Akshit Pushkarna

Are brand advertisers acknowledging the rise of women's sports?

Industry experts discuss factors boosting women athletes' visibility and persistent challenges in brand associations.

A month has passed since the Indian athletic conginent displayed their dominance at a global scale at the Asian Games 2022. Indian women athletes shone brightly at the Asian Games, contributing significantly to India's historic medal tally of 107.

Their achievements included Jyothi Surekha's gold in compound archery, Parul Chaudhary and Avinash Sable's double podium in athletics, and Aditi Ashok's historic medal in golf. Indian women's success extended across various sports, showcasing their exceptional talent and determination on the international stage, making the nation proud.

Despite the increased recognition gained by athletes like boxing champion Nikhat Zareen, badminton star PV Sindhu, table tennis ace Manika Batra, and the Women's cricket team, they are seldom seen in advertising campaigns for brands.

Yannick Colaco, co-founder of FanCode, highlights the pivotal role of comprehensive coverage and strategic marketing in elevating women's sports in India. Recognising the untapped potential in sports like basketball and volleyball in India, he emphasises the need for high-quality coverage to foster a passionate fan base. He stresses the importance of showcasing live events, crafting engaging content, and effective marketing to create compelling narratives around women in sports.

However, he also acknowledges the increasing support from stakeholders, sponsors, and conferences, indicating a positive shift towards promoting women's sports. Despite the progress, Colaco notes the existing disparity between men's and women's sports, due to the more historical coverage and investment that men's sports has had.

"Comprehensive coverage and strategic marketing are essential in elevating women's sports in India. We need respectful portrayal, high-quality coverage, and compelling narratives to foster a passionate fan base. While progress is evident, bridging the gap with men's sports requires continued efforts and equal support."

Myprotein, a health supplement brand, has been collaborating with athletes in India for a while. However, they are now planning to intensify their efforts to establish partnerships with female athletes.

Sudeshna Saha, Regional Manager of India, Myprotein, believes alignment is a pivotal ingredient in partnerig with athletes. She mentions that the interest in growing India’s fringe sports and backing talent that will push the next generation forward is a crucial aspect of this alignment process for Myprotein.

"With brands like Myprotein that have direct involvement in the performance of these athletes, the interest from the brand aspect has evolved to address and develop exclusive product ranges that will be batch-tested for anti-doping through Informed Sport; Ensuring athlete safety and compliance with regulations. In this proactive involvement, the scope of the brand goes beyond just traditional endorsement support."

Suhail Chandhok, CEO, U Mumba, emphasises the transformative journey of women's kabaddi in India. Chandhok highlighted that his focus with his startup Elev8 India Sportz saw them introduce the concept of "Mahila Mondays" for Kabadi to Shark Tank investors.

Their vision with the startup involves fostering women's kabaddi, capitalising on its unique dynamics tailored for women, including a faster-paced game on modified courts. Chandhok expressed the need for role models to uplift women in sports. Despite the growing interest and encouraging responses witnessed through their series and state associations' enthusiasm, he acknowledged the time it might take for financial benefits to align with the sport's potential.

Aakriti Vohra, LaLiga Global Network Delegate, India, says that the focus on women's sports continues to be a trending topic, both globally and in India.

"The future LaLiga has been able to recognise back in 2018 for India, and put into place it is in line with how brands are currently analysing woman sports at the moment. More than just a male football competition, LaLiga under an umbrella of entities, including the LaLiga foundation, LaLiga football school and LaLiga academy, has been investing in India for a while now with promising results."

"From scouting India’s current Under -20 striker Kajol Dsouza, and providing her with a full scholarship to the EA Sports' FC Futures LaLiga academy in Spain, to establishing India’s first residential women’s academy in Anantpur, the understanding of the scope and potential of the industry is clear, and indeed massive.”

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