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Marketing the Olympic heroes

Marketing the Olympic heroes
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First Published: Sun, Sep 07 2008. 11 08 PM IST

Photo: Ashesh Shah/Mint
Photo: Ashesh Shah/Mint
Updated: Mon, Sep 08 2008. 11 21 AM IST
Something unusual happened on the day of the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on 24 August. According to Mumbai-based television audience measurement agency, Audience Measurement and Analytics Pvt. Ltd., some 30 million people across the country tuned in to watch the event. This was not only an all-time high viewership score for the Olympics in India, it was also higher than the 24 million who watched the closing ceremony of the Indian Premier League on 1 June, the most hyped cricket event in recent times.
Cricket being almost like a second religion for most sports enthusiasts in the country, this came as a pleasant surprise for those who thought this obsession with cricket was not healthy for the country’s overall sports economy and culture.
The enthusiasm on the last day of the Olympics was definitely the outcome of India’s performance at the Games. The euphoria began building up with Abhinav Bindra’s spectacular gold win in the 10m air rifle event, and going by anecdotal evidence, viewers were glued to their television sets on the days boxers Akhil Kumar and Vijender Kumar and wrestler Sushil Kumar took on their opponents.
Vijender and Sushil’s bronze wins were celebrated across the country and the elaborate felicitations received by the three stars on their return to India closely resembled the exuberant welcome that Indian cricketers receive after a successful tournament.
The wins at the Beijing Olympics have put the spotlight on below-the-radar sports such as shooting, boxing and wrestling, and have reignited the debate on whether it is healthy for a nation to remain heavily invested in one sport and what it will take to get more investment into other sports.
Sports marketing, say experts, is a phenomenon of eyeballs. For obvious reasons, advertisers and sponsors— the key patrons of sports of any kind globally—flock to events that get eyeballs. Top marketers and sponsors in India bet big money on cricket for the simple reason that it gets them access to their target audience, or the consumers they wish to pitch their wares to. “Sponsors, rather brands, will love to be where the audience is and clearly the audience is not yet with sports outside of cricket,” says Mahesh Ranka, general manager, Relay Worldwide, the sports marketing division of Starcom MediaVest Group.
But now, with sports other than cricket getting more attention from Indian viewers, will things change for them? Will we see more money flowing into these events? Will they be able to sustain and build on the euphoria that they managed to generate at the Beijing Olympics?
Of the nine leading professionals Campaign spoke to, most remain sceptical about the sustainability of these sports—but they point to ways that could help shape various sports disciplines and the careers of their exponents, off and on the field. Edited excerpts from the interviews:
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‘I’m?not?convinced that they are saleable yet’
Photo: Ashesh Shah/Mint
PARITOSH JOSHI
President, new ventures, Star India Pvt Ltd
Do you think sports other than cricket will get a boost after India’s better-than-expected performance at the Beijing Olympics?
This is a simplistic conclusion. A culture of sport starts with access, awareness and motivation—access to sports facilities, awareness of the benefits that sport offers and motivation to learn and become competent at a sporting discipline, and all this from early childhood. Unless every child has the opportunity and the access, we cannot aspire to give sporting culture any fillip in India. While this is primarily in the province of the Central, state and local governments across the country, corporate India must also accept a part of the responsibility for coming forth with support for various disciplines.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
Not in a hurry. Most sports disciplines remain out of reach for a child growing up even in the metro cities. Even in Mumbai or Delhi, it is only the privileged few who enjoy access to something as commonplace (in most countries) as a swimming pool. Interest in a sport can only come from some personal experience of it.
Everyone has some experience with, and of, cricket, and the awareness and early interest feeds upon itself to create a self-reinforcing dynamic in favour of that one sport in India.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
Any sport can only do well when it becomes a part of life from early childhood. If our sports establishment took it upon itself to grow any or all of these, it would have to start investing in access and opportunity, awareness and motivation on a national level and for children all the way down to six- and seven-year-olds, and sustain this effort through school and college. And as these children grow, the sheer volume of broad-scale interest in various sports will ensure corporate support, thereby opening up possibilities of financially sensible careers for those who choose to pursue them as their vocation.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
Countries which are smaller and poorer than India produce world-class athletes in a number of disciplines. Obviously, they are doing something that a country much larger and relatively much better off is not.
Who are the most marketable stars among the Olympic medallists this year?
It is now almost certain that Abhinav Bindra and Vijender Kumar will attract some commercial attention. The question is how long they will sustain it.
P.T. Usha got maybe just one endorsement and Anju Bobby George, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, even a globally emerging golf star like Jeev Milkha Singh get no attention whatsoever. Vishwanathan Anand, though he may not be from an Olympic discipline, is a world champion in many forms of his chosen game, and he is scarcely saleable. The attention Bindra and Kumar are getting is volatile and once the media frenzy evaporates, which it will do before the week is over, so will their celebrity (status) and saleability, to our greatest misfortune.
What are the marketable attributes of these players and what kind of brands can they endorse?
Determination, ambition, tireless effort, patriotic spirit to put the country’s glory before their personal celebrity (are their marketable attributes). Unfortunately, all of them pale before the glitter, glamour and lucre of cricket.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
I am not convinced that they are saleable yet, so it is futile to speculate. The sheer hype of the moment will mean that they might win the odd endorsement. The more serious question is: Will it last?
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‘Bindra’s brand value will also fade out unless he acts on it’
Photo: Madhu Kapparath/Mint
VINITA BANGARD
Chief operating officer, Percept Talent Management
Do you think sports other than cricket will get a boost after India’s better-than-expected performance at the Beijing Olympics?
India is predominantly a single sports nation where cricket is (like) a religion and is the one and only sport that clicks. In the past, there have been other sports such as hockey, which is in fact our national sport, and soccer but they have never come close to cricket.
If you look at the Olympics, all the disciplines were very niche in nature and so their audience was also very restricted and hence advertisers will be too.
Also, in India, if a sport is not packaged with a hero, it just won’t work. Abhinav Bindra winning the gold at the Olympics was such an achievement but give it another few weeks and it will fizzle out because it is not packaged right.
So, the sporting culture will open up if more sports in India open up, but this will take time because a lot needs to be done with the support of the various sports federations, sponsors and media, who will be responsible to keep the hype going and boost these sports.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
Abhinav Bindra won and the country is very proud of him, but unless he does some more brand building, such as take up more public relations opportunities for himself and around the sport and really ride on this glory for a longer period of time, it will not last long enough to get him enough sponsorships. Like (Rajyavardhan Singh) Rathore, who won a silver in the last Olympics, Bindra’s brand value will also fade out unless he acts on it.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
Football and Formula One (motor racing) are the next big things. Tennis too—but the big question is after Sania (Mirza), what? For any sport in India to be saleable, infrastructure needs to be developed and the sports federation needs to provide the right resources and means to take it forward.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
These guys who made it to the Olympics had to undergo a lot of training to get where they are and training costs money and needs basic infrastructure. So, unless you are a rich man’s son or daughter or have managed to get the (financial) support from somewhere, it is difficult to develop your talent.
We do not meet international standards for many disciplines because of the lack of support. So, for India to become a sporting nation, sponsors and the government need to come forward and help build up these sports.
Who are the most marketable stars among the Olympic medallists this year?
No broadcaster even picked up the television rights to the Olympics this year—so other than the names I hear of in the media, there are only a few that I can actually recall. There is potential in these sportsmen and women, and to become saleable, they have to first sell themselves and create that hype.
What are the marketable attributes of these players and what kind of brands can they endorse?
These games are very niche so they are fit for brands that talk to one particular audience. For example, brands that associate themselves with speed, accuracy, even eyesight, can use Bindra as their ambassador. These brands will basically be the next generation brands targeting youth.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
It’s difficult to say, because compared to cricket, which is very mass-based, these sports target a select audience.
Even brands are very shrewd—they know they are also providing publicity and promoting the sportsman and the sport.
So, I would put it anywhere between Rs25 lakh to Rs1 crore, depending on who the sportsman is and the brand in question.
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‘I’m not sure eyeballs are going?up?in?general for?non-cricket sports’
Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/ Mint
GAURAV SETH
Business head, VGC Sports
Do you think sports other than cricket will get a boost after India’s better-than-expected performance at the Beijing Olympics?
Yes, I believe it will have an effect, especially since the Commonwealth Games to be held in India are less than two years away. I don’t anticipate an overnight surge in interest from viewers or corporates but they may be more amenable now to watching, playing or spending on sports. However, we are still in our infancy when you talk of a sporting culture.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
I’m not sure eyeballs are going up in general for non-cricket sports. The Olympics are a major event and even then, due to a traditional lack of interest and poor Indian performance, there is very little viewership, relatively speaking. I think sponsors want to see measurable returns on investment and TV eyeballs may unfortunately be the only metric that sponsors can evaluate for potential spend.
Having said that, it is logical to assume that the temporary euphoria of winning a few medals will catalyze corporate entities to start looking at funding sports in some manner.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
I personally don’t believe so. For any sport to become ‘saleable’ there has to be a consistent exposure to the sport and its athletes in media, so the population at large can identify with them and their feats. That comes only from repeated success at an acceptable international level. Until Indian teams or sportspersons start performing with a great degree of repeated success, they will not be in demand for sponsorship. They may attract funds only from government sources or business houses that indulge in it as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
I’m not sure if this goal or vision is attainable even in the long term, unless sustainable steps are taken to build it. We are not, as a race, athletic. We do not have an outdoor culture like the West where people indulge in sports across age, gender or class. We do not have facilities available in neighbourhoods where this pastime can be encouraged. In our educational institutions we do not lay any emphasis on participation or excellence in sport. We seek our entertainment through cinema, music and cricket, which are passions more than channels of recreation. Having said all that, China is a great example of a country that has surmounted a lot of similar barriers and really surged to the forefront in various Olympic disciplines. This has been done through a systematic programme of early spotting and development of talent, government programmes and facilities, state-of-the-art academies and world-class coaches. This requires hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. I’m not sure if that focus is there in India yet.
Who are the most marketable stars among the Olympic medallists this year?
I think in the short term, they will all be marketable. Abhinav Bindra and Vijender Kumar are more camera friendly and hence may get a few “high media exposure” brands. Sushil Kumar, the wrestler, can look forward to local popularity in Delhi and may get invited to local retail launches and the like.
Brands may choose to milk them for their current media hype, though Bindra may have a longer staying potential as he’s young and in a sport that is not prone to injuries. The key, though, is what will happen once the media hype is over and the athletes are not “hot” (property) anymore. Top performing cricketers do well because they are exposed to millions of fans almost every month due to the cricket team’s constant play. Boxers, wrestlers, shooters and the like will only get a chance to perform, at best, every two years when the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games or Olympics come around. It takes years and years of constant excellence at the top of one’s discipline to transcend this constant exposure barrier. A case in point is the difference between athlete P.T. Usha, still revered and sought after, and Karnam Malleswari, our forgotten one-off Olympics bronze-winning lifter.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
The market is too immature yet to guesstimate what these players are worth. Brands seeking long-term association with “winners” may pay a premium but I feel most deals will serve a more tactical objective and will be in the range of Rs50 lakh to Rs75 lakh.
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‘...what we have seen ... during the Olympics is a flash in the pan’
Photo: Ashesh Shah/Mint
HIMANSHU MODY
Business head, Indian Cricket League
Do you think sports other than cricket will get a boost after India’s better-than-expected performance at the Beijing Olympics?
In the past, whenever India has achieved glory in any type of individual or team sports, a handful of corporates or politicians have taken credit for the situation. It has never been a consistent month-on-month or year-on-year investment either in the sportsperson or sports itself. Now, with India making inroads into the medal tally, I am sure the sporting culture will get a boost till at least 2012.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
Though it is still premature, we can safely say the idea of promoting sports other than cricket has been conceived. While the recent achievements at the Olympics had been that of forced viewership, one has to still evaluate from the corporate point of view whether the return on investment in that particular sport will be substantial or profitable. Cricket too needed a miracle like 50-over matches or the 1983 Cricket World Cup victory to draw attention.
With ever-evolving technology, the sport would have to be customized for grabbing eyeballs.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
In the past we had world champions in badminton, snooker, billiards and chess but they have remained in the history books as representing India. For any sport to literally penetrate into every household would require a huge amount of marketing or one national icon behind which the corporate and political machinery becomes the driving force.
I believe that what we have seen in the past few weeks during the Olympics is a flash in the pan. I would say all other sports would need a couple of decades of dedicated resources to gain popularity. Making a (particular) sport saleable would purely depend on the sponsor and how much time he would be willing to wait for the returns.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
The effort we are putting in to become a nuclear power came from the Central government and people across the country. The same amount of effort will be required to make India a strong sporting nation.
Who are the most marketable stars among the Olympic medallists this year?
There is a certain method to the madness of creating a saleable sportsperson. The entire Indian contingent has world-class achievers of the past and present.
Focusing only on current winners would only lead us to discussing the same question during the next Olympics. It’s a combination of media frenzy and the sponsor’s patience which will create more than one saleable sportsperson in every sport.
What are the marketable attributes of these players and what kind of brands can they endorse?
If we go by trends, there are no identifiable brands which can be associated with one particular athlete or sport. Cricket has shown that anything is possible. But I would like to state that culture and tradition in our country play a far greater role for an athlete to choose the brand he or she associates with.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
Ballpark figures would be in an estimate of Rs20 lakh upwards. The time period for them to be able to sustain their popularity is limited. None of the disciplines where India won medals has a domestic circuit to keep the winners in the spotlight. What the Indian Premier League has done is to create a platform across the country to give opportunities to cricketers to encash on their popularity even if they don’t represent the country. This is achieved by giving spectators quality games with lots of excitement to watch. Similarly, different platforms need to be created for all our sports heroes and wannabes to continue showcasing their skills and talent to the Indian audience throughout the year. Only then one can put the right price tag for a long time on all these champions.
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‘The Olympics have turned the spotlight ... on to sports which were never talked about’
Photo: Madhu Kapparath/Mint
MANISH AGGARWAL
Business director, MindShare Insights
Do you think sports other than cricket will get a boost after India’s better-than-expected performance at the Beijing Olympics?
The Beijing Olympics have provided the much needed thrust for Indian sportsmen. They mark a giant leap forward for various other sports disciplines in a country that had eyes and ears only for the glamour boys of cricket. The contrasting backgrounds of the three medal winners mean a lot more individuals would start taking up sports as a profession and full-time career option far more seriously.
Hopefully, India’s feat of winning medals at the Beijing Olympics in shooting, boxing and wrestling would have the same effect on India’s sporting scene as the 1983 Cricket World Cup win had on the popularity of cricket.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
The Beijing Olympics have turned the spotlight of corporates and sponsors on to sports which were never talked about in this country.
Sports such as boxing, shooting, wrestling and faces associated with them will gain momentum due to the freshness they bring to the table. However, marketers want a bang for their bucks and unless we create means for these sports and sports stars to be seen and heard regularly, it will be difficult to convince sponsors to put in money on a sustained basis.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
In order to provide the right impetus to non-cricket sports, for them to even become a distant No. 2 to cricket in terms of sponsorship and eyeballs, we need our sportsmen to participate beyond the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and represent India in professional tournaments. The likes of Abhinav Bindra, Vijender Kumar and Sushil Kumar need to represent India in many more international platforms and become ‘the first Indian professional’ in each of their respective sporting arenas.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
For India to make its presence felt on the global sporting map, it needs an internal and external push.
Parents need to be lot more open-minded and push their children to become the next Leander Paes or Viswanathan Anand and not another doctor, engineer, lawyer or scientist. Externally, the right infrastructure needs to be provided for the budding sportsmen to pursue their dreams.
Who are the most saleable stars among the the Olympic medallists this year?
All three medal winners at the Olympics have all the qualities of a future brand ambassador. They are young, good-looking and untouched —to provide marketers the much needed clutter-breaking associations. Brands that sign them early on would enjoy the first-mover advantage.
Bindra would definitely cash in disproportionately more for writing history as the only Indian to win a gold medal in an individual event. Had Bindra been the only medal winner, his brand valuation would have been much higher than what it would be now with two other medal winners eyeing the marketers’ wallets.
GroupM is the first company to sign up Vijender Kumar for one of its clients even before he returned to India.
The only cause of worry is that the niche nature of these sports (shooting, wrestling and boxing) will restrict the tenure and nature of any brand associations that may come their way.
What are the marketable attributes of these sports stars and what kind of brands can they endorse?
Both boxing and wrestling are aggressive sports that would appeal to the Indian youth, compared to shooting, which is all about concentration, calmness and composure. Bindra would fit a calm, modest, thorough and sensible persona and the other two could be projected as energetic, firm, playful and spontaneous. Brands should present all three of them as next-door boys who went on to conquer the world.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
The price tags these three Olympic medal winners can command would largely be a function of the pull the three medal winners enjoy amongst sponsors.
The price tag would have a direct correlation with the opportunity cost associated with the endorsement—if they endorse brands from categories such as beverages, there would be a higher opportunity cost for them, hence fatter endorsement deals versus endorsing brands from categories such as financial services, where the opportunity cost would be a lot lower, thus lowering the signing amount.
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‘To believe this will change the shape of sports ... is utopian’
Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/ Mint
SANDEEP LAKHINA
Managing director, India -- West and South, Starcom Worldwide
MAHESH RANKA
General manager, Relay Worldwide, Starcom’s sports practice
Do you think sports other than cricket will get a boost after India’s better-than-expected performance at the Beijing Olympics?
Lakhina: Firstly, I really do not think that I want to call this performance “good”. Relatively, maybe yes, and given the fact that over the past 28 Olympics we have won, what, a mere four medals, these three were like a windfall (leaving aside hockey, which, of course, we dominated from 1928 until 1964, winning all the golds except for the 1960 Rome silver).
But really, three medals is not even a consolation prize for a country as large, diverse and talented as ours. To believe that this will change the shape of sports in India is utopian. A sports culture, like all cultures, is an evolution over time and takes a critical mass of people and events with a concerted effort to pull through. I do not believe that this one event is that trigger that will allow us to take the leap to be anywhere close to being a country with a sports culture like China.
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Ranka: Having won three medals, one gold included, there is no doubt that this is a great beginning, compared to the Indian performance till date in the Olympic Games. And kudos to the three athletes who performed to succeed.
But look at the rest of the world and where are we? 50th? A host of smaller nations, population as well as geography-wise, are ahead of us. Our so-called rivalry with China in most of the fields seems to be no competition; they had 51 golds!
The sports culture doesn’t change because of one performance or one year of effort. A sports culture takes at least 12–20 years of hard work and relentless pursuit to succeed.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
Lakhina: I do not believe that the “eyeballs” really went up. Viewership of the Olympics was abysmally dismal, coupled with some lacklustre programming and marketing. Eyes did widen with surprise and then awe as India won its first ever Olympics gold. The media, of course, played its part with the good coverage and the front page splashes. Sure, some additional viewership was garnered as people flocked to watch the boxing semi-finals, and maybe a couple of other events—but overall, this Olympics has been at the lower end of the spectrum for me.
We will see some efforts by the companies to align with various sports while this is fresh and people revel in the glory of our performance. We may see some pockets of growth—for example, I see the boxing factory in Bhiwani getting good traction but, by and large, I still see the corporates sticking to cricket.
Ranka: Unfortunately, eyeballs don’t seem to have gone up, what’s gone up is the media exposure of the athletes. Today, they are identified by their name and face but that’s entirely because of the media (TV and print alike) reporting stories from Najafgarh and Bhiwani to the world.
Recently, in a forum, the audience (comprising youth aged 14-20) were asked if they have ever watched a boxing match all their lives and no hand went up in an audience of about 200. Sponsors, rather brands, will love to be where the audience is and clearly the audience is not yet with sports outside of cricket.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
Lakhina: Not really, some interest may come about and last for a while, but I do not see a concentrated effort from marketers into building these sports into what we could call really “saleable” sports. I can bet on another couple of movies on boxing or such.
We don’t really have a sports culture that goes far and wide enough—and there are many reasons for that. Unless we have enough investments in resources, infrastructure, training, and unless we give a true fillip to these sports, they are likely to languish as they have been, barring some minor corrections every now and then.
By and large, we are not a sporty country. Maybe some of it is genetically hard-wired into our system, and some of it is our obsessive focus on non-sporting activities. And that’s a mindset that is not easy to change—and certainly not on the bank of three medals.
Ranka: Whether these sports get a fillip or not depends entirely on the government. Yes, some private efforts are on, such as the Mittal Champions Trust, the Olympic Gold Quest, et al, but they can have limited impact. A bigger impact will only come from a movement that moves the nation.
Saleability of the sport is a function of current situation, potential, plan and execution of plans, returns that accrue to the brand investing money, so in today’s context it’s very difficult. However, a constant and sincere effort on the part of the stakeholders can impact and change the same.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
Lakhina: There needs to be a change of mindset towards sports, particularly competitive sports events and their importance. We need to look at sports as a serious activity: There needs to be a strong push in policy backed by the investments in infrastructure—this will probably be best successful once we can have a public-private partnership, like we are doing for some of our infrastructure projects.
And this will take time. But, paying mere lip service to sports will make it remain where it has been for many years.
Ranka: There are many cogs-in-the-wheels that need to work together to ensure the sports and sports culture in this country really takes off and ensure the momentum that we seem to have now got doesn’t get lost. The government machinery, the sports federations, the professionals (who should be employed by the federations), infrastructure support and opportunity for more people to opt for sports, corporate support are all equally important.
One single key for all those involved would be to have accountability along with the responsibility, and periodic performance review to help identify who is delivering.
Public-private enterprise seems to be the only solution that will encourage and inculcate a sports culture in our country.
Who are the most marketable stars among the Olympic medallists this year?
Lakhina: Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Kumar, by virtue of being the medal winners, have come out tops.
Ranka: The three medal winners are the obvious ones; add to it Akhil Kumar, the boxer.
What are the marketable attributes of these players and what kind of brands can they endorse?
Lakhina: They are all young superstars, and have proven themselves at the highest possible level of sports against all odds. They represent the true India of the future—the one that comes from the mid-tier towns with dreams in their eyes, hope in their hearts, and more importantly, a desire to win and an attitude that allows them to swim against rough tides and reach the shores.
Their attributes are simplicity, strength, character and a can-do attitude. They are also young, with a fit body and obviously, a strong mind.
Brands like Reebok and Pepsi that regularly use sports personalities would be the ones that I see signing them up first.
In terms of what they can endorse, there is a whole array of brands they can endorse, as long as it’s a story told right. It could be beverages to automobiles to soaps.
Ranka: Performance, for one, will be the key attribute. Add to it the sports (discipline) and looks of each one!
Brands that could make immediate connect on performance would be all proud Indian ones that have made a mark in the world—Tata, Aditya Birla Group, Hero Honda, to name a few.
Brands that would want to associate with the imagery and the looks of the athlete: For example, with shooter Bindra—brands associated with precision, skill, concentration. For boxer Vijender Kumar, again skill and power, and for Sushil Kumar’s wrestling, brands that endorse strength.
There will be some brands who will also want to cash in on the momentum generated thanks to their performance and media exposure.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
Lakhina: All sorts of numbers are going around as is wont, but I would guess they will be at par or lower than our mid-level cricketers. I would say around Rs30-40 lakh for Sushil and Vijender; and Rs70-80 lakh for Bindra.
Ranka: Bindra in the region of Rs1 crore (4-5 brands maximum); Vijender: Rs30-40 lakh (2-3 brands maximum); Sushil: Rs20-25 lakh (2-3 brands maximum).
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‘What India needs is a vision (and) long-term allocation of resources and professional management’
Photo: Madhu Kapparath/Mint
VENKATESH KINI
Vice-president (marketing), Coca-Cola India
Do you think sports other than cricket will get a boost after India’s better-than-expected performance at the Beijing Olympics?
Absolutely. Every time India does well in a sport, the popularity of that particular sport rises. It was after the 1983 Cricket World Cup that cricket got a boost. Similarly, in tennis, it was with the success of Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes and now Sania Mirza that more interest has been generated in the game. Now, with the success in other verticals such as badminton, wrestling and shooting, there will be more following these games.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
Coca-Cola has been associated with sports other than cricket—we were the ones that activated FIFA World Cup in India in 2006 and followed that up by starting a grass-roots football talent hunt initiative called Coca-Cola Football Champs. We even sponsored the Rural Olympics. So, while cricket is an important property for us and other advertisers, it is important to leverage one’s presence across opportunities and other sports will continue to be a part of the marketing mix.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
Some sports naturally lend themselves to become spectator sports. These are fast-paced, action-driven sports such as cricket, football, hockey, tennis, etc. However, with other sports getting more visibility, their popularity will also increase. Changes in the sporting culture take a whole generation to happen but the good part is the change is beginning for India.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
I’m not a sports expert but personally I feel what India needs is a vision backed by long-term allocation of resources and professional management. The country needs to identify, 20 years in advance, a few sports disciplines it wants to succeed in and then develop infrastructure and training facilities and start grooming children so that we can actually build professionals.
At Coca-Cola, we have this programme called Spirit of the Olympics where we sponsored three teenage aspiring sportsmen to the Olympics as we believed they would benefit from the experience. Apart from the endorsements, these are initiatives that need to be taken by corporates—talent needs to be supported.
Who are the most marketable stars among the Olympic medallists this year?
I believe that these sportsmen did what they did because they had talent and took pride in their country. But to determine how saleable they are is not something I would know. But I hope they benefit from sponsorships and inspire a new generation of sportsmen.
What are the marketable attributes of these players and what kind of brands can they endorse?
I would not like to comment on this—it really differs from brand to brand.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
It depends on the brands but during the endorsement process if the sportsmen demonstrate the fact that a career in sports is lucrative, it will reassure parents that there is money in sports.
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‘We need consistent performance by icons at the international level’
Photo: Harikrishna Katragadda/Mint
ANIL DUA
Senior vice-president (marketing and sales), Hero Honda Motors Ltd
Do you think sports in India will get a boost after its better-than- expected performance at the Beijing Olympics this year?
Currently, the phenomenal success of Mahendra Singh Dhoni has instilled tremendous belief among young talent that they can also achieve success at the top level. The same thing can happen after India’s performance at the Beijing Olympics. The first individual Olympic gold medal by Abhinav Bindra and the performance by the boxers will surely instil belief in young sportsmen that nothing is impossible as long as one works hard and is committed to his or her goal. For a competitive sports culture to really pick up, our infrastructure and training facilities have to improve drastically as we hugely lag behind other countries.
With viewership going up, will regular sponsors come forward to associate with sports other than cricket?
Even now, cricket is not the only sport that sponsors are associated with in India. Football is popular; so is hockey. Golf is also fast gaining in strength with the success of Indian golfers in the international circuit contributing to the growing popularity of the game.
What will it take for games such as hockey, football, shooting, boxing and wrestling to become saleable?
We have seen that any sport that India wins in generates a lot of buzz and excitement, as a result of which the sport automatically gets a fillip.
However, for any sport to become saleable, there has to be consistent performance. Just one-off wins would not be able to sustain interest. That is precisely why we need consistent performance by our icons at the international level. Television coverage also plays an important role in popularizing sports.
What do you think needs to be done for India to become a sporting nation?
The government needs to provide the infrastructure to identify and groom young sports talent and corporates need to support the sport/sportsmen through funding, sponsorship and support at the grass-root level.
Who are the most marketable stars among the Olympic medallists this year?
It is normally understood that whoever performs the best will be most marketable. However, the fact is that the ‘marketability’ of a star is not just on the basis of what he has achieved but also on the basis of his consistent performance, durability, personal attributes and overall appeal.
It is quite likely that all the three medal winners would be marketable given their overall appeal and background. Also, the fact that Vijender and Akhil have succeeded despite being from a small town and without much support would find them a lot of admirers across a broad spectrum.
What are the marketable attributes of these players and what kind of brands can they endorse?
Keeping personal traits aside, the attributes that these stars represent can be derived from the sport they are associated with. Shooting is a game of patience, focus and concentration. Bindra would fit well with a brand that stands for these attributes.
Boxing and wrestling are popular among the youth and reflect the attributes of physical strength, endurance, machoism, etc. Brands that stand for these attributes would look at associating with winners in these sports.
What kind of price tags do you think they can now command?
It would all depend on several factors such as the brands they are getting associated with, the duration of the contract, etc.
... AND GLOBAL PLAYERS
Tiger Woods (Golf) $105 million Nike, Accenture, Buick, Gillette
Phil Mickelson (Golf) $47 million Ford, Rolex, Callaway golf clubs
David Beckham (Soccer) $40 million Adidas, Pepsi, Vodafone, Motorola, Giorgio Armani, Sharpie, GO3
Roger Federer (Tennis) $26 million Nike, Gillette, Rolex, Wilson, Mercedes-Benz
LeBron James (NBA) $25 million Nike, Coke, Vitaminwater
Michelle Wie (Golf) $19.5 million Omega, Sony and Nike
Maria Sharapova (Tennis) $19 million Pepsi, Colgate-Palmolive, Nike, Motorola, Tiffany, Sony, Tag Heuer
Kobe Bryant (NBA) $16 million Nike, Sony, Coca-Cola’s Vitaminwater
Serena Williams (Tennis) $11 million Nike, HP, McDonald’s and Kraft
Venus Williams (Tennis) $10 million Own apparel line—EleVen, American Express, McDonald’s, Wilson
(The figures indicate the approximate annual value of the players’ current endorsements. Listed with these are some of the prominent brands that each player endorses.) Source: Mint research
priyanka.m@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Sep 07 2008. 11 08 PM IST
More Topics: Cricket | Shooting | Boxing | Wrestling | Tennis |