Guest Column: The power of Brand Roger Federer
Thousands of tennis fans experienced a lifetime moment on Sunday when they watched global icon Roger Federer play on Indian soil for the first time at the Delhi leg of IPTL. Mitrajit Bhattacharya, President and Publisher, Chitralekha Group, shares his take on the last minute inclusion of Roger into the Micromax Indian Aces team
I arrived in New Delhi yesterday and straightaway headed for my hotel, where the IPTL team was staying. The hotel’s lobby was teeming with fans, friends, business associates and sports journos to witness the likes of Sania, Monfils, Djokovic, Sunny (team owner of Singapore Slammers), Tsonga, Sampras, Moya et al walking in and out of the hotel gym after workout. But there was one man they were all eagerly waiting to have a glimpse of—Roger Federer!
The last minute inclusion of Roger into the Micromax Indian Aces team following Nadal’s injury was the best decision Mahesh and his team could possibly have taken to take the League to a different level. Nadal is a huge star we are missing-in-action this year, but Federer is the biggest brand tennis has produced in the recent past. At lunch, while chatting with one of Indian Aces team owner who had gone to receive Roger at the airport, I was told that the moment Federer arrived people just forgot everything else they were doing, in order to catch a glimpse of him. Even if that meant ignoring another tennis great who had arrived at the same time. Such is the charisma of Federer.
The excitement was palpable at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium on Day 2 where Roger was to make his maiden appearance on the Indian soil. I reached early around 2.30 pm to check out Roger and his colleagues Sania, Bopanna, Monfils, Sampras and Ivanovic at the Indian Aces practice. He had his trademark smile all along sharing a great camaraderie with his teammates. By then I was privy to an inside information that Roger was to play 3 out of the 5 games for his team.
Slowly, the crowd filled in and by about 3.30 pm it looked like the place belonged to just one man, Roger Federer. His introduction at 4 pm drew deafening applause from the crowd and thereafter it was just a Roger Federer show. He first teamed up with Sania to win his mixed doubles 6-0. Asked later about his experience of playing mixed doubles, he said he had earlier played m-d only thrice with Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova and his wife Mirka. Sania will surely cherish this moment her entire life. While his doubles game with Bopanna also was an easy win, he had to fire all guns to down Tomas Berdych in a tough match. In a day which saw Amitabh Bachchan, several Union Ministers and a certain Robert Vadra in attendance, Roger Federer was surely the only man people were focusing on.
To be a brand, you need to be consistently good and that’s very difficult to achieve in sports. Great sportstars like Messi, Ronaldo, Hamilton, Tiger Woods, LeBron James, MSD, Sachin and Usain Bolt have been on top of their game for years and hence are loved as brand ambassadors. But what probably puts Roger on the top of the pile is his impeccable character, his natural good looks and the ability to connect with fans in any part of the world. I am happy for the millions of his fans who finally witnessed him play while he is still on the top of his competitive game. Hope to see him back in New Delhi next year. Thanks Roger for having entertained us for so long with your fluid power play on the court; and thanks Mahesh for making it possible for Roger’s Indian fans.
The author is President and Publisher, Chitralekha Group.
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