Why are startups betting big on sports marketing?

Current sporting events in India are more than mere competitive events; they are more carnivalesque extravaganzas with viewers celebrating a common cause—entertainment

Published: May 21, 2022 10:45:17 AM IST

Why are startups betting big on sports marketing?The sporting ground helps create a unique connection and following like no other. Image: Kalpak Pathak/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India has two great loves—sports and Bollywood. It is a language that unites the entire country and makes such a diverse nation run through a unified feeling. The Indian sports industry is a very relatable platform for interactions, often having the capability to drive a message globally. It is no surprise, thus, that marketing through sports events is increasingly becoming popular today.
 
Imagine the billboards that you see while driving down the highway. Go back about 30-40 years, and you will hear stories about how actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra ruled the hoardings, advertising across brands, banking on an average Indian’s adulation for Bollywood. Cut to the present, you will find cricketers like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, and the Pandya brothers splashed across realistic adverts. Not only cricket. India’s growing love for sports stars has seen eclipsing popularity of shuttlers like PV Sindhu and athletes like Neeraj Chopra. Sports is transcending Bollywood in many ways, giving us relatable idols who have had humble backgrounds.
 
Current sporting events in India are more than mere competitive events; they are more carnivalesque extravaganzas with viewers celebrating a common cause—entertainment. It draws people from all backgrounds, and this becomes a platform where a brand can successfully create a relationship with its customers. The sporting ground helps create a unique connection and following like no other. In no other modes of marketing would you be able to grab attention spans so effectively as sports. This is where sports marketing cuts the cake.
 

Like moths to a flame: the power of the field

 
The sporting ground is like a temple which can attract millions of followers, helping in the desired outcome. It is the best space for startups to advertise because they get wide visibility at an affordable price.
 
Startups are under severe pressure to scale, build brand awareness and drive profitability. To achieve this, it becomes very important to be visible in large-scale events that attract millions. TV and print ads do not guarantee optimum viewership always. With sporting events, punctuating breaks with your brand logo assures visibility. Sporting events simplify these and establish connect and engage with such a large audience. Be it IPLs, Kabbadi tournaments or football matches, these events draw millions into a pool that brands may tap, create a recall, and ultimately lead to conversion.
 
In today’s era, sports marketing serves a variety of opportunities. Fans are enjoying matches—in the stadium, on their television sets, and now more so on-demand on their mobile handsets. Each new format has broadened the marketer’s basket.
 

Think long term

 
With celebrated sportspeople endorsing established brands to startups across various business lines, ranging from steel, BFSI, automobiles, and so on, their potential in the marketing scenario has become immense. A new and promising athlete or sports personality endorsing a startup means tapping into a newer audience and also giving way to new product lines in newer geographies.
 

Pandemic or not, the show must go on

 
The sports marketing game is always evolving. A marketing manager never disrupts but engages with potential customers. So, while the mode of engagement has changed, the core remains the same.
 
In fact, the platforms for conversations have evolved now. Instead of pushing out advertisements, we have an opportunity to talk directly with a sports fan. Also, with athletes so active on social media, the interaction has become so much more authentic. The ground is ripe for sports marketing now. Companies, especially startups, who go about it the right way will be in a position to become leaders in their respective industries, driving engagements to conversions and creating an indelible mark with innovative marketing disruptions.
 
Ashish Mishra is EVP, marketing at ACKO. Views expressed are personal.
 
Note to readers: Storyboard18’s new Month In Focus initiative spotlights themes and topics that are pushing marketers to reshape and rethink how brands interact with today’s customers. Our first theme is Just Sports, a special spotlight on sports marketing presented by Sports18. We bring to you stories of how marketers are harnessing the power of technology, innovation and creativity in sports to create powerful storytelling in campaigns that increase affinity and loyalty with audiences. From traditional sports platforms around cricket to emerging games and the rise of esports, we get leading voices from the marketing and sports worlds to give us sharp and fast insights into future-facing marketing practices. Also, tune in for analysis which will surface ideas and strategies that are helping brands to level up experiences and storytelling with authentic collaborations. So watch this space for Just Sports.

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