How brands are waking up to play sports other than cricket...

When Felix Baumgartner jumped from 39,000 meters above the sea level, a brand took a leap of faith with him as well; the jump from edge of stratosphere was named as 'Red Bull Stratos Jump'. More than 8 million people watched it live on YouTube, as this year's IPL began, Hotstar advertised on front page of newspapers that it had over 5.5 million live viewership; in a country where cricket is akin to a religion, I expected more eyeballs.  Felix's jump lasted four minutes and twenty seconds but the impact generated by it for Felix and his sponsor Red Bull is counted among the greatest sporting event of the decade.

Sports people setting new records are a recurring occurrence, but what made the world take note of Felix's jump? The secret lies with Red Bull than just the exceptional sportsmanship of Felix. Mashable once described Red Bull as a content marketing company that also sells beverages. Red Bull sponsors over 150 high adrenaline sports including a white elephant called F1 Racing, but barring that, most of the sports it associates with are niche such as Parkour, Kayaking, and Mountain Biking and so on. It seldom goes after major league sports, the strategy here is simple, take 100% minds share in many high involvement sports than put logo on a national sport.

With no disrespect to any particular sports, the amount of hype and limelight that cricket enjoys in the country is unparalleled. There are a number of other sports in India, including the game of hockey, which got us 6 consecutive gold in Olympics, probably gets one-tenth of what cricket does. Sadly, this is the state of the sports only in India. In other countries of the world, equal attention and admiration is shown for all types of sports.

There is not a doubt thus, as to why brands are splurging huge amount of money for sponsoring cricket. All this money has glamourized the game like no other sports in the country. It is, however, a welcoming change that a lot of brands are inclining towards other sports than cricket to give the sports a boost and motive. Players and participants of alternate sports are getting a new motivation due to these sponsorships and opportunity.

Mercedes is one of the prominent brands that has been sponsoring golf tournament. India’s popular golf tournament has the title sponsor from Mercedes – The Mercedes Benz Golf Tournament (India). The tournament has been enjoying a lovely association with Mercedes. Mercedes has gone into a 16 years association with this event.

Hero MotoCorp, which was known to be a regular sponsor for cricket, is also into sponsoring other sports. The brand was a proud sponsor of the Commonwealth Games 2010. Apart from that, Hero cycles has also come forward and sponsored the toughest cycling race of India – the Hero MTB Himalaya. The annual mountain biking race requires the participants to cover a distance of 650 km. This race is being continuing since 2005. On an average the event attracts 1500 participants, and that includes over the seas participants too. There are 5 different categories that Hero MTB Himalaya holds.

Recent years has also seen a huge change for the game of kabaddi too. The Pro Kabaddi has sponsors from Vivo. In 2014, when Pro Kabaddi first started, there were no sponsors for the game. How shameful for a sport and the players of the game. Tables turned, and in the last Pro Kabaddi season, the sport had 9 sponsors. This clearly denotes the positive change that the sports of India are slowly getting exposed to.

Marathons, are something that has gained massive popularity in India. Unlike a lot of other sports, running a marathon only needs two things – fitness and confidence. There is usually no age, gender, or social bars to be able to run in marathons. Tata has been sponsoring marathons in cities like Mumbai and Kolkata. These marathons attract huge number of people, and the challenge is to complete the run, than anything else. Runners can run at their own pace, and can stop when they feel they can no longer go on.

For bullet lovers, Royal Enfield brings the Rider Mania every year. The main sponsor of the highly awaited annual event of Rider Mania is Royal Enfield. The event is hosted by Brotherhood of Bulleteers Motorcycling Consortium (BOBMC), and is a gathering of bullet owners who loves riding to celebrate the motorcycling spirit of people. Bulleteers ride across the length and breadth of the country to partake in the event.

These brands are gradually shifting from cricket to other forms of sports or adventure activities for a mutual benefit. As these sports give them the opportunity to make their mark or re-sculpt their mark in the minds of people, the management of these companies also feel passionately about these sports. Together the journey is going to be a sporting one!

(Akash Korgaonkar, the founder of Ruggedian Lifestyle Pvt Ltd. and an Ironman Triathlon).

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