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With ad spends down, marketers rely on sports for mileage

Marathons, lawn tennis, Formula One, marketers have more on the platter to choose from in the country

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Food & beverage major recenty coughed up nearly Rs 400 crore for the title sponsorship of the Indian Premier League (). The Purchase, New-York-headquartered company believed that by doing so it could derive greater bang for the buck, as explained by the Indian unit's vice-president, beverage marketing, Deepika Warrier. She said, "IPL in a sense has become the new face of Indian cricket which combines entertainment, regional club passion and international glamour."

PepsiCo incidentally joins a growing band of brand marketers who believe that sports is the best marketing tool at a time when mainstream advertising appears trite. A study by the Mumbai-headquartered SportzConsult, a sports management company, shows that what drives brands to sports is not iconic sportsmen, but actually passion. Jitendra Joshi, chief executive officer, SportzConsult says, "Sports has the power to mobilise and motivate. One can also derive better return on investment when you associate with it. Sports is a win-win for both brands and consumers."

Marketers, he says, are beginning to get savvy when using sports as a marketing tool. When going after the masses, cricket remains the obvious choice. But with increasing clutter on cricket the desire to have a more targeted approach is also going up. Enter niche sports. In the last few years, marketers have been more than willing to park their monies behind events such as badminton, formula one, lawn tennis, golf as well as sports such as kho-kho and kabaddi, which is more at the regional level.

The niche list also includes running, specifically marathons, which have grown in popularity in the last few years.  The in January this year saw 150 brands associate with it in some way. Buoyed by the success in Mumbai, there were equal numbers in Delhi too this September. Some brands have gone a step further. Sports major Nike, for instance, sponsors running clubs in and around Bangalore. Joshi says that this trend will only grow. "The need for a healthy and active lifestyle will lead to this," he says.

According to estimates by SportzConsult, spends on sports is likely to shoot up in the coming years. "Almost 60% of the total respondents to the study we did have confirmed an increase in their investments in sports in the coming years." Joshi says. His team contacted marketing professionals in fast moving consumer goods, automotive, telecom and banking & finance to arrive at the findings.

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