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Is India moving away from being a cricket crazy nation?

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Is India moving away from being a cricket crazy nation?

India has traditionally been a cricket crazy market and marketers have flocked towards the sport. Though cricket still commands big bucks and media attention, it’s overall dominance of sports marketing budgets is now under siege from newer sports and formats.

One of the highlights of this new pack of sports properties has been Kabaddi with the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) showing strong growth in revenue and viewership YoY. According to industry observers we spoke with, the 5th season of PKL, which kicked off in July this year would have netted close to Rs 200 crore in revenues, up from around Rs 85-120 crore last year.

“The impact and reach that cricket delivers cannot be compared to any other sport in this country, at least not in the near future. However, interest in other sports such as kabaddi, tennis, and football is growing at both viewers’ and marketers’ level and there is a decent amount of investment being done by marketers," said Harish Shriyan, COO of Omnicom Media Group India.

Futsal, a shorter version of Football, has already caught attention by roping in some of the biggest names in World Football in their inaugural season and are now poised to further expand and monetize the property. "While badminton, Kabbadi & football seem to have found repeat viewership, I feel there is more room for incoming sports. But the sport needs to conform to the needs of the current Indian viewers.Big money takes time. While some of these sports have seen advertiser interest & attracted some celeb endorsements, the real money will flow when mass TV viewership numbers start to climb significantly. IPL became a decent money spinner because it retained the flavour of International cricket. It is unlikely that money will precede consumer interest in any of these new 'ventures'. From a marketing pov, the sport is high octane, high involvement territory. People attach a lot of emotion to sports participation & victory. Cricket gains because of its positioning as the representative of Indian pride. In other sports, domestic leagues are far too nascent to be able to cause mass hysteria or even a strong following. In the foreseeable future, it is likely that most of the new sports offerings will be marketed as great entertainment events," opined Aditya Save, Co-founder of Agilio.

A joint report by ESP Properties and Sportzpower on the sports released earlier this year noted that cricket saw a 3 per cent reduction in its contribution to sports sponsorships. According to the joint report by ESP Properties and Sportzpower, Hockey India league (HIL) and Premier Badminton League (PBL) saw a 15 per cent increase in on ground sponsorships in 2016.

“There is no one clear trend emerging. The trend that is growing is that non-cricket sports properties have started doing well, which is a good trend to have and gives the much-needed confidence that India is finally moving beyond being a single sport country," said Rohit Gupta, President, Network Sales, Sony Pictures Networks India.

Piyush Kumar, CEO and Founder, Rooter, a social gaming app, agreed that India is moving towards a non-cricke sports culture with great feedback from fans. For example, the likes of PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik, shone in badminton and wrestling respectively and contributed to non-cricket endorsements growing by
83.5 per cent in 2016, from Rs 42.0 crore to Rs 77.1 crore.

Vivo's sponsorship of Rs 300 crore for 5 years is a huge number for a non-cricket sport. Football also continues to grow in India, we are watching a lot of interest in this sport. The current FIFA under 17 World Cup being held in India and ISL is set to kick-off next week. Primarily these three sports have led the entire interest out of cricket in
India,” stated the ESP Properties-SportzPower report.

“What brands have figured out is that at 1.8th or 1/10th of the price of that they pay for cricket they can get a sizeable number of eyeballs for their brand with these non-cricket sports. The most a brand may have to pay is 1/5th of the price of cricket sponsorship or TV spot. Also these sports have a wide audience, across metros and tier I, tier II and tier III cities. IPL may be a metro phenomena but Kabaddi and the football league in India have got a significant audience from smaller towns and cities,” said Kumar.

He pointed out to activity seen on Rooter as an example. “If cricket has an engagement of 100, then kabaddi rakes in 75, football is around 65, badminton is around 70-75. This is very encouraging for sports platforms like Rooter andTV channels like Star Sports or ESPN etc,” he told us.

(With inputs from Susmita Biswas, Ruhail Amin and Abhinn Shreshtha)

exchange4media will be hosting a Panel Discussion on “Marketing through Sports - Sponsorship rights and Must-haves to deliver marketing impact” on October 27, 2017, on the sidelines of the exchange4media Conclave. For more information, please click here.

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