Brand Wagon: Sports is the new context

Every 4 years we as a country ask this question:

Why can’t we win medals in Olympics?

Why as country we do well only in cricket, is cricket the reason that we don’t do well in Olympics?

Why cant corporates put in money as they put in Cricket?

Eventually the clamour dies down and we carry on enjoying cricket and now a variety of sports that are beyond cricket. Hockey has seen a revival, Kabbadi is being watched, and Badminton gets people to stadiums, even Formula 1 got people excited and drove them to racetrack.

The fact is India loves sports more than cricket. Cricket drives people, and is the most popular sport. Cricketers are used by the brands because they are recognized. Constant TV coverage makes them well known and that makes it easy for brands to use them.

No corporate participation?

But the corporates and brands are investing in sportsperson beyond cricket, and that is a wonderful thing. Take Olympic Gold Quest, the not for profit organization that has been working with some of the most promising athletes of India, giving them support, training, nutrition and kits. PV Sindhu, the Rio Olympic Gold Medalist is a part of Olympic Gold Quest. OGQ is the power behind 5 Olympic Gold Medals, 2 Silver and 3 Bronze.

Jindals have invested big in sports with JSW Sports, this year at Rio they scored a Bronze with Sakshi Malik in wrestling.

There are more corporates including the biggest names like Tata are involved with athletes beyond cricket.

This is an interesting conundrum. The corporates have opened up their purse for athletes other than cricket. Indians, on occasions when the athletes have competed have cheered them, rooted for them, and made them a part of their lives. Yet the broader marketing communication has not seen too many non-cricket celebrities being used as face of brands.


Brands have not been indulgent

There has been an Abhinav Bindra that was signed on by Samsung after his Gold Medal in 2008. Saina Nehwal is the face of Savlon, Iodex and Fortune Cooking Oil, but this is where it stops. Un each of the three brands she is the super performing athlete and each ad makes a strong impact for the brand.

Why is it that the brands have shied away from using the non-cricket athletes as brand endorsers? The simplistic answer may lie in the fact that these players are still high performing athletes and are not stars that public wants to mimic. The other reason may be that these athletes are backed by organizations and brands that are not in consumer spaces. OGQ has no products to sell. Mittal Champions Trust had no battle of market share to fight, JSW Sports works towards making the corporate a better neighbour.

Its easy to rope in a film star

The mainstream brands in India are too focused on either the film stars or the cricket personalities. Even Nike, the partner of OGQ, when it did communication to celebrate the athletes of India, it used Dipika Padukone as the lead and not the 6 athletes who should have been the face of the brand. Celebrities are used by the brands to gain quick awareness, but Nike as a brand has been all about sports and the brand would have done better showcasing the women athletes and letting Dipika be a part of the mix.

BMW signs up Sachin as the face of the brand, and then gifts the BMW to medal winners at Rio. Clearly in BMWs scheme of things Sachin is a better salesperson for a marquee car and that BMW is better off gaining some fame by just gifting the cars to the winners. What if BMW had signed up either of the three or all three as the faces that drive the brand in India?

Brands take easy way out

The Nike Da Ding is just a small part of the problem. Brands believe that the easiest way to gain a million plus views on a video is by using a celebrity. In India there are only two kind of celebrities: Film Actors and Cricket Players. Sachin sells BMW, Kareena sells Jaguar. May be both have limited impact on final purchase decision.

Sports Authorities need to look beyond

This year we had a film star and a cricketer as the brand ambassador for Rio Olympic. The public hue and cry and rejection of the two choices is a clear indicator that consumers want to look beyond the conventional stars. Its time the sports authorities broke the mould. Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal, Vijender Singh, Yogeshwar Dutt, Karnam Malleshwari are perfectly capable of firing public imagination.

Its time we as the country started to celebrate our heroes. Its time our brands looked beyond the usual celebrities.

The consumers are ready, its time the brands shed their resistance.

Original Published Here:









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