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New Delhi: A variety of brands cashed in on athlete Mirabai Chanu's thumping win in the women's weightlifting 49 kg category at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, launching campaigns to congratulate her and even offering freebies.

Homegrown cloud kitchen food brand platform Yumlane offered its pizza to the athlete, while Jubilant FoodWorks owned Domino’s Pizza went a step ahead and delivered it at Chanu’s home in Manipur besides promising a lifetime of free treats for her.

“Domino’s is now doing a short-term digital activation deal with Mirabai Chanu," said Neerav Tomar, CEO & managing director, IOS Sports and Entertainment, a sports management company that handles Chanu’s brand endorsement portfolio.

While Tomar told Mint that there is interest from brands across categories such as steel, energy drinks, muscle supplement, women’s personal care to sign Chanu, branding and marketing experts felt that most brands have used her win to attract attention to themselves and push their products.

“Such marketing tactics get quick media eyeballs, and that is sadly what brands are chasing. It’s all about moment marketing and being on the trending list. Most brands don’t bother about what they stand for and the right fit," said Naresh Gupta, co-founder, and chief strategy officer, Bang In The Middle.

Gupta added that if brands were serious about fueling an athlete’s Olympic dreams, they have to work with them for a long period of time. “Companies such as JSW and Tatas spend a lifetime nurturing athletes and looking after them," he added.

JSW Group, for instance, has been supporting its athletes through the last five years at every stage in the build-up to the Tokyo Games. The firm also opened the doors of the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) training centre in Bellary, Karnataka to all Tokyo-bound athletes, irrespective of whether they are supported by the JSW Group or not.

Sports brand Puma has signed 18 Indian athletes who will represent the country in national and international events across sporting disciplines like shooting, hockey, track and field, boxing, table tennis, discus throw, and badminton. The brand will provide gear and support to these athletes.

Harish Bijoor, brand strategy expert and founder, Harish BijoorConsults Inc. calls it ‘Olympic moment vulturism’. “Many brands have hijacked the winning moment of the athletes to gain attention towards themselves which has not created a negative reaction in the minds of many. Consumers are savvy though and they know when it happens," he noted.

The Lovely Professional University (LPU) ad showing 11 athletes in the India Olympic squad that belonged to the university stirred a debate when Virat Kohli mentioned the fact in his post. Netizens trolled Kohli for using Olympics as a ploy to promote the educational institution.

A senior sports marketing executive, on the condition of anonymity, said there are legal implications to such marketing tactics. Unless a brand has signed a legal contract with an athlete, they cannot use his/her picture even for congratulatory posts.

“Often, brands don’t take such liberties with the cricketers because they have got strong management and legal teams. However, unfortunately, brands do tend to take advantage of young upcoming athletes in non-traditional sports who will likely come in the limelight once in their lifetime," the executive added.

The biggest drawback with non-traditional sports athletes is also low visibility. Unlike sports such as cricket, badminton, tennis, and football, which have year-round engagement, non-traditional sports athletes are only seen twice in four years for Asian Games and Olympics.

“That is the unfortunate reason that their access to fame is only once every four years and hence brands don’t sign them for long-term partnerships," the executive noted.

(The promoters of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, and Jubilant FoodWorks are closely related. There are, however, no promoter cross-holdings.)

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