‘Power Play’, the concluding session of the India Sports Marketing Forum (ISMF) 2009, saw an interesting one-on-one interaction with Shailendra Singh, Joint MD, Percept Ltd. The session was chaired by Amit Agnihotri, Co founder and Director, exchange4media Group, and Editor, Pitch. In his unconventional style, Singh gave his insight into the Indian sports industry and explained the difference between loving the sport form of cricket versus loving the entertainment form of cricket, and the fact that in India it was the latter case.
‘According to Singh, one reason why the journey of Percept had been fantastic was because the Percept leadership team treated the business as a sport. He said, “We are proud and passionate about our brand, we have great reflexes. We treat our business as a sport, because if you behave like an athlete in business, you know you can win. You also know that there would be instances when you lose and you won’t let that get you down.”
‘He further noted, “We are not a sporting nation and we do not have a sporting mindset either, and this is a reality. We believe in ‘cricketainment’, as we care only about the entertainment of cricket and not the sport per se. Someone like Lalit Modi realised this early and took the sport to a Rs 5,000 crore area from the Rs 300-400 crore space that it was in.”
‘ “We have to understand that if India is to be a sporting nation, this is the best time since India is doing well in other sports and the year 2010 will see the Commonwealth Games being held here. However, despite all this, there has to be an investment in the sporting arena, where right from the ground level, sports is inculcated and made simpler for the kids growing in India. We are not designed like that yet,” he lamented.
‘Stating that there was no scope for other sports in India, given the situation around, Singh suggested that if the sector was privatised it could perhaps make a difference, in the manner that had been seen in Indian airports in the last few months. On being asked how marketers looked at sports, Singh replied, “Right now, it is just prostitution of cricket – available to anyone and even in that, it has become a game that only a few can afford. Return on Investment is crucial, but in cricket it is diminishing now.”
‘He pointed out that if a client really wanted better ROI, he would have to think of long-term investments. “They have to think of the association with the sport at another level altogether. In cricket, the sport has become bigger than the product and gone are the days when a tournament was known by the brand name – whether it was the Pepsi Cup or Hero Cup. The brand saliency with the game in that nature was gone and that was only one level of concern. The second level of concern was how the industry could look at sports for those advertisers that could not afford the big ticket cricketing properties,” he added.
‘Singh also observed that if at all there was a mindset shift among the marketers or in the corporate about sports, there was hope. In conclusion, he said, “We need to train the athletes and make them ready for sports. Right now, everyone is asking about where is the infrastructure to make sports happen, or even questioning the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. I have not seen one article that asks if the athletes are ready. India, for me, is the ‘United States of India’, wherein you have to grow to the grassroots in order to increase the popularity of the game.”