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Sponsors make a match of Chennai Open

11-January-2005
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Sponsors make a match of Chennai Open

Last year, after the three-year association with Tata ended, there was a possibility of Chennai losing out on hosting South-Asia's only ATP tournament as there wasn't a title sponsor. That didn't happen. The State government stepped in and, along with a consortium of sponsors, ensured that the event stayed with the city in its new avatar as the Chennai Open.

In a way, the new set-up has helped, say those involved with the event.

"The involvement of the crowd, players and the business community was higher this year than any other year," said Mr Ravi Krishnan, Managing Director, IMG-TWI South Asia, which organises the event. And with the tournament being renamed Chennai Open, there is a feeling of pride among the city's residents, he added.

The aspect of multiple sponsorship enabled companies such as Saint Gobain to get associated with a sport, something it has not done in the country until now. The company's Managing Director, Mr B. Santhanam, said Saint Gobain decided to take part because it is based in Tamil Nadu and "felt it would be a useful thing to do."

But having got in as one of the Gold sponsors (who spent Rs 50 lakh each), it decided to piggyback on that and increase its exposure on Ten Sports (which has the telecast rights), buying airtime over and above what was allotted for sponsors. It used the advertising budget to be the presenting sponsor on television.

While the jury is still out on whether advertisers have been able to target audiences effectively through this event, Mr Santhanam said the one-off association with sport has created goodwill for Saint Gobain in the city.

According to an official of Indian Oil Corporation, a Platinum sponsor (which spent Rs 1 crore), the tournament was an opportunity to build its brands, more so because it caters to foreign markets such as Sri Lanka and West Asia.

Indian Oil has been sponsoring matches in the satellite circuit for quite a few years now and also has national players such as Prahalad Srinath on its rolls.

For the tournament, the company focused on its premium fuel to target upmarket customers.

On the court, the company sponsored the speed guns at both ends of the court and also had a speed gun stall where people tried out their serves; anyone serving over 100 km per hour was given a gift, the official said.

With the Tamil Nadu government also being a sponsor, contributing Rs 1 crore, the State tourism department's logo with the tagline `Enchanting Tamil Nadu' was displayed in the stadium, instead of the government logo which is used only in official functions, said Mr Shaktikanta Das, Commissioner, Tourism Department.

Apart from the mileage that the government got with its logo in the backdrop of the courts, Ten Sports, which telecast the Open internationally, aired hourly spots of the tourist attractions in the State. "We expect that the TN brand as well as the Chennai Open will be familiar to tourists in other countries and they will make the connect now," he said.

Among the other Platinum sponsors were Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank and United India Insurance — all Chennai-headquartered. The other Gold sponsors were the Murugappa group, Sundaram Finance, L&T, Chennai Petroleum Corp and SAIL.

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