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India Sports Marketing Forum: ‘Sports is the barometer of a country’s economic health’

13-September-2008
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India Sports Marketing Forum: ‘Sports is the barometer of a country’s economic health’

The Indian media and advertising industry is growing, and there are various domains that have grown enough for advertisers and media owners to tap in order to connect better with consumers today. In line with its series of bringing such domains under the scanner, the exchange4media Group organised the India Sports Marketing Forum (ISMF) in the Capital on September 12.

The event, which was organised in association with the India Sports Equity Foundation, looked at the factors that made a difference to the way sports was seen in India, and where the marketing of this domain was set to take off. The ISMF was presented by Indian Cricket League (ICL) in association with e-sense. Gautam Bhimani was the programme facilitator and anchor.

Even as the focus of the event was sports marketing and how advertisers viewed it, it also saw participation from luminaries in the Indian sports arena. The advertisers, the agencies and representatives from the media broadcasting and the Indian sports fraternity agreed on many of the problems that the sports industry was facing, but they were also quick to add that the point was not to do nothing, but look beyond these areas and seek ways that would not just grow sports in India but grow it in a manner that would excite corporates to be a part of sports other than just cricket, and support new heroes.

The various sessions debated on whether performance came first or the sports sponsors came first. The experts took cognizance of the fact that sports was not a priority on the India agenda. Some of the other questions that were raised were what other spectator sports had to do to be considered at par with cricket, what the federations were doing for various sports disciplines, and would the Commonwealth Games 2010 do anything to accelerate India’s journey towards becoming a sporting nation.

Passion and Achievement, and the link in between
The welcome address was delivered by HP Singh (better known as Rishi), Chairman, Indian Sports Equity Foundation, and Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group.

Presenting his view of the Indian sports marketing industry and where he saw it, Singh said, “The Indian sports industry has a fantastic future. Sports is the barometer of a country’s economic health and as has been said, ‘(Abhinav) Bindra’s Gold has broken the jinx’. In the sports’ arena, corporates and federations can be compared to venture capitalists. They don’t play the game, but nurture talent. The aim of a forum like is to make a difference to Indian sports, and make it a first-class profession.”

Adding to this, Batra said, “We have to adopt the approach of nurturing talent from the start. From the way I see it, there are two factors where the media industry and media professionals have something to take from the various sports vehicles. These are passion and achievement or excellence. Today’s world is full of multiple consumer choices. As a media professional gets immersed in delivering on ROI and building brands, these are the two things that can make a difference. The performance of the Indian team at the Beijing Olympics has emboldened us further, and now the Commonwealth Games is around the corner. There is surely a lot that is happening in this arena.”

The World Champion Dream for the Young India
The Chief Guest at the ISMF, Raja Randhir Singh, Secretary General, IOA and Vice Chairman, Commonwealth Games 2010, had some inspiring words for the sports community in his keynote address. He said, “India has done extremely well (at the Olympics). For many years, we were winning only in hockey. We won a Gold and two Bronze medals this year and it is a fact that the jinx has been broken. What is interesting is that you have quite a few sports where India had fared well, including badminton, rowing and tennis.”

Noting that the overall system in the country was improving, he added, “Everyone talks about how there were no Indian wins despite the country having a population of 1.1 billion. The truth of the matter is that the investment in sports is a pittance. Sports has not been a priority for India, and that is perhaps right given the various things that happen in the country. Not many have been able to come forward to do anything about it. The change today is that unlike earlier, today there is some interest in sports on the overall scene.”

The onus of Sports is on the entire country
Anil Khanna, President, Asian Tennis Federation, in his address said, “This forum is an indication of where sports is heading in India. Sports is currently a Rs 2,000 crore industry here. While cricket has been blamed immensely, it has done great wonders for Indian sports. With the setting up of an international sports forum, most people across the world are wondering how India can generate so much money for sports. The Indian market is opening to sports. It is important for every sport to be structured correctly to be media friendly and spectator friendly. If not, then you cannot market it, and that would be the problem.”

According to Khanna, the other big thing was the creation of personalities. He furthr said that there were some plans to grow tennis further, especially in Asia. One step in that direction was the conceptualisation of the Asia Tennis Tour, on the lines of the Asian Golf Tour. This event would be in place by 2009.

Lalil K Bhanot, Secretary General, Commonwealth Games 2010, spoke on the benefits that were expected from the mega sports event in India. The plan was to create a revenue neutral event that would get the money from sponsorships, he said, adding that there would be four major areas that would directly benefit from the Commonwealth Games 2010 – the first being sports infrastructure in Delhi.

He further said that an amount of Rs 700 crore had been set aside to prepare Indian sportsmen for the event.

Also, it is business at the end of the day and with the Commonwealth Games, the tourism industry would also benefit. Khanna added, “The Government is spending money, but it is not adequate. Private players also need to come forward and support the sportspersons. For talent, we need to go to the grassroot level, and for that, a lot of money is required.”

On this note, the morning concluded and made way for intense panel discussions during the course of the day that brought various aspects of sports marketing under the scanner.

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