Television

'World Series Hockey will change the face of hockey as we know it' : Wizcraft International director Sabbas Joseph

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In order to expand its presence in the sports world Wizcraft International has come on-board the World Series Hockey (WSH) as a franchisee. The franchise-based league initiative from Nimbus will be played across eight cities and kicks off on 17 December 2011.

Wizcraft International bought the Delhi franchise and has called it Delhi Wizards.

Indiantelevision.com‘s Ashwin pinto caught up with Wizcraft International director Sabbas Joseph to find out more on the company‘s plans and how he sees the league benefitting the sport.

Excerpts:

How did Wizcraft get involved with World Series Hockey?

We have always been involved in Sport, be it the ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games or the Cricket World Cup and were very eager to get involved in a big way with Hockey.

Wizcraft sees the WSH as an opportunity towards community building, giving our national sport a pedestal equivalent or maybe even bigger than other sports. We are keen on developing the sport and bringing it back in a big way.

How does this broaden your presence and offerings as a company?

We‘ve always tried to push the boundaries with everything we do and we are constantly looking to challenge ourselves with new endeavors.

As a company, we have the resources and the determination to do this and we feel that World Series Hockey will establish Wizcraft as a player in the sports arena as well as entertainment. In fact we would work actively to combine entertainment and sport to create a success.

What are your short term and long-term expectations from the league?

We‘ve only just started and it will definitely be a challenge but we‘re sure that it will be a great success.

Both our short term and long term expectations from the league are "Whatever is best for Indian hockey and sport". We are confident that WSH will make a huge difference.

From a commercial, viewership and player point of view what impact do you see the league having?

From a commercial point of view I think it will change the face of Indian hockey as we know it. This initiative will make hockey ‘cool‘ and ‘exciting‘ again and it will revamp the image of our national sport.

It will be a great opportunity for the players to get international training and exposure and develop their skills and really show their talent. And I think it will rouse the interest of the public as well. People will begin to get excited about hockey just as they do for cricket.

It will certainly be a challenge to get sponsors in such a short amount of time, but we love a challenge

Could you talk about the management team that has been put in place to look after the franchise?

As of now, Wizcraft has the in-house expertise with a number of people working around the clock to manage the franchise and build the ‘Delhi Wizards‘ brand from the ground up, making it the national capital‘s pride.

Additionally we have the world‘s best hockey coach, Roelant Oltmas and the captain Lucas Villa.

Will Delhi Wizards be incorporated as a separate company?

We are at a very nascent stage now. We are yet to decide the corporate structuring of the ‘Delhi Wizards‘. We will do all that is needed to give it impetus and independence.

What is the overall investment being made by Wizcraft in the franchise and will this go up year on year?

At the present moment we are committed to do all that it takes to make Delhi Wizards succeed. Expectedly our commitments will only increase year on year.

By when do you expect to breakeven and what sort of a split do you see between central and local revenue?

It is early. But we hope that we can break even within five years at least. The split between central and local revenue is projected to be equal.

Why did you choose Delhi as the franchise base?

We have already got a fantastic team in Delhi and we have our leisure and entertainment destination ‘The Kingdom of Dreams‘ there as well.

We have also got a media and entertainment institute coming up in Delhi shortly and we felt that all of these factors would give us a bit of an edge.

How did the name Delhi Wizards come about and what are the brand attributes of the team?

Well, at Wizcraft we consider ourselves to be Wizzes and believe the hockey team should be an extension of this belief.

They are another addition to the Wizcraft family which is why we call them the Wizards. It‘s also a tribute to Dhyan Chand, the wizard of hockey. Incidentally, our home ground too is named after Dhyan Chand.

Has research been done by Wizcraft to show how the national sport is perceived?

Yes, but I think it‘s pretty clear that our national sport doesn‘t get the recognition it deserves.

It is riddled by politics and doesn‘t get the encouragement and distinction or reward that is needed. This is very sad and it is exactly the kind of perception that we would persevere to change.

There are just a few weeks between the announcement of your franchise and the league starting. What challenges does this pose for you in terms of getting sponsors, getting the players to gel as a team?

It will certainly be a challenge to get sponsors in such a short amount of time, but we love a challenge at Wizcraft and we‘re certain we will rise to the occasion.

With regard to the team, we‘ve got the pick of the coaches in Roelant Oltmans, who is unarguably the world‘s best coach today and he‘s committed to working hard to get the team on the fast track and ready for the league. We‘ve also got some excellent players - a combination of international and local, experienced and really young - and we are very certain and the team will be more than ready by the time the league starts.

Could you talk about your strategy during the players draft?

We‘ve tried to pick a fairly balanced mix of players. We want to combine expertise with the eagerness of youth and create an environment that is conducive to learning and development.

We‘ve also picked many talented players that can play in different positions making it easy to build a good team.

Is it fair to say that a draft system is more cost effective compared to a player auction?

Yes! It is very cost effective and it is also fair as there is an even distribution of quality players. Consequently, the picking of players is purely based on strategy. The draft system has been used very successfully in the US for the NBA. I think it works splendidly for us, as well.

This year the NBA had a dispute with the players. Are there safeguards in place for WSH to ensure that this problem does not arise?

The disputes between the NBA and the players arose solely due to the fact that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) entered into between the NBPA (player union) and the league had expired.

Both parties had failed to agree the terms on the renewal of the CBA which resulted in a lockout. Given that the players in World Series Hockey are currently working collectively as stakeholders for the league the need for a CBA does not currently arise, making the possibility of aforementioned NBA type dispute not possible.

We are in the midst of an economic slowdown. In this situation how tough will it be to get sponsors?

It is not easy but we‘ve seen a tremendous response to hockey by many corporations. Things are looking up for our national sport.

We see corporates willing to go the extra mile to reclaim the country‘s pride in our national sport. In the case of hockey it is more CSR than sponsorship!

If you want to succeed then the franchise must be in the public‘s eye for the major part of a year and not just for a couple of months. How do you plan to do this?

We plan to undertake community engagement programmes to ensure that the franchise engages with its most important stakeholders: the people. Coaching programmes, club tournaments and school engagement will be the key to connecting with our fan base through the year.

Will the franchise have an active digital presence?

The franchise already has an active digital presence. We have a strong digital team working on it and the website will soon be up and running.

Would you look at grassroots level activities to identify new talent?

Yes, definitely. We plan to develop the sport and create an interest in hockey. Our stakeholders will see us as a brand new light in the area of sports.

As said earlier, we would have coaching camps,tournaments, a search for hockey talent that would commence in the months after the tournament.

What other sports is Wizcraft looking at being involved with?

For now we want to focus on hockey and really do our best with developing the sport and getting more people involved. In the future we would like to translate this success across other sports.

You have won awards for events like the opening ceremony of the cricket World Cup. How important is innovation in experiential marketing?

Innovation is very important. In fact, sometimes it is the thing that makes the difference between a run-of-the-mill engagement and something that will be memorable. It keeps the event alive and fresh.

You have won awards for events like the How important is innovation in experiential marketing?

Innovation is very important. In fact, sometimes it is the thing that makes the difference between a run-of-the-mill engagement and something that will be memorable. It keeps the event alive and fresh.

As said earlier, we would have coaching camps,tournaments, a search for hockey talent that would commence in the months after the tournament.

 

What other sports is Wizcraft looking at being involved with?

For now we want to focus on hockey and really do our best with developing the sport and getting more people involved. In the future we would like to translate this success across other sports.

You have won awards for events like the ricket World Cup. How important is innovation in experiential marketing?

Innovation is very important. In fact, sometimes it is the thing that makes the difference between a run-of-the-mill engagement and something that will be memorable. It keeps the event alive and fresh.

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