Brands calling for CWG winners!

Call India a one-sporting nation or simply a Cricket fanatic nation, our everyday chocolate and health drinks' packaging are seeing a slow revamp. From sports in India being categorized as Cricket and non-Cricket sports, the sporting world is echoing more of Singh and the likes. No the Singh doesn't stand for Yuvraj Singh, R.P Singh or the "Singh' before Dhoni, but it stands for the man who won the yellow metal for India proving his mettle each time. It is none other than Vijendra Singh and many other players like him from the Indian contingent of Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010 who put up a great show, placing India at number two after the final medal tally.

Post the CWG performance the talent management industry noticed the new names of the players from the unheard "non-cricketing" sports and increased the stakes involved in brand endorsements.

World champion wrestler Sushil Kumar , post wining a gold at the CWG, is going to sign an endorsement deal which is approximately as much as Rs.2 crore. Moreover, Badminton champs like Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa are all looked on as a valuable asset to the talent management industry.

While the CWG 2010 wins also continued its positive stride in the Asian Games with India winning as many as 64 medals, these sporting stars have raised many questions like- if the client will be willing to take on a non-cricketing brand endorser? Will the fabulous Indian performance raise the investment and revenue for the sports marketing and talent management industry in the country?

Adgully spoke to a few industry experts to gauge the pros and cons of getting the new category of endorsers from the sporting world on board.

When asked if clients now will have more options to choose from, Harish Bijoor, Brand-expert and Chief Executive Officer, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., says, "That's true. But the sad fact is that India's brand-endorsers largely come from the largest eye-balls game of them all: cricket. Just after that come players from extremely niche viewership games like Golf. All those figure in between these two games get squashed out of the endorsement circuit."

"The rationale for Golf is that it offers class appeal and there are luxury brands in India (men oriented) who would love to use Golfing stars. The rationale for crickets is that it is India's lowest common denominator game. A game which gets the largest viewership and a game that harvests the largest amount of passion of Indians across age groups and sex profiles," he further adds.

Post CWG 2010, Percept Talent Management, (PTM), the celebrity management division of Percept, announced that it will be looking to cash in on the increase in brand value of athletes who have won medals. The company represents CWG winners like Sushil Kumar, Vijender Singh, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa.

Talking about this, Rajnish Sahay, Chief Executive Officer, PTM, says, "We are very actively looking at non-Bollywood and non-Cricket celebrities as well. The market besides has been accepting them very well. Moreover they have made a great impact in terms of their TG, they are not as expensive as Bollywood or Cricket. We are trying to build a strong bridge between Bollywood and Hollywood, further very closely aligning it with sports like Cricket, Wrestling, Boxing, and Badminton."

He further adds, "We are talent managers, so am not just looking at getting endorsements for them. We would be very keen on supporting them in all kinds of forms. Like our initiative Fight Nights, we are looking at working closely with each form of sporting activity and building an unique IP of their own."

When asked if the new sports stars will bring about a change in the sports marketing space, Indranil Das Blah, Chief Operating Officer, KWAN Entertainment & Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd., says, "There will be a ripple for a short time in the sports marketing space but looking at the bigger picture of sports marketing and endorsements, our performance at the CWG is not going to make any significant impact. Fact is that winning medals at the Commonwealth Games are not the pinnacle of sporting excellence and people and brands recognize that. So while medals in any sporting event are commendable, for the winners at the Commonwealth Games, they shouldn't expect a plethora of endorsements. Case in point being Samresh Jung; he won multiple gold medals in the previous Commonwealth Games, but that sadly didn't translate to a single brand endorsement."

While the categories of products which see a lot of sporting stars being their endorsers as telecom and mobile handset manufacturers, it will be interesting to see if newer categories will open upto these sports stars. Talking about a client's perspective, Sanjay Tripathy, Executive Vice President - Marketing and Direct Channels, HDFC Standard Life, says, "It actually requires sustained performance to become brand endorsers. It is important that however CWG and Asian Games helps people to sit up and take notice of certain sports discipline that have started doing well. So inevitably brands will start noticing the performance and at the same time it is important for the sport stars to continue their good performance. A sustained good performance will build up customer interest. It may not happen immediately I see it growing within maybe three more years."

The country seems proud with the good performance that the "non-cricketing" sports stars have put up in international forums. While back home the clients, fans and the talent management industry are slowly whispering about these unsung heroes, looks like these new sporting stars have just started warming up to face their Cricketing counterparts. Get set go! | By Prabha Hegde [prabha(at)adgully.com]

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