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HOWZZZAT: The Rise and Rise of Sports Marketing In India

44 days, 59 matches, 8 teams, each a tangy concoction of domestic and international players, oodles of glamor quotient, truckloads of entertainment value, huge investments, a deluge of emotional followers, an unparalleled hype and a single exclusive moment—some referred to this frenzy as masala cricket, others preferred calling it superfast cricketainment and there were still others who believed that this was the true representation of the spirit of Youngistan. That was IPL (Indian Premier League) DLF T20 cricket tournament, the most happening and talked about sporting event in the country that witnessed a grand finale on June 1, 2008 as Rajasthan Royals swept away with the first ever coveted IPL trophy.Within a short span of two years, between 2008- 2010, the IPL transformed cricket into a money spinning vehicle charming the biggest of tycoons, Bollywood biggies stalwarts from varied fields and of course the media. So much so that it got an image of mega entertainment event. This truly marked the beginning of Sports Marketing in India.

Cricket has always been a game full of glorious uncertainties, but with IPL, underlying the entire glam, glitz glory and buzz there was a neatly etched out business model as well that complimented anorganised marketing strategy. A perfect case study in sports marketing. There were lessons in Competitive strategy, positioning, Targeting and communications.

In July 2007 when Lalit Modi the commissioner of IPL launched the concept of a premier league inspired by the grandeur and mammoth scale of NFL, it was rather a ploy to thwart the attempt of Subhash Chandra’s Indian Cricket league, which was all poised to take up the first mover advantage. However IPL hit on the rivals weak spot grabbing both market share and eyeballs overriding almost every sporting event in the country big and small.

Pepsi Kingfisher, Vodafone, Amazon Vivo, Yes Bank, and Voltas and so many other brands from beverages, FMCG, Consumer electronics and even telecom leveraged on the success of IPL. But the Brand which truly savoured the benefit was DLF the title sponsor which managed to harvest a perfect sync with its positioning – Building India and cricket as we all know is literally binding, building and growing with India.

In the last couple of years however IPL that once posed a major threat to domestic sports in the country and also dared various other entertainment formats, seems to be fast losing out on its lustre.It appears to be more of a platform for flaunting of Brands and showcasing of glamour than the actual game of cricket. That’s the reason why the competition for IPL is more of general entertainment than of any other sports. It’s not just that advertisers aspire to draw a big chunk out of this new commercial money minting platform but even the players who are the major stakeholders are lured more by the attractive brand propositions thrown at them than the game spirit. As I look at it the player’s net-worth is driven not by their sporting skills but by the might of their brand magnetism.

The adrenalin gush of a typical one day international especially of the kind witnessed during an India Pak match is not to be experienced anymore. The equations are changing from a passionate audienceinvolvement in the game to a consumer connect with Brands and other diversions. So Cheer girls have already announced their arrival while the enthusiastic cheer on the hit of a six is more of a rise in brand worth of the player on field. Customer satisfaction has clearly taken precedence over the game of cricket. The focus has visibly shifted on launching limited editions, giving lucrative offers, creating exclusive commercials and designing branding initiatives for IPL. Not to forget the uncountable controversies that have mired the game, diluting its Brand image. Over the years the internal cracks obvious within the team have also lead to a reduction in the number of teams.The title sponsorship and ground sponsorship also seems to have taken a beating.

But despite whatever good bad or ugly people and the media might have to say India has always been a cricket crazy nation and IPL with its phenomenal success has changed the complete economics of the game. Sports marketing has never been this big. Each and every stakeholder stands to gain either in terms of the brand recall or in terms of the visibility and revenue. Franchisees are justifying their investment with an optimistic revenue projection. Media, advertisers and BCCI are all grinning their way to the cash counters.

The success of IPL has definitely stimulated the surfacing of other sports which were lying low for want of an audience and drawing an interest in entities other than cricket. This is clearly evident with the various sporting leagues in kabbadi, soccer hockey creating a value for its supporters across the globe and encouraging a handsome pool of investments. It is indeed a positive sign that brands now seem more than happy to be associating with.Moreover I strongly feel it is motivating enthusiasts to take up to different sports without inhibition.


Source: Sports sponsorship industry in India grew at 19.33 per cent in 2016

Economic times Mar 17, 2017


2016 -17 has seen a substantial 14.4% growth in sports endorsements But the heartening thing here is that though Cricket continued its stronghold with 72 brands a strong 82 brand endorsements were bagged by other non-cricket athletes put together.Thanks to the success of PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik in the Rio Olympics non-cricket endorsements’ have become lucrative propositions and seen a visible growth of 83.5% in 2016-17. This means we are now ready for more sporting celebs as endorsers other than cricket.


Source: Sports sponsorship industry in India grew at 19.33 per cent in 2016

Economic times Mar 17, 2017


An Economic times brand equity reports also reflects the growth in Media spends by 24.63% from Rs. 2816.9 crore in 2015 to Rs. 3510.8 crore in 2016. The on-air spends in sport also look extremely impressive at 34.74%, from Rs. 1756.9 crore to Rs. 2367.2 crore as per the report. With names like Abhishek Bachchan and Ronnie screwala the UTV Baron backing it, The Pro Kabbadi league has seen a natural jump not just in terms of Franchises but also in terms of eyeballs and on ground sponsorship.

In 2011 Airtel on the brinks of its acquisition of Zain communications struck a title sponsorship deal with the globally acclaimed Formula one Grand Prix motor sporting event. A Brave unconventional decision indeed. But I am sure Airtel as a brand must’ve seen synergies with the sport and moreover I have heard an interview of the company spokesperson who believed that both the sport and brand Airtel “resonated well with global and contemporary audience”.

This has certainly lend a new dimension to the conventional cricket crazy inclination of brands and they are exploring other not so popular sports as well for increasing their much desired reach.So More power to sports in India as there is no stopping the Brand wagon.



-Dr. Tripti Dhote

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