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Sportscasters disappointed with hockey loss, brand endorses see opportunity from Olympic wins

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MUMBAI: With India winning six medals at the recently concluded Olympic Games in London, the question is what impact will it have on viewership of those sports. Industry experts feel that it will depend on the visibility of those sports as well as if they are TV friendly in the first place.

On the brand endorsement front, there is a mixed reward system going to emerge depending on the visibility and personality of the sports persons.

Sports Broadcasting

Zeel CEO Sports Business Atul Pande says that shooting in which India won two medals is not a television friendly sport.

"Badminton could see some viewership growth with Saina Nehwal. However viewership thus far for it has been low. Some sports are TV friendly. Other sports are not as visually appealing as like tennis."

In terms of boxing, he doesn‘t think that the sport will get a viewership push unless an Indian league for it comes up like the IPL in cricket. For this to happen though, the stakeholders have to adopt the right business model.

"Wrestling is more of a rural sport. It has bigger appeal in the smaller towns, so I am not sure if it will get viewership across the country," avers Pande.

Calling the performance of the Indian hockey team abominable, he feels that in the short term the sport will take a hit in terms of viewership. "We even lost to weak teams like Belgium. I don‘t know what the long term impact will be but in the short term there will be an impact. So local leagues could be affected."

Nimbus Sport COO Yannick Colaco says interest in medal winning sports has to be converted to a fan following which needs product and a marketing push from the respective federations.

"In sports like wrestling, there is no product. Also showing the product in television is one part of the business. You need to get viewers to come in by having a marketing plan. That is what our focus has rested on in World Series hockey apart from just having the product," he quips.

Neo Sports broadcast COO Prasana Krishnan says that product shortfall is an issue. "Are there international events in boxing, shooting, wrestling that feature Indians regularly that can be shown? You need a product that airs for eight months a year. Then a broadcaster can build it up. That is what we have been doing with badminton for the past five years. Badminton has seen a slow and steady growth which will continue. But Saina winning a medal will not suddenly make a dramatic difference to viewership. In these sports there are not dramatic success stories. It is not like cricket which is more evolved."

Multi Screen Media (MSM) president network sales, licensing and telephony Rohit Gupta says that India‘s performance in international events will determine if sports that India won medals in will show viewership growth. "It is too early to say what the impact will be. An Olympics event that happens once in four years is not enough to judge a sports popularity. For Six whether or not we take properties in these sports will depend on what is available and at what price."

GroupM ESP managing partner Hiren Pandit feels that the lack of visibility of Olympic sport will hurt their growth in the long run. "When was the last time you saw an event in shooting and wrestling apart from the Olympics? There needs to be more of a push given to these sports by sports broadcasters and also by news channels. The noise level has to be increased. Otherwise it will just be a once in four years phenomena."

If more events in shooting were to happen and be covered and India were to perform, viewership will be there but it may not be very high. As regards hockey, he says that while an event like World Series Hockey (WSH) has brought in value, the quality of play by Indians will determine interest. He too sees an increase in viewership for badminton but it will be a slow buildup.

Brand Endorsement

According to Pandit, the issue of visibility applies to the brand endorsement field as well. "After winning the Gold medal four years ago there was some hype created for Abhinav Bindra and then he disappeared. You need to stay in the limelight over a period of time for brands to approach you. This is why cricketers and film stars fare well. It is about being in the public eye."

Pandit feels that wrestlers will get associated with rural brands due to the profile of that sport. "But it is unlikely that any top end brand will form that association. With Mary Kom, I am not sure about the brand fit. What is it that she stands for? What are her attributes? There has to be a brand fit. The brand endorsement business is not one dimensional," he says.

He is optimistic about the brand endorsement prospects of Saina Nehwal who is more visible. "Saina will benefit as she is well covered in the media also. Badminton events happen more frequently. At the end of the day people have to know the sportsperson. That sportsperson‘s brand attributes have to built and be consistent over time".

Kwan COO Indranil Das Blah feels that the viewership impact for shooting and wrestling will be negligible. "That is because international events do not air. Also no big events take place in India. Badminton will benefit. It is on an upswing after Saina Nehwal appeared. Boxing is a contact sport. It is quick and fun to watch. So there could be a positive viewer impact here. Boxing and badminton have a firmer base compared to the other two sports."

In terms of brand endorsements, he sees Nehwal as benefitting the most. "Her price was Rs 10 million earlier. It will go up but it will not be a huge increase. She has five to six brands and I expect her to get two more deals within a month. Brands that are youth and women centric are looking at her. The key though is that these athletes should not get too greedy. That was a lesson learnt from the previous games. Athletes should focus on the long term when doing deals and build visibility over time rather than just focussing on money in the short term. They should focus on PR and image building. I see the shooters getting limited deals. It might come down to appearances over the next couple of months and that might be it unless they find a way to sustain visibility."

For Mary Kom, he notes that her win comes towards the end of her career which will affect the deals she gets. "Brands prefer youth. If the win had happened four years back, it would have been better. Having said that, companies who are targetting women and the East part of the country are interested. She will get two to three deals in the short term possibly in the form of appearances. Long term though, the prospects are limited as she does not have another Olympics appearance in her."

Blah believes Sushil Kumar is an interesting case as he is the only person to have won two individual Olympic medals. "He will do well. Also he will take part in the Olympics again. However, the other winner Vijay Kumar is not well known. He also doesn‘t speak well and you need to have personality to succeed in the brand endorsement game. Besides, he is the army and there are restrictions. So I don‘t see him getting any deals". He feels that Kom and Sushil Kumar will get deals in the region of Rs 4 million.

As regards hockey, he feels that the national pride and emotional connect has been eroded. "This will have a big impact on viewership. People are pissed off at the sport. I don‘t see hockey players getting brand endorsements for the next three years. There has also been negativity surrounding the sport with the politics. I wouldn‘t advise clients to touch the sport with a bargepole."

Alchemist Talent Solutions MD Manish Porwal sees the sportspersons as getting short term deals resulting from tactical opportunities in the coming 15-30 days. The exception to this is Saina Nehwal who would have gotten deals irrespective of what happened in the Olympics.

"The sportspersons won‘t get deals that last for four years till the next Olympics. An aberration may happen like Bindra who got a lucrative deal with Samsung in 2008. Companies however will mostly use sportspersons for tactical opportunities. For instance if a campaign script demands a strong woman, then they might use Mary Kom. It is not that a company will sign her up and then look to create a script."

He adds that an endorsement bottleneck is created for the sportspersons who have excelled in non-spectator sports like shooting. "That is because people know the name but they do not know the face. If a company uses all six medal winners in a campaign, then that is a different issue. I would call the money that the sportspersons get as a moral fee rather than an endorsement fee in the true sense. A cricketer or a film star has a reach of lakhs if not crores of people. Boxing, on the other hand, may see a few more thousand people viewing it as a result of Mary Kom‘s medal but that is not going to get reflected in the ratings."

He also says that sportspersons who excel in non spectator sports become bigger than the sport itself.

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