this claim. According to the survey, around 67 per cent of the respondents described their engagement with sports as a strategic one while 25 per cent view it as tactical and short term.

“We feel that brand imagery is built being associated with such sports. Once you build onto a brand name, then surely it puts a positive impact on sales. Thus, we look at a long term impact rather than just an immediate sales boost with such sports,” says Videocon’s Dhoot.

Getting a scoresheet for brands
How do marketers evaluate the success of a sports-led marketing campaign? Is it tangible results like an impact on sales or a change in brand perception? GroupM ESP’s Karnik goes ahead to explain different aspects of sports evaluation. “One aspect of sports evaluation is the media valuation of a sport based on what sponsors get through that sport. Every sport is consumed differently from a television point of view. A typical media evaluator would give you media value of a particular asset. Repucom is the standardised thing in India when it comes to media valuation. Then there are consumer insights. For IPL, GroupM, in the last five years has invested greatly on pre-evaluation and post evaluation of consumer insights,” he says.

United Breweries, for instance does a post event evaluation on major sports associations in terms of factors like the brand recall and likability. Several parameters are researched from a third party in a scientific fashion to get an idea.

Carlsberg’s Marwah is of the opinion that any property takes time to build up and therefore one can’t access its impact over a shorter period of time. It has to be around engagement with consumers, how they are viewing your brand and how they feel about your brand.

MEC, for instance, has developed a research-based tool called Partnership Intelligence that allows marketers to make an informed selection of sponsorships across non-comparable properties like sports, movies and art. It provides in-depth analysis into consumer interests, media consumption and attitudes towards different partnership platforms and thereby, according to Shweta Singh, Business Head, MEC Delhi, helps to deliver an analysis of the property attributes and a comprehensive assessment of the potential fit of a property with a brand’s own values.

Partnership Intelligence was born out of an online administered study conducted across 17 countries with SEC A, B and C people last year. According to the study, the ODI Cricket World Cup and the T-20 Cricket Tournament last year were the most preferred sporting properties amongst the Indian audience with a love and like score of 80 per cent. IPL came in third with a 71 per cent love and like score. FIFA World Cup was found to be the highest among non-cricket properties with a 66 per cent love and like score.

There are tools like TAM, TGI and IRS which have been providing essential insights about consumer behaviour. Explaining the functioning of these, Singh said that while TAM provides viewership data, and information about the consumption of programming channels mathematically, in TGI, brand consumption is mapped to the audience consumption and to the media consumption. However, there is no linkage between each of them. “TAM and IRS are numerically driven. TGI has psychographics covered to an extent. Partnership Intelligence links brand, audience and media consumption with each other. We take a set of qualitative attributes equivalent to psychographic dimensions and layer it on the brands as well as the properties. You are, therefore, able to marry the brand with the property much better,” she says.

Show me the money honey!
The findings of the SportzConsult report indicate that over 65 per cent brands who participated in the survey spent over Rs 1 crore on sports-led marketing campaigns and over 35 per cent spent ` 5 crore. At the same time, 60 per cent of the total respondents confirmed an increase in their sports investments in the coming years.

For UB Group, around 30-35 per cent of its total marketing budget is allocated to sports marketing, sponsorships and sports activation platforms. This investment, according to Sheikhawat, is seeing an annual increase of 7-8 per cent.

While there is enough money being spent in sports, the pertinent question is about the returns that can accrue. Do marketers find monetising sports associations a tough task? “I think the challenge comes when we look at monetisation only as sales; we need to look at the very strong equity builds as well because that is valued highly,” says Jaitly. Monetisation is equal to the fact if you can target this well, think of the wastage you get on media spends with mainstream media , were you to convert that into this activity and take it to those consumers, we are actually leveraging that money far better for something that has a high affinity.

Karnik however disagrees. In his opinion, India continues to be a one sport nation and therefore, from an audience point of view, the challenge for brands associating with lesser consumed sports is how to define ROI. And this challenge gets even more pronounced in the case of niche sports – ‘Bechara Sports’ as Karnik terms them.

He does add a caveat to this though. “Not always do I buy sponsorship of a sport from an association point. I would also buy a sport from an engagement point. I may have a specific problem with my brand and I buy soccer purely to from engaging a new TG point of view. Therefore, only media metric might not be a right tool to evaluate,” he says.

Sports not a sponsorship tool?
To sponsor a sport doesn’t mean only embedding the brand’s logo on the team’s shirt or on the board around the playing arena. Through sponsorships, brands must have a more involved association that makes them resonate in the consumer’s mind as someone connected to a particular sport. It’s no longer simply a matter of putting up a sign in a stadium, placing an ad in a broadcast or tossing a logo on a car. Instead, marketers want to take greater advantage of the deep emotional attachments leagues, teams and athletes have with the fans that follow them.

In Choonia’s opinion, it isn’t just about paying money and coming on board as a sponsor; a lot of companies are now putting resources towards development of sports at the grassroots level which could be considered a contribution towards the welfare of the society. “Other than the benefits of world-class visibility and branding, sporting properties and sponsors are building mutually beneficial and long lasting relationships with a sport. If this were to be seen from a corporate perspective, investment in sport would form an integral part of the ‘triple bottom line’ – ‘people, planet and profit,” he says.

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