It is time for hockey to catch up the cricket-fever. ESPN STAR Sports and Leisure Sports Management (LSM) have come up to promote the sport. The duo is working with the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) to ‘reposition’ and ‘sell’ hockey to the masses.
Come September, the league will offer over Rs 71 lakh worth prize money. ESPN will exclusively telecast the national hockey league for ten years while Kolkata-based LSM will take care of all on-the-ground activities.
Speaking on the domestic hockey league, K.P.S. Gill, President, IHF mentioned that it was a result of a lot of deliberations and discussions. “The final form of the tournament is quite sleek; the league will be played in a world-class format with a promise of attracting blue-chip companies, ticket sales and viewership,” he said.
Looking at it from a marketer’s point of view, one would wonder why doesn’t hockey sell the way cricket does? According to Gill, the answer lies in the fact that hockey was not highlighted in the media. “Going commercial is the only way to popularise hockey. We have to make it television-friendly; the sport needs to grow as a viewership phenomenon,” he observed. “There has been a conscious attempt to make cricket more saleable. Media has been roped in to create hype and the game has been resolutely popularised among the masses. This in turn has brought in the sponsors.”
Optimism to promote hockey to the stratospheric height of cricket in India, was evident in the speech of RC Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India. “Our objective is to make hockey as exciting as cricket,” he said. Talking to exchange4media.com, he elaborated: “We will build hockey the way we did with cricket. There will be programming innovations like, multiple cameras, server-based super-slow motions and exciting graphics, in-depth analysis and player profiles. The new formatting will make hockey more exciting and viewer-friendly.”
Several innovations have been introduced to drive viewership – each game will have four quarters of 17 minutes and 30 seconds each, instead of the standard two halves; the concept of time-out has also been introduced to maintain a racy pace. The winner within the stipulated time will get three points for each victory while the team winning in the extra time will share the points as 2:1. “With LSM and ESPN showing an interest in hockey, we should see visible changes within two years,” predicted Gill.
Dwelling on the issue, SS Dasgupta, Chairman and Managing Director, LSM said: “This is a well-thought-of strategic initiative, conceptualised after a lot of research and hard work, and it wasn’t an on-the-spur decision.” It was a two-year build-up process, he added.