Is sponsorship in sports a good idea for 2014?


“This decade promises to be a transformational one for sports in India. The triggers are all there. A hungry spectator base of over a billion people, a dozen sports television channels beaming sporting content around the clock, a rapidly growing list of keen corporates and brands waiting to invest in emerging in cricketing and non-cricketing platforms”, says a report released by GroupM ESP, the Sports and Entertainment arm of Group M Media, in collaboration with

The Sportzpower and GroupM ESP report touches upon several interesting aspects of sporting and the marketing of sports in India as a whole. EE investigates further in an exclusive conversation with Mr Vinit Karnik, GroupM ESP:

What are the trends and developments in the Indian sports industry as seen from 2008 to 2013?

The year 2008 was a landmark year with IPL gaining immense significance for providing the impetus to monetizing cricket and initiating a process which gave hope and a template for other sports. Currently India is at the cusp of a revolution in the growth of the sports industry. In the next few years the market is going to grow exponentially with other sports like Badminton, Football Hockey complementing the cricket story.

Growth of the Indian sports economy will be led by:

- A hungry spectator base of over a billion people

- A dozen sports television channels beaming sporting content round the clock

- A rapidly growing list of keen corporate’s and brands waiting to invest in emerging cricketing and non-cricketing platforms

- Emergence of league-format

What does the emergence of league-format sports in India signify?

Other sports have adopted the IPL model and it has helped in repackaging the sports and finding audiences for it. The rise of leagues is a healthy sign for development of Sports Economy benefiting the players and the game financially, the viewer from an experience and an engagement standpoint, broadcasters to associate with new content, sponsors to activate key stakeholders and the rights-holders in opening up newer monetizing avenues.

Where is the sports industry in India positioned today?

Money in to the sport is flowing through On Ground and Team Sponsorships, Athlete Endorsements and Media. If you take these parameters into account, starting 2008, size of sports industry in India has almost doubled, growing by 92%. Football is the “problem child” of Indian sport, with much latent potential, and when it finally makes the big leap; its rise will be “phenomenal”.

How do you justify the next few years of marketing investment in sports? Is it going to be cricket centric or is India finally coming to age to other sports?

Marketing spends will be predominantly diverted towards cricket. It activates key markets across the country and guarantees pan-India reach. It accommodates multiple brand categories across central and team sponsorship. Simply put, a high impact property that offers opportunities to activate multiple market and various stakeholders. Cricket spells high investment, high returns. Other than cricket marketers are taking interest in investing on other sports which are now increasing and gathering eyeballs. Marketers look out for investing in marathons in metros that offer high activation and engagement opportunities. Marketers are also investing in other leagues like the IBL and HIL due to the presence of both national and international players. While Cricket is the driver of Indian Sports, brands have opened up to engagement and experiential opportunities other sports can deliver.

To give a perspective, between 2008 and 2013, while on-ground sponsorship in football went up from Rs 85 million to Rs 142 million, in marathons it rose from Rs 285 million to Rs 420 million.

What is the IMG-Reliance-Star co-owned Indian Super League going to bring to the table?

IMG-Reliance-Star co-owns Indian Super League and is set to bring the bells and whistles associated with the IPL to football.. The league has already created a lot of buzz amongst prospective bidders and sponsors. For the larger growth of Indian Sports Economy, it is imperative India breaks the one sport nation image and the success of ISL will go a long way in defining it.

What is the future of sports broadcasting in India?

Early adoption of digital media, shorter and newer formats to engage audiences and regional commentary are areas where broadcasters have already made strides. These will shape the future of sports broadcasting in India.

What can be said for the future of sports in India?

While investment in Cricket has seen correction, it will still be a major driver of Indian Sport.  As for other sports, the big news of 2014 will be the inaugural edition of the IMG-Reliance-Star co-owned Indian Super League that is set to bring all the bells and whistles associated with the IPL to football.

In the long run, there will be more leagues across Sports and the with whole wellness and fitness movement gaining ever-increasing traction, in turn will mean more interest in sport from both participation activity and as spectator engagement.

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groupm Sportzpower Vinit Karnik

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