Starcom MediaVest Group’s sports specialist practice, Relay Worldwide, has announced the formal opening of its New Delhi office. The expansion comes shortly after Relay completed one year in India. To head its North India operations, it has roped in Daljeet Narang as Associate Business Director, who will report to Mahesh Ranka, General Manager, India.
Ravi Kiran, CEO, Starcom Mediavest, South Asia, saw this as a significant step towards the growth of Relay in India. Said he, “We are playing a very evangelical role in the Delhi market about how sports can be integrated as part of the marketing plan. Also, Delhi has many sports sensitive clients, which are high on the male TGs and need to differentiate themselves in an irregular way. Therefore, it is essential for us to be present here.”
Ranka, who took charge as GM, India of Relay in August this year, added, “In the last year, we have been busy setting our internal processes and meeting a lot of marketers to discuss how we can use sports to connect with their customers. It became clear to us that companies in Delhi and other nearby markets have a large appetite to explore sports, particularly outside broadcast cricket. This encouraged us to open our second India office there, to be able to better engage prospective clients. The new office will also liaison with key sports associations and other governmental organisations based in the city.”
Narang will play the driving role for North India opertations. Prior to Relay, he had headed the Delhi operations of GroupM’s activation unit, Dialect. In his 12 years of professional life, Narang has worked in areas as diverse as events, promotions, in stadia advertising, CRM and loyalty programmes, brand communications, direct marketing, advertising and retailing. He has also dabbled briefly in his own business as an entrepreneur.
Helping Narang and developing endorsement negotiation and compliance discipline for Relay will be Adhiraaj Singh, Group Head, who joins from New Delhi-based specialist sports celebrity management company Collage Sports, where he managed some of the best names in cricket like Virendar Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
Narang said, “I saw an excellent opportunity and challenge in the business of sports. Relay’s approach is interesting and will surely throw up opportunities to learn and set rules of the game early. We all celebrate sports and the passion to perform better. I felt it was the right time to be with Relay to join the celebration.”
The importance that Starcom Mediavest pays to sports as an integral component of marketing was seen in the fact that India was the first market after the US, where this specialist unit had made a foray.
According to Kiran, the last year hadn’t been exactly as per Relay’s expectations, but that was because of “over enthusiasm” of the Relay team. “Does this in any way affect our conviction in the sector? No. But yes, the reaction from clients wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for. What the past year has done is give us a good picture of where the fraternity is and where it is headed.”
In India, as the only of its kind practice, Relay focuses on sports and cause enabled marketing. It is involved in consulting brand marketers in leveraging sports across all its vehicles to build brands, and supervising execution and compliance management. It also advises sports associations, sporting property owners and governments, in building sports assets.
The company possesses India’s single largest proprietary research that tracks popularity of sports stars. Called ‘Sprint’, the research has a respondent base of over 400,000 across urban India and has just completed its fourth phase fieldwork.
It also supported SportzCom 2005 – CII’s first ever seminar on the business of sports – held in Delhi earlier this year. Timed with the seminar, it conducted India’s first barometer of corporate confidence in sports, SportsMood 05, which threw up some interesting findings.
Relay has also worked for Western Union and Cadila Healthcare in leveraging hockey and corporate cricket, respectively, to address specific brand requirements.