Debashish Chakraborty
Brands and Sports marketing

Hero Drives the Indian Football Scene Ahead; On Boards Premier League as Presenting Sponsor for Broadcast

To understand more about this, afaqs! Reporter got in touch with Bharatendu Kabi, who leads the brand’s sports associations.

With the momentum in the Indian sports scene accelerating, brands just can’t stay off the ground. And, who would blame them; in return, the reach and loyalty via these sporting events are too lucrative to pass on. Also, the recent evolution in the slant of the brands from a predominantly cricket-playing country towards other sports, like football, badminton, kabaddi, hockey, volleyball, etc., is irrefutable.

Amidst all the ‘activewear & logos’ partnerships, India’s leading two-wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp recently got on board as the Presenting Sponsor for Premier League (PL) on Star Sports Broadcast. But what caught our attention was that this isn’t the brand’s first or second or even fifth association with the sport. The brand has been playing an influential role in almost every football tournament and league in the country, as well as, a few abroad. To understand more about this, we got in touch with Bharatendu Kabi, head – corporate communications, Hero MotoCorp, who leads the brand’s sports associations. In this interaction with Debashish Chakraborty of afaqs! Reporter, he talks about Hero’s long history with football, recent association, marketing opportunities leveraging sports, its sports-dedicated CSR platform, and more.

Edited Excerpts:

Hero has had a long association with Indian football. First, as the title sponsor for ISL and I-League, and now, as a Presenting Sponsor for Broadcast of PL. Just a happy coincidence?

I wouldn’t call it a coincidence. As you know, Hero MotoCorp is one of the biggest corporate promoters of football, supporting the game across platforms. In addition to being the sponsor of the Indian national teams for men and women across age groups, it is also the title sponsor of all the major domestic leagues — The Hero Indian Super League, Hero I-League, Hero I-League for Women, Hero Super Cup, and Hero Intercontinental Cup.

So, Hero MotoCorp plays the role of a catalyst – a change agent – in bringing about a transformation in the ‘culture’ of football in India. Through our support and promotion of multiple sporting events, we aim to drive growth in the popularity of football. Our association with the Premier League as Broadcast Sponsor is also in keeping with this belief and commitment.

How do you feel about the way football has gained momentum in India, and where it is going from here?

Football is arguably one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and there are resources available to support it. In just five years, the Hero ISL has inspired millions of youngsters across the country to take up the sport. Football has made huge strides not just in the traditional bastions, but also in other parts of the country.

As a long-term supporter of the game, we remain committed to contributing towards the growth of football in the country.

What kind of opportunities do big sports properties provide to corporates for reaching out to their TG?

Hero MotoCorp is one of the biggest corporate promoters of sports across the globe. Thanks to our association with marquee sporting events and sports personalities around the world, Hero has a brand presence in not just the 37 countries that we operate in, but also other geographies such as the US and Europe.

Hero MotoCorp has been a partner of the popular Spanish team Atletico Madrid. Argentine legend and coach of Atletico Madrid Diego Simeone and the popular Colombian defender Yerry Mina are Hero brand ambassadors.

These ongoing associations have allowed us to create experiential events for our stakeholder groups and reach out to them in a captivating manner.

For example, during the run-up to the FIFA U-17 World Cup, where Hero MotoCorp was a ‘National Supporter’, we organised a nationwide ‘Trophy Experience’ Tour, where fans had the opportunity to witness the actual FIFA U-17 World Cup Winner’s Trophy in person. The initiative garnered massive support from over a lakh football fans who flocked to Hero dealerships to have a closer look at the trophy and cheer the Indian team.

Similarly, in golf, our innovative initiative ‘Hero Challenge’ on the prestigious European Tour has been highly successful and has led to enhanced participation from young fans in the sport. The Hero Challenge is a one-hole knockout event played under lights that sees participation from top golfers and celebrities in an iconic location.

In addition to the remarkable brand value that Hero holds in India, what type of additional communication do you wish to achieve through sports associations?

We believe in the transformational power of sports on society and its ability to transcend borders and connect people. In addition to the global marquee events, sport is also one of the essential elements of Hero’s CSR platform in the form of project ‘Khelo Hero’ (Play Hero).

To encourage sports at grassroots, we have made considerable investments to build necessary infrastructure at schools in rural areas. Supporting professional paralympic athletes to prepare and participate in international events has also been a priority.

Going forward, where do you see Hero MotoCorp’s engagements with various disciplines of sports?

As I mentioned, Hero MotoCorp has always been at the forefront of driving innovation in sports that not only engages the target group but also brings newer audiences to follow the game. We will continue to create and drive unique engagements at various levels.

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