Hemant Dua looks in pretty good shape for someone who is steering an IPL team that saw a terminal decline in the last season.
As the newly appointed head of marketing and commercial for GMR Sports that owns Team Delhi Daredevils, Dua has his job cut out for him. Broadly, he is responsible for the club’s overall marketing and branding strategy, integration of sponsor partners, merchandising, retail distribution, licensing, ticketing and development of a company-wide approach to customer engagement.
“It is all about getting the brand up there in the market, building a larger fan base and keeping the interest levels alive through the year,” says Dua. Not an easy task for a team that stood last in the final tally of 2011. But then Dua has been in this business long enough to understand its vagaries. “This is a business where performance or outcomes cannot be predicted or guaranteed. To be an eternal optimist and to have a fairly thick skin are two pre-requisites of succeeding in the emotionally charged and highly competitive world of sports marketing,” he says with a smile. “Also, there is only one way for Delhi Daredevils to go from where they were last year – up.”
While Dua will watch the matches very closely in IPL Season 5, the performances he’d be most interested in won’t necessarily take place in the cricket stadiums. “My job is to make my brand talk to its fans, and I shall be closely monitoring all such conversations,” says Dua. He has taken upon himself to make the Delhi Daredevils brand the most talked about one in the coming season. The GMR Sports’ management structure has undergone a revamp and .Kiran Kumar Grandhi, chairman, Airports, GMR Group who is incharge of Delhi Daredevils has infused fresh confidence in the team and is backing all of Dua’s moves to recreate the magic of the ‘Daredevils’ brand.
“Though the team has been in existence for over four years, not much has been done on the brand side, except in the first year,” says Dua. “It is time for a fresh start.”
While most other teams have built their marketing campaigns around Bollywood stars, who also play the role of the teams’ brand ambassadors, Dua has decided to give his team a more ‘real’ look and feel. “A team that has hit rock bottom in one season needs a lot of resilience to come out victorious in the next. This is the very spirit that became the creative concept of our ‘Kasam Daredevils Ki’ brand campaign. By picking off-beat endurance athletes to be our ‘Superfans’ or brand ambassadors, we are sending a message – It isn’t over yet. Watch out.”
Anuradha Vaidyanathan, India’s only IronMan athlete; Arjun Vajpai, the youngest Indian climber to summit three peaks beyond 8,000 m, including Mount Everest; Arun Bhardwaj, India’s only ultra-marathon runner, and Reena Kaushal Dharmshaktu, the only Indian woman to ski her way to South Pole are the four Superfans of Delhi Daredevils.
Dua likes to think of himself as somewhat of a pioneer in bringing the concept of licensing to the world of Indian sports. The event was World Cup 2003 and his then employer, Octagon - world’s largest sponsorship consulting practice and a pioneer in athlete and personality representation and management, tasked him with the responsibility of sealing licensing deals with Indian retailers. “Kishore Biyani, with his far-sightedness, backed us 100% and the concept was a huge success. We sold rights to Pantaloon, Archies, and Camlin among others. These companies developed merchandise and apparel around the ‘zebra’ which was the mascot at the time,” Dua reminisces.
Dua has brought in his immense licensing and merchandising experience gained at Octagon, where he spent four years as director, Asia, to extend the equity of Delhi Daredevils brand far beyond the stadia. “For me the measure of success of any brand campaign depends on: how much am I being talked about in the media; how many bums on seats; and how many people buy my merchandise. Even in the digital space, one merchandise transaction made on our own website has far greater weightage for me than the numerous fans we have on Facebook or Twitter. E-commerce is really the final step of the brand engagement process,” says Dua.
While he holds a masters’ degree in sports management from the University of San Francisco, Dua credits two of his Octagon seniors, Ivan Brixi and Richard Copeland, in helping him become more structured and focused, two critical traits in the industry. “Both Brixi, an ex tennis player who had been on the board of WTA, and Copeland helped me become a better salesman and an operations person.”
The true test of his skills came in the form of a posting to Octagon China during the Beijing Olympics. “Even for an event prone to hype, expectations for the 2008 Games were really high. We were representing some of the biggest brands in the business and the stakes were high. To top it, we were dealing with the Chinese government. Despite some roadblocks we pulled it off magnificently and that experience motivates me to do better, always,” he says.
Dua has been involved in creating several premium sporting properties across the globe including the Kuala Lumpur marathon, but his true calling lies in ‘grassroots sports’. “I want to represent sportsmen and women who go an extra mile and excel in their respective choice of sport but are often ignored by the media as their sport is not a popular Indian sport. To help them get national and international recognition is what will give me the maximum creative satisfaction,” says Dua.
Lives in: Gurgaon
Relaxes With: Glass of cabernet
Vice: Good food
If not Delhi Daredevils then: Inspiranti (my own sports marketing firm)
Favorite gadget: I phone 4 S
Favorite app: Sports Tracker
Afraid of: Nothing really
Always in the fridge: Milk
Favorite hangout: My Gym and trails in Gurgaon
Mantra for life: Live life to the fullest