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“India needs to focus on athletes and sports performance for a post-pandemic comeback”: GroupM ESP Properties playbook

While there are speculations around sports to be conducted for TV audience only, anything is a possibility at this point in time. But from an audience appetite standpoint, fans are hungry and waiting for live sports.

GroupM’s ESP Properties’ Business of Indian Sports Playbook suggests that to continue the growth of the sector and a comeback post the pandemic, India needs to focus on its athletes and sports performance. While other sporting leagues are on hold and the Olympics have been pushed, mobile gaming is one segment which not only has witnessed a huge growth during the lockdown but also is poised to grow post the pandemic considering its lockdown-related user surge.

Sports sponsorship industry in India has been growing at a healthy CAGR of 12.8 per cent over the last 10 years, with overall Sports Sponsorship market in India crossing the mark of Rs 9,000 Crore for the first time 1.

2020 was a year of Tokyo Olympics, T20 World Cup, Euro 2020 along with major tournaments like Vivo IPL. With most of the sports tournament either cancelled or indefinitely postponed, YOY growth / estimation for year 2020 pre-COVID-19 will not hold true.

While there are many speculations around Sports to be conducted for TV audience only with no fans or limited fans in the stadium, anything is a possibility at this point in time. But from an audience appetite standpoint, fans are hungry and waiting for live sports.

In a parallel world, esports has been trying to emulate traditional sports for some time now to reach a larger and more mainstream audience. It had already become a billion-dollar industry pre-COVID pandemic with tournaments witnessing arenas filled with screaming fans and sponsors increasingly injecting monies in the ecosystem globally. With the lockdown in place and millions forced to stay at home; esports has shifted to online format filling up the void for many of the LIVE sports’ hungry fans worldwide.

Here are the key highlights from the playbook:

  • The post COVID-19 time is expected to define “new normalcy” which in turn will have a telling effect on all aspects of business including sports.

  • Keeping the fans engaged is an important KPI for a rightsholder & broadcaster. The lockdown times could be a perfect opportunity for both to make heroes off their fans.

  • Broadcasters should toy around with various non-live sport-ainment formats as the fan acceptability quotient is high right now. Innovative content formats need to be thought of between the talent and broadcaster to make the most out of a fan’s interest in some sporting action.

  • Government partnerships in sports realm is the need of the hour. Government and sponsors have worked together beautifully as Public-Private-Partnerships. Post COVID-19 time will call for many such initiatives.

  • Talent needs to make full use of the lockdown to enhance relationships with fans via social media. Live talent interaction on social media has caught the eyes of a large fanbase since the fans need to see some action happening between the talent instead of no-action. Gaming & virtual sports should definitely be in the consideration set for active fan engagement during current times taking a cue from how cricket world cup winner Ben Stokes engaged with his fans through F1 e-sports Vietnam Grand Prix.

Find the complete report here:

ESP Properties Business of Indian Sports - COVID-19 Outlook.pdfDownload