Television

ESS in overdrive to promote PHL

MUMBAI: ESPN Star Sports' (ESS) localisation initiative around the Premier Hockey League (PHL) has won stronger response this year. The reason: it is being held in Chandigarh where hockey has more popular support.

The first edition, in contrast, was held last year in Hyderabad. A company executive says that last year when PHL kicked off the first few matches, it had an attendance of 1000 to 2000. The semi-finals and finals managed an attendance of 10,000.

This time attendance has been in the region of 15,000. When the Sher-e-Jalandhar team plays as many as 20,000 people attend a match. Also, the atmosphere is much more participatory with fans carrying banners.

The official adds that in a couple of years time ESS may look at having away matches. That is because there are no floodlit hockey stadiums apart from Hyderabad and now Chandigarh.

Marketing was also beefed up. Last year, the channel's brand ambassador Sachin Tendulkar and a couple of Bollywood stars were used to promote the event. This time the captains of the teams appeared in television spots as well as in print. The basic aim is for the captains to project the different images of their teams. Also, before the second edition of PHL kicked off, the captains were given a send off in some of the centres through on ground events. Besides, a PHL music album was released.

But wouldn't it have been better if PHL also had teams that already played hockey like Indian Airlines? The company executive says that it would be difficult for a fan to build up a sense of affiliation with a government firm or a corporate though the team may have great players.

ESS felt that it would be better if each team projected certain personality traits that people from that state can identify with. The official adds that if this identification is there, then people will watch even if away matches are not happening.

He cites the example of Gujaratis watching when the Maratha Warriors play a match. That is because that team has attributes that people in Gujarat connect with.

For on ground promotion, ESS held a junior PHL event in December and January in Ludhiana, Bangalore and Chandigarh. Each centre saw 20 to 25 schools taking part. The winners got to meet their senior counterparts. This, the executive says, is one way for school kids to meet sportspersons that they can look up to. It also helps to finetune their skills and groom them for the future.

The PHL junior activity was an addition to ESS' school contact programmes which it has been doing for the past couple of years.

Among other activities, the channel conducted workshops for sports teachers in schools. Sports psychologists and professionals were present to offer tips. Clinics were conducted during the summer vacation in May where the schools' most promising kids took part. 1115 schools in 22 cities were a part of this programme, adds the executive.

On the sponsorship front, Adidas renewed its deal for five years. ESS is also excited about the fact that the sponsors are looking to expand their relationship with PHL. For instance, ING Vysaya which sponsors the Bangalore team has signed on two players for a series of on-ground promotional activities in that state independent of PHL.

These activities are in addition to the on air presence that the financial institution has. Western Union, which supported one team last year, took up two teams, Sher-e-Jalandhar and Chandigarh Dynamos. "They have also signed on some players from these two teams for promotional activities," says the executive.

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