While India might not be known as a ‘sporty’ nation, the near religion status of cricket with an occasional detour towards hockey, football, tennis and F1, are reasons enough for companies to put in mega bucks into sports events. Following the success of movies like ‘Chak De! India’, and with the upcoming Commonwealth Games, etc, companies are putting in place their strategies to gain maximum brand mileage out of sports events.
But how big is the sports sponsorship market in India? The figures vary. Arun Sharma, General Manager-Marketing and Head-Media, Bharti Airtel Ltd, said, “The sports sponsorship market in India is approximately worth Rs 700 crore.”
And what is the brand mileage from sponsoring sports events? Corporates firmly agree that sponsoring sports events added value to the brand and one also found a committed and sustained viewership.
Vijay Narayan, Vice President-Marketing Communication, Havells India Ltd, said, “Sponsoring sports events is more secure than having a sportsperson as brand ambassador. The popularity of a brand ambassador might fluctuate according to his/her performance, which could put the identity of the company at stake.”
After acquiring Sylvania in March 2007, it was essential for Havells India, which manufactures and supplies lighting products and electrical equipment in India and abroad, to create brand awareness beyond the Indian shores. And the company did that through an “advertising blitzkrieg on television”, according Anil Gupta, Joint Managing Director, Havells India Ltd.
Gupta further said, “Cricket sponsorship is the magic formula for grabbing the largest number of eyeballs as advertisers get good mileage for their sponsorship deals.” Havells was the co-presenting sponsor of the Natwest Series as well as the Twenty20 Championship. The company is also sponsoring the telecast of the ongoing India’s tour of Australia.
Some companies have gone beyond cricket for brand associations. PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew is one such example. The aerated beverage brand from the company has been successful in associating itself with alternative adventure and extreme sports like river rafting, paintball and biking events like ‘Crusty Demons’. However, PepsiCo has not overlooked cricket altogether. Through several innovative campaigns like ‘Toss ka Boss’, ‘Khufiya’ and ‘Blue Billion’, Pepsi has been able to unite the passion of cricket fans across the country and kept its brand association with the game alive.
Punita Lal, Executive Director-Marketing, PepsiCo India, said, “Similarly, with Gatorade Pacers, we have been able to facilitate the growth of budding sports talent while driving the linkage of Gatorade as a sports drink.”
Bharti Airtel has also been sponsoring cricket events for quite some time now. The company recently also got into sponsoring football events with an investment of about Rs 100 crore.
Bharti Airtel’s Sharma said, “The spending on sports sponsorship is high as the ROI on one media dwindles after a point and one needs to add more media vehicles for more impact media multiplier effect.”
Maj Vinod Krishna, Head of Sports at ONGC, “Sponsors spend a lot of money on such events as they find the returns worth the expenditure. In the case of ONGC, we spend roughly Rs 10 crore on sports sponsorship annually.”
Sports equipment and apparel manufacturing companies like Adidas, Nike and Reebok have been sponsoring some of the biggest sporting events for several decades. Adidas was one of the main sponsors of the FIFA World Cup and the French Open 2007. In 2008, they will be the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics as well as the European League football championships.
Hartwin Feddersen, Director-Marketing, Adidas, said, “It is fair to say that sports are a unique platform where people with different backgrounds engage with sports events and sports brand at an emotional level.”
Commenting on the association of Reebok, the official partner for ICC events, with cricket, Puneet Sewra, Brand Manager, Reebok India, said, “In India, cricket grabs the maximum attention, which is evident from the TRPs during major matches. However, to harness sports events just to get brand awareness is not the right strategy. We at Reebok make sure that we only take part in events or campaigns related to sports.”