Successful partnerships are driven by a sense of ownership, trust and intent, not by clauses in a contract

To understand the art of building Sport IPs and making them successful year after year, Anil Singh, MD, Procam International shares some unmissable insights.



India has very few sports IPs compared to the global average, and fewer when it comes to successful ones.

Among the select Indian Sport IPs that have managed to draw global attention, 4 of them are owned by Procam International alone--Mumbai Marathon, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, TCS World 10K Run (Bangalore) and Tata Steel Kolkata 25K.

While many entrepreneurs struggle with establishing a single IP, running four globally recognised IPs is no mean feat. 

To understand the art of building Sport IPs and making them successful year after year, we spoke to Anil Singh, MD,  Procam International and here is what he had to say.  

After 17 years of seeding the sport of running in India, and building the whole ecosystem, what lessons does sport still teach you? 

Sport is the university of Life. The syllabus is simple and the degree invaluable. In Sport the goal is to win and to achieve victory at whatever level, you need to do that one thing better than the rest, at least on that given day. 

However, what I learnt from  Participative Sport (Running) was truly surreal. It taught me that an individual by mere participation in any avatar was a winner, simply because it made him/her a better human being. In the university of Life unlike Spectatorial sport, in Participative sport no one student is better than the other, you either graduate or you don’t.

This journey of 17 years has truly been humbling. I have come to realise that human beings are inherently good souls. The haves and have-nots contribute equally in one way or another. All it boils down to is one’s intent, perseverance,  communication, and the ability to instill a sense of ownership.  These my friends are not hollow words. The fact that Procam International’s 4 Distance Running Events have raised over 400 crores benefitting over 700 NGO's is a living testament of our society’s character.

How do you approach an association with a brand? How are sports sponsorships different? 

In exactly the same way we approach any form of collaboration or partnership. Principles are the same, so why should the approach towards sponsorships be any different. 

Like everything else it’s about common sense and prioritisation. However before a promoter or a business development executive approaches a brand, adoption of a few key fundamentals would substantially increase their percentage of success. Interestingly, including these fundamentals benefits a brand too, it helps the brand custodian to assess the opportunity and the promoter much better. 

1- To begin with it’s vital to analyse the value of your product. Once done you must respect and believe in it. The authenticity in your pitch or the lack of it will either endorse or expose you. To arrive at a best probable value you need deep knowledge of your product, it’s relevance, where it’s at today and where do you intend to take it. Simple common sense, sadly not common at all.

2- It’s critical to differentiate advertising from sponsorship, a well camouflaged pitfall to watch out for. Advertising is the right to choose. Sponsorship on the other hand is a platform you partner to influence the passionately loyal base to connect and embrace your brand, with both sides having one eye constantly and strategically focused on widening the existing base. It’s a touch and feel process which can only be achieved through engagement, communication, synchronised amplification of the brand’s values, ideals and immediate objectives. Sponsorship is not a branding exercise period. To effectively leverage any sponsorship, a further investment in the ratio of 2:1 at the minimum should be budgeted for. In many cases brands have been known to spend 4 to 5 times their initial investment.

3- Brand fit is key for beneficial and long term partnerships. Ideally the brand should fall in either of the two buckets. Is the brand critical to the fabric of the event ie hospitality, airlines, timing, merchandising etc. Does the brand’s values, speak, actions, philosophy, and ideals credibly align. There is a third bucket, it’s when a brand’s inclusion considerably adds value to a general need or convenience for the base. 

4- Legal contracts effectively serve the purpose of defining and protecting the structure of ownership and rights. IPs evolve and so does a sponsor’s need. My advice to any promoter is to always bend backwards, for a sponsor, and try to accommodate all that is legally and respectfully possible without referring to the contract. There will always come a time when the promoter needs the sponsor to bend backwards in support. Successful partnerships are driven by a sense of ownership, trust and intent, not by clauses in a contract.

5- Always think big. It’s a myth that big is impossible, at times it may prove to be easier. Giving birth to an IP is similar to delivering a baby. To achieve their potential, IPs just like babies need constant love, care, guidance, attention and investment. Another advantage of thinking big is, it enables a promoter at the very inception to draw a strategic roadmap of his/her long term vision.

6- Stay true to your beliefs and vision. Don’t ever compromise the  big picture for hurdles that seem insurmountable or blame it on the lack of monies. Pay closer attention to the naysayers, culling the relevant bits will help you to be better prepared. Stay the course, you won’t get a second shot if the first one misfires.

7- Tell stories. Life is about stories.

How does ‘giving back to society’ play a role in your approach to partnerships? 

It is not my mandate to suggest or advise a partner to give back to society, hence it should never be factored into the approach. Giving back to society is the sole responsibility of the promoter to ensure that his platform benefits society directly and indirectly. Let’s take Procam’s running platform as a case study. My brother Vivek and I were crystal clear from the start, that the running movement will be built on 5 pillars. Pride and prestige to the city, communal harmony, charity, health and fitness and benefit to Indian athletes. It’s our unwavering belief in each of these pillars that has thankfully delivered the desired impact. The results of which are out in the open for everyone to see and judge for themselves. 

Which 3 brands according to you stand tall from a sports sponsorship lens, from an Indian and global perspective?

In the Indian context it would have to be 5 brands. Tata’s, Hero, Star Sports, Kingfisher and Sahara Their support and service towards sport, the athletes and the proliferation of Sport in India is simply immeasurable. It should suffice to say that Indian Sport will always be in their debt. 

From a present day context, globally it would be 5 brands that stand tall. Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Emirates, Rolex and  Etihad. Their approach towards sponsorship is a bible for us promoters and sponsors. Equally important is that we recognise and applaud the invaluable role played globally by major sport brands ie Nike, Puma, Asics, Adidas and many more. Without them the entire sports ecosystem could have never scaled the heights it finds itself at today. 

Tell us about your top 3 sporting memories? 

1- South Africa winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg. This victory redefined an entire nation. For the very first time in the country’s history did the nation come together as one. There were no blacks or whites; everyone was a South African.

2- Japan’s shock win over South Africa in the group stage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. 

In individual sports Japan is a sporting powerhouse, strangely not in team sports. I cannot recall a single Japanese team that reached the pinnacle of any sport. For Minnows Japan to beat South Africa, a Goliath of World Rugby, energised the entire nation, so much so that Japan went on to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup successfully. It’s also important to understand that unlike many sports, to win a rugby match at a World Cup level, only luck will never carry you across the finish line. 

3- The first edition of the Mumbai Marathon in 2004- This Event gave birth to a revolution, redefined our nation at various levels and will always be viewed by one and all as a watershed sporting moment. A day that will remain etched in my memory forever. 

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procam anil singh Sports Ips Marathons Procam International

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