It was in 2002 that Indian audiences got to watch all the matches of the FIFA World Cup – on Ten Sports. But even before that, ESPN Star Sports had started televising the English Premier League. More recently, we saw Venkateshwara Hatcheries notching up a club buy – that of Blackburn Rovers.
For long the ‘next big thing’ in Indian sport, marketers believe that football is continuing to gain fans. But does the game throw enough opportunities for marketers to leverage it?
According to T Gangadhar, MD, MEC India, by associating with football, marketers get a totally different TG. He says, “Football as a sport is useful for strategic reasons for marketers who are associating with it. Football viewers are a totally different target audience for marketers - they are otherwise light users of television. Advertising on television is not the best option for brands looking to associate with football. They should look at a model where advertising is supported by activations.”
Nokia India is one of the brands associated with the sport. The mobile handset major became regional partner (India) for current Spanish League champion FC Barcelona in October 2012. Soon after the tie up, the brand launched a campaign ‘Tiki Taka with Lumia’ based on the club’s famous style of play.Viral Oza, director-marketing, Nokia India, holds the view that the sport is growing in India.
“Today, football is becoming the universal language of scores of millions of people around the world, and has witnessed a substantial growth as an alternate sport in India as well. The sport attracts the second-highest sponsorship across the globe and in India. A recent Nielsen survey found that 47 per cent of India’s population would describe themselves as football fans and the sport enjoys the second most viewed sport status in India with an audience of 2.5 million viewers,” he says.
Avinash Pant, marketing director, Nike India, echoes Oza’s views. Nike became apparel sponsor of the Indian football team in 2006. Pant says, “We are very encouraged by the growing support for the sport in India; we are also very excited about the young talent in India. The sport is definitely beginning to get the recognition that it deserves. Football is hugely popular amongst schools and colleges and the sport is growing rapidly across the country, grassroot initiatives are increasing in number and facilities and training schools are also multiplying.”
Another investor in the sport at a global level is Standard Chartered. The banking major sponsors Liverpool Football Club. Sumeet Singla, regional head, corporate affairs, India and South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, explains how the company looks to target India.
“We look at a typical class 8, 9 or 10 school kid. Chances are he or she will have a favourite football club in the English Premier League and he/she could be following football more than cricket. This does give a feeling that football is growing. But it is still not reaching critical mass where the sport can be monetised. We understand football is popular in certain schools and we open a football clinic with some of the coaches from Liverpool for school kids. We know the affluent school kids’ parents are customers or potential customers and we find that the engagement level in these families for football is far higher than for cricket. Kids enjoy having a club that they support and talk to each other about. It’s growing as a sport, but it’s a very distant second to cricket,” explains Singla.
Ten Sports’ CEO Atul Pande says brands should be looking to compensate for the sport’s lack of monetisation opportunities on television by looking at more affiliations. He says, “The sport is more conducive for affiliations. Depending on the league, we get different kinds of viewing engagement. The introduction of a strong Indian league may help the sport garner more interest and close the gap on cricket. In one state which sees football garner high interest than cricket (West Bengal), viewership of football is level.”
While the sport seems to be garnering higher interest with each passing year, Singla surmises the situation saying: “If I had a dollar and I could spend that on football on TV, I wouldn’t.”
Sumeet Singla, regional head, corporate affairs, India and South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank
“People use cricket to reach the masses. Corporates choose sports other than cricket to reach a very specific target audience. Football resonates more with the younger generation. It is a cleaner game to advertise in - it’s got only one brand on every T-shirt. The boards on the side are electronic and have very little clutter. That’s how I personally feel brands should be built and not like the IPL, which has 10 brands per team on the jersey.”
T Gangadhar, managing director, MEC India
“Football is upcoming in India for sure. Whether its the Premier League or the World Cup that happens once in four years, the sport is getting the attention. Lots of consumption of the sport is around lifestyle. People don’t want to be left out of the water cooler conversion. Advertisers should be looking to target this audience.”
Atul Pande, CEO, Ten Sports
“The mistake people make is that they compare cricket to football. It makes no sense to do that. Football gives marketers a different kind of option. The sport is more conducive for affiliations. In the top eight cities, it’s a clear number two, way ahead of number three. The sport sees viewership coming from a younger crowd.”
Avinash Pant, marketing director, Nike India
“We are very encouraged by the growing support for the sport in India; we are also very excited about the young talent in India. The sport is definitely beginning to get the recognition that it deserves. Football is hugely popular amongst schools and colleges and the sport is growing rapidly across the country, grassroot initiatives are increasing in number and facilities and training schools are also multiplying.”
Viral Oza, director - marketing, Nokia India
“Football has witnessed substantial growth as an alternate sport and is gaining popularity amongst the youth in urban India. The sport attracts the second-highest sponsorship across the globe and in India.”