Bindra, Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar are a few new names on the Indian sports arena that have come into the limelight lately. Interestingly, these names are not associated with cricket; but with shooting, boxing and wrestling respectively. But will these names still be as interesting after six months? And given that India is a cricket crazy nation, can they interest marketers?
The third session of the Sports Marketing Summit 2008 - an event organised by afaqs! and SportzPR - in the capital on September 5 - tried to explore some of these questions.
The panel discussion 'Potential opportunities beyond cricket' that was moderated by sports commentator, V Krishnaswamy, took a serious look at sports such as tennis, golf and football and the opportunities they provided. While T Gangadhar, managing director, Mediaedge: cia, was of the view that few opportunities existed beyond cricket; others like Col R M Sharma (Retd), executive director, Asian Tennis Federation, were optimistic.
Col R M Sharma
V KrishnaswamySharma said that unlike cricket, tennis, besides having mass appeal, was a game that had no gender bias and could be played by moth men and women, at any age and on any turf. Besides having a high glamour quotient, it provided career opportunities beyond being a player - such as a coach or administrator - and business opportunities such as merchandising and event management. "It is also one game that can be played by physically disabled too," Sharma said.
He highlighted that the game was played the world over. Moreover, besides the Olympics and four Grand Slams, there are 63 ATP for men, 56 WTA for women, 287 Challengers, 499 Futures, 355 ITF for women, 138 ITF Juniors and Team events like Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Juniors DC, FC and WJT.
He said that the game had great potential in India, as "We have now quite favourable government policies to build up both talent and infrastructure for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. All schools, hotels and gyms are building tennis courts, and the game is getting a corporate acceptance."
After Sharma, the next one to give her presentation was Anita Nayyar, chief executive officer-India, Havas Media, who provided the audience with some statistics on sports globally.
Quoting figures from a PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, she said, "The sports business globally stood at $100 billion and was growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 6.5 per cent. Sponsorships contribute nine per cent to the global advertising spends of $500 billion."
She pointed out that soccer, amongst all, churned the maximum revenue globally; adding that while the maximum viewership globally for cricket was a mere 20 million, soccer commanded the maximum eyeballs with a close to 100 million viewership.
On the revenue charts too, football was on the top, commanding 40 per cent of the revenue share. Meanwhile, cricket was at a distant sixth with four per cent share.
Nayyar had questions galore. She started with the billion dollar question of why India, with a population of more than a billion, could get just three Olympic medals. She asked Sharma, that though schools and hotels were building courts, was there any fan-following for other sports? And was there any commercial viability and viewership for other sports? And "If China can rise from less than 10 medals in 1996 to 106 medals in 2008, what was India thinking about?"
She said that creating talent and generating interest were interlinked. "Sports generates talent, talent generates interest, interest generates eyeballs, which in turn generates money."
And in her opinion, to do that was the job of all - the media, the federation and the governing bodies, the government and the marketers, "to generate interest and talent", to look beyond cricket.
Third, it was the turn of Rishi Narain, of Rishi Narain Gold Management to sell golf to the audience. Narain started with, "In golf, facilities are driven not by opportunities, but by real estate." He pointed out that golf was an aspirational game; and realtors were fuelling this aspiration by coming up with golf courses to woo the burgeoning disposable income. He said that while there are 250 golf clubs in India, there are over two lakh active golfers and another two lakh inactive golfers in India. These numbers are growing by 15 per cent annually.
"The golf market is expected to double in the next five years," he said. Amongst the big spenders on golf is Emaar-MGF, which spends about Rs 25 crore annually on the European Tour. The second on the list is Hero Honda, spending about Rs 10 crore on the PGTI Tour, followed by Bilt/Avantha with a spending of Rs 5 crore; and both ICICI Bank and Mercedes Benz spending Rs 4 crore each. Brands like McDowell and DLF, which are trying to be aspirational too, spend about Rs 3 crore and Rs 2 crore respectively.
The total sponsorships in 2008 on golf are likely to be around Rs 91 crore, up from Rs 38 crore last year. Narain made no mistake in pointing out that "2008 is an aberration and 2009 would have only Rs 76 crore worth sponsorship, because of the Asian Tour going to Perth, Australia, next year."
He said that Indian corporates with global ambitions, such as Tata, Reliance, Aditya Birla Group, Mahindra and Mahindra, Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, TCS, Genpact, State Bank of India and ICICI Bank could certainly leverage on the global reach of golf and get exposure in the markets of USA, South America, Europe, East Asia and Japan.
In fact, Indian tourism could take a cue from countries like Thailand and Malaysia, which are promoting golf to attract high-end travellers and businessmen as tourists, Narain said.
Next, it was the turn of Shahji Prabhakaran, director, Vision India, All India Football Federation (AIFF), to talk about football and its popularity in India. He stated that there were over four lakh registered football players in India and the playing population (non-registered with AIFF) could be 20 times more. He pointed out that AIFF recently did a survey in schools in the National Capital Region (Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Greater Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad), where it was found that 76 per cent of the students play football and want to be associated with football.
He said that the international football body, FIFA has planned a project, Vision India, where it was investing on talent and infrastructure for football. The programme is currently operational in four states - Manipur, Tripura, Kerala and Delhi. It will be extended to Goa and West Bengal next year. He also noted that AIFF was trying to corporatize football and the results would be visible by 2011. Urging brands to be associated with football, he said, "Football is a game played across all countries in the world. It can give you global viewership."
Meanwhile, sports commentator, Krishnaswamy pointed out that Prabhakaran had failed to point out that India ranked 151 in the global football scenario.
Gangadhar, on his turn, was a little sceptical about the scope beyond cricket. He quoted TAM (C&S, 4+, All India) figures on the viewership of major sports events in India. While the T20 Indian Premier League (IPL) 2008 was watched by over 102 million viewers, Wimbledon 2008 and Euro 2008 were watched by 17 million and 15 million viewers respectively. Olympics 2008 fared a little better with 50 million viewers, but came nowhere close to the viewership IPL enjoyed. He minced no words in asking, if "Corporate India would come forward to do missionary work, along with the respective governing bodies to 'popularise' other sports."
"In the short/medium term, cricket still is the best bet for marketers," he said. He pointed out that all sports were evolving; but at the same time, cricket too was evolving, and T20 was just an example.
However, he had some hope for other sports too, provided that they could generate role models such as Sania Mirza, Rajyavardhan Rathore or Narain Karthikeyan. "The key would be if they can sustain themselves in the mass media consistently."
Also, he pointed out that no sport was played as frequently as cricket in India. Hence, it would be difficult for the to-be role models to be in the limelight consistently.
"The popularity of a sport is directly proportional to the extent of live coverage on TV and opportunities exist for those sports that are broadcast live frequently," he said.
In a scenario where glamour and lifestyle are likely to be the key drivers, Gangadhar felt that apart from cricket, tennis, football and Formula 1 "will benefit the most."
Another key point that came up for discussion was the role of the media in neglecting other sports. All panelists agreed that media could not be blamed entirely. "It is the media that has made Abhinav Bindra popular in the country and has highlighted his self-determination and grit, with little help from the governing bodies," Nayyar said, adding, "It was left to Shah Rukh Khan to give sheen to our national sport, hockey, through his movie, Chak De India."
Gangadhar added, "The media cannot be blamed. It has given equal coverage to all sports. In fact, during FIFA World Cup and Olympics, newspapers came out with special designs. If the games are not played that frequently in India, the media cannot be blamed for that. It is the job of the governing bodies to hold tournaments and matches more frequently."
The event was sponsored by Kingfisher, Neo Sports, and Neo Cricket.