A sporting country is a healthy country and a healthy country gives rise to a powerful nation. Yet India has lagged far behind in most sports disciplines. There are several issues that plague the development of sports in the country. To highlight these issues and more, the exchange4media Group had organised the India Sports Marketing Forum in Delhi on September 12 in association with India Sports Equity Foundation. The ISMF was presented by Indian Cricket League (ICL) in association with e-sense.
The various sessions debated on whether performance came first or the sports sponsors. Some of the other questions that were raised included what spectator sports had to do to be acknowledged at par with cricket; what are the federations doing for various sports; and would the Commonwealth Games 2010 do anything to accelerate India’s journey of becoming a sporting nation.
The Great Indian Sports Tamasha
The first session of the ISMF 2008 saw discussions on issues like whether other sports could compete with cricket; where will India be in the sports arena in 2020; and are marketers to blame for people’s apathy towards other spectator sports.
Moderated by Manish Porwal, CEO, Percept Talent Management, the panelists included Anita Nayar, CEO, Havas Media; Navroze Dhondy CEO, Creatigies Communications; yachtsman Bhavik; Roland Landers, Senior VP-Strategy, Zee Sports; Ayaz Memon, Sports Editor, DNA; and World Billiards Champion Pankaj Advani.
Memon said, “These are good times for India in terms of sports. Winning three medals, one of them Gold, at the Beijing Olympics, is definitely not too much for a country with a billion plus population and a robust economy. But these three medals are an important breakthrough for us. What we urgently require is a change in the mindset.”
According to Dhondy, “It is the attitude. We need to correct as it is a vicious triangle and we need to break through that and go beyond cricket. However, we need to take cricket as an icon and stop cricket bashing, instead we need to learn from it, the way the sport has been marketed. At the end of the day, everything is performance-based, if the performance is good, even a sport like billiards can rake in money.”
Advani, who has won six world titles in billiards, noted, “Let every sports create its own identity. We must look up to cricket as a benchmark and learn how BCCI marketed the sport so well that it reached has reached its current stature. What is required is a change in our perception, we cannot blame the corporate sector alone for the demise of sports, the federation has to approach the marketers and present the sportspersons as heroes. There is a direct relation between effort and reward, and that can happen if corporate houses come forward and create brand fits, and thus take the game forward.”
Considering the short attention span of the audience today, Nayar said, “Cricket has evolved itself from test to ODI to T20 and may go a step ahead with T10 to keep the entertainment level soaring, and as a result we watch more of cricketers than cricket. It is a joint responsibility of everybody to bring other sports at par with cricket. The Government should invest much more in sports. Winning three medals at the Olympics out of a billion plus population is shameful. We are doing nothing but playing a blame game, instead a clone of cricket should be created.”
Bhavik observed, “Money is crucial for any sport to grow and you need sportspersons who are dedicated to their sport. Once you have the credibility, that is when marketers come to the aid, and if we have the passion for the game, eyeballs will also follow.”
Porwal concluded the discussion citing some figures from his research, “By 2020, India would be the fourth largest sports consuming nation and money from world over would come into Indian sports, not just cricket. In fact, in 2020 I believe we will win not less than 60 medals.”
He admitted, “Investment is little in Indian sports, however, the money we are receiving needs to be spent in the right direction. These eight years would be a renaissance for Indian sports.”