The timing of Brandscore 2007 couldn’t have been better. Where on the one hand, Bollywood is witnessing a slew of sports based movies such as ‘Chak De India’ (hockey) and ‘Goal’ (soccer), on the other hand, the Indian media fraternity has recently seen the launch of various sports specialists like Havas Sports, O&M Sports and VGC Sports. Needless to say, agencies like MindShare are stating that they are heavily building skills in this area.
Brandscore 2007, an ESPN-STAR Sports (ESS) initiative in partnership with MindShare attempted to look at various facets of sports marketing in India and the advantages that it could bring to the table. The idea was to educate Indian advertisers and media that sports could be more than cricket even in India, and return on investment (RoI) from the medium is a reality.
The opening session saw R C Venkateish, MD, ESPN Software India, and MindShare’s Ashutosh Srivastava speak on the intensity that sports as a medium offered, and hence consumer engagement. Srivastava brought a global perspective here, explaining that studies quoted the global sports sponsorship market to be at $38 billion, and that this year the domain would see a 12 per cent jump, while a 15 per cent increase is expected next year.
Srivastava explained the need for insight led strategic advice on where to take sports marketing. In addition to creating awareness around sports, Srivastava stated, “We need to evangelise the success stories of the world to know what to do in India.”
The passion with which sports is treated and marketed internationally was seen in the presentation made by David Magliano, Director of Marketing, London bid for Olympics 2012. He took the audience through the processes of choosing a host city for Olympics and how the presentation London team had done was differentiated in order to move the decision in its favour. The fact that London will be the host city for Olympics 2012 shows that the strategy had worked.
The ESS case study; and the Visa experience
It’s not very easy to be a sports entity in India --- irrespective of whether or not a channel has bagged any India cricket rights. Jamie Davis, Managing Director, ESPN-STAR Sports Asia, took the audience through the “jigsaw puzzle” as ESS sees it and what completes the game for ESS. Some of the factors that he enumerated for sports as a medium were that no other genre could create passion like sports; sports provided the ultimate drama and was wholesome and most importantly, sports was a ‘now’ medium -- people wanted to see sports live.
In its bid to serve the sports fan, and be where the sports fan is, ESS now has three channels in India – ESPN, STAR Sports and STAR Cricket and has taken its focus beyond television. Davis elaborated on ESS’ efforts on non-cricket sports like hockey, soccer, F1 and so on as clear long term pay plans. The count of interactivity, too, has a similar approach. ESS is present in mobile, Internet, broadband, gaming and other such mediums with initiatives like mobile ESPN and X Games Asia to ensure that ESS ensured a two-way communication for its viewers.
Davis also brought the angle of corporate social responsibilities from any sports corporation.
Rajiv Kapoor, Executive Vice-President and General Manager – Marketing, Visa International – Asia Pacific, explained more on the risks and benefits of partnering with sports events. He presented various examples from soccer and rugby, to Olympics to cricket and the manner in which consumers could be engaged when a product was exposed in a sporting event with the context of sports.
Kapoor explained that partnerships with sports could even help in addressing problems of legalities and infrastructure that an advertiser might face in a particular country. He cited the Beijing 2008 Olympics to make his point.
As an advertiser, he explained that while it could be a risk to partner with sports like cricket in India, where the stakes were very high, it was a risk that as a business had to be taken. More importantly, however, the risk could be minimised when marketers learn that instead of backing individuals, advertisers back teams and finally back the sport.