Cricket’s step-sibling hockey is all set to receive a major marketing boost courtesy ESPN STAR Sports, the India Hockey Federation and Leisure Sports Management. Come January 2005, 10 Indian teams would vie for the top honours in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) to be held in Hyderabad. The teams have been well-packaged with names like Maratha Warriors, Hyderabad Sultans and Bangalore High-Fliers. The team logos have been conceptualized by ESPN’s advertising agency JWT and their uniforms designed by well-known fashion designer Aparna Chandra.
At a high profile launch held in the Capital on Wednesday evening, captains of the five Tier I teams -- Gagan Ajit Singh (Sher-e-Jallandhar), Viren Rasquinha (Maratha Warriors), Ignace Tirkey (Chennai Veerans), Dilip Tirkey (Hyderabad Sultans) and Arjun Halappa (Bangalore High-Fliers) -- walked the ramp, along with leading models to unveil their respective team logos and jerseys.
According to R C Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd, the entire exercise is a well thought out marketing strategy. ESPN STAR Sports will play the key role of marketing, producing and broadcasting PHL for the next 10 years. Said Venkateish, “By presenting the game in a new international format, we will be able to attract consumers to the game and also help the game grow more popular. Increased popularity will, in turn, attract foreign players and at the same time encourage more youngsters to play the game.”
Interesting innovations have been introduced in the ‘PHL’ to increase viewer interest in the game. Each game will have four quarters of 17 minutes and 30 seconds each, instead of the two halves. New concepts of time-outs have also been introduced in order to liven up the game. The league will have two tiers having five teams each in the first year. Tier I will be called the ‘Premier Division’ and Tier II will be called the ‘First Division’. PHL will offer a total prize money of Rs 71 lakh.
Venkateish feels that “India is well poised to become a multiple sports country like Australia, the UK, the US and other European countries with games like soccer, F-1 and golf gaining currency. “The launch of PHL may prove to be one of the strongest measures in promoting the Indian sports market in that direction,” he said.