Mumbai: “Raise your hand, if you know who sponsored the Mumbai marathon...,” asks Anirban Das Blah, vice-president, Globosport India Pvt. Ltd, of the audience, present at ‘BrandScore’, the sports marketing forum organized by ESPN Star Sports and Mindshare, in Mumbai.
Glancing around the room, full of raised hands, he then asks: “Now raise your hand if you know who sponsored the latest India-England series.” A majority of hands fall back, as Blah uses the opportunity to drive home his point: that advertisers don’t always have to rely on cricket to connect with their consumers.
In recent times, several advertisers have reaped the benefits of supporting smaller sporting events, especially city-based, non-cricket events.
Kellogg’s India, the breakfast cereal company, recently got a lot of mileage out of its association with the Chennai Open 2007; Standard Chartered Bank India has been known for its association with the Mumbai Marathon, while telecom major Vodafone Essar India Ltd has tied up with the Delhi Half Marathon. And ESPN Star Sports has launched X-Games Experts, which was created by ESPN Star Sports and features extreme sports.
Using India’s poor performance at the ICC Cricket World Cup as a trigger, experts say that companies started tapping into lesser known sports, which have the potential of creating value over time and are also more cost-effective. “Should we be the 100th brand to support cricket? To my mind, it makes more sense to invest in an upcoming sport and take ownership of it,” says Blah.
“There are many opportunities (at mid- and small-level sports events). Not everything has to be big money and across countries,” adds Sean Jefferson, chief operating officer, Mindshare Performance, Europe. Small community-led sports events such as a bathing festival, urban golf events, marathons are all opportunities for brands, he says.
A case in point is sports apparel major, Nike Inc.’s sponsorship of the London Marathon. “The brand really delivered the experience by organizing marathon related activities right outside the Nike showroom. Right from sampling of their new products and offering nutrition advice, to conducting training sessions that started at the showroom, went round Hyde Park and ended right back at the showroom,” Jefferson says.
However, not all companies are jumping at investing in smaller or lesser known sports because of the the time it might take to develop such platforms.
“The temptation has always been to get on to the lowest hanging fruit (cricket). Few companies are willing to invest time and money into sports that do not show immediate returns,” says Rahul Welde, general manager, media services, Hindustan Unilever Ltd.