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It’s all Greek for Indian brands

19-July-2004
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It’s all Greek for Indian brands

Ever wondered why Indian athletes, unlike the cricket icons, are hardly ever picked up for brand promotions? We already know that cricket sells like nothing else. (FE, July 17). Now, broadcasters and media analysts help us figure out why Indian corporates are not sold on Olympic Games and Athens-bound athletes.

“We rarely perform in the Olympics,” argues Mindshare India managing director Ashutosh Srivastava. Till India makes a habit of winning in the biggest athletic event, advertisers won’t care to put their money on Olympics, according to Mr Srivastava, a media analyst.

While winning is crucial for popularising the Games, marketing is also significant, says Starcom executive director Anita Nayyar. For instance, ask Ms Nayyar why India Inc is not betting on the Athens-bound woman power (though, as an exception, shooter Anjali Bhagwat was recently selected as a brand ambassador), she replies: “There may not be any scientific reason for that. But, the events/sports of the Olympic Games must be projected and marketed first.” Only then would stars be picked up for endorsing brands. Incidentally, among the women star brigade at Athens would be Anju George (long jumper), K M Beenamol (800 m and 400 m), Neelam Jaswant Singh (discus throw), Karnam Malleswari (weightlifting) and Anjali Bhagwat (shooting).

Another reason why Indian corporates are not paying much heed to the Olympic Games is that “it’s still a mini-metro phenomenon”, according to Ms Nayyar. So, if an advertiser is not keen on penetrating smaller towns, there’s nothing much for him in the Olympics, she reasons. With Doordarshan having the rights to Olympics in India, it’s an opportunity mostly for those aspiring to be mass brands, it is believed. Interestingly, the prospect of cricket being included in the future Olympic Games is making India Inc a bit upbeat now, indicate industry insiders.

Mr Srivastava of Mindshare compares Olympics with Formula 1 racing, as far as India market is concerned. Both don’t offer any huge value to advertisers, he claims.

For athletes to be picked up as brand ambassadors, they need to be marketed by their managers and themselves, when they return from Athens, he says. But he maintains that they would be treated on par with cricket icons only when they win.

Broadcasters, on their part, say that showing Olympics on TV is more of a “commitment to their viewers”, and that it has nothing much to do with advertising. They, however, fail to explain why India Inc is not gung ho about Olympics, except pointing out that “only cricket sells in India”.

For instance, Prasar Bharati director marketing Vijaya Laxmi Chhabra says that in the cricketing season, there isn’t much excitement among the corporates about Olympics. “DD is not showing Olympics for purely commercial reasons,” she says. An All India Radio official quips: “In India, one doesn’t get to watch Olympics as often as cricket”, explaining the advertisers’ indifference towards the Games. “We have the mandate of bringing Olympics to our listeners,” is all that the AIR official has to offer. According to a Ten Sports official, “Olympics is not a big driver for ads. Historically, it has a novel value....”

To put things in perspective, rights holder Prasar Bharati would make just about Rs 10 crore of ad revenue from Athens Olympics, while the pubcaster may get ads worth double that amount for four cricket matches during the Asia Cup tournament.

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