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Starcom targets 15 Oct. launch for sports agency Relay Worldwide

MUMBAI: "We are not launching a sports marketing company (a la IMG, PMG, Procam), we're launching a sports agency," the core team behind Starcom MediaVest Group's pathbreaking initiative - Relay Worldwide - emphasise, clearly drawing the distinction.

Tentatively planned for a formal launch around 15 October, Relay Worldwide is envisioned as a specialised sports agency that will enable marketers to leverage the full potential of sports as a medium, according to Pranay Anthwal, who has been hired with the specific brief to develop Starcom's sports arm as an independent revenue stream. Based in Mumbai, Anthwal will will look after the responsibility for all of India working in close coordination with Manish Porwal, Starcom's GM - Investment and New Initiatives.

A key service that Relay will be providing is a continuous track ranking India's most popular sports persons. HRG (Hansa Research Group) has been assigned the task of data mining and according to Porwal, "It is the first step towards bringing a formal knowledge base and accountability in the medium called sports."

The rankings would be based on a sample size of around 20,000 people per month and would be representative of almost the entire country. Both cricketers and non-cricketers, separately, would be ranked.

Through this a relative index of each sportsperson's popularity will be calibrated enabling the industry to be able to figure out the qualitative differences (in popularity) across demographic and geographic segments.

One of the definitive ways it will help is in choosing the endorsers for brands and ascertaining the attractiveness / popularity of the alternative choices one might have, says Porwal. "A brand which is North-India centric might decide to pick the sportsperson quite popular in the north but not really a hit in rest of India and therefore have a much focussed investment just as he would do when he chooses vehicles on television or in the press," Porwal clarifies.

It's taken Relay Worldwide 18 months or so from conceptualisation to where it has reached today. According to Porwal, "The partnership formation process is underway and we are talking to at least half a dozen potential organizations, in the area of PR, event implementation, programming and TV broadcast. We already have about eight distinct products under incubation and we intend approaching sponsors for these soon."

"Our range of product offerings will include development of sports marketing strategy for clients (including tournament sponsorships, endorsements, clinics, sales promotion, trade motivation programs, creating ownable media properties, merchandising, syndication, broadcast), development of decision making frameworks, audit and evaluation systems, creation of new products and supervision of implementation," says Porwal.

The Relay project in India is a first for Starcom outside the US and if successful, will be replicated in other profit centres in the Australasian region.

Starcom expects many agencies to join the fray in the next three-four years. If the concept catches on the way Starcom hopes it will, the total estimated marketing investment in sports, which today is Rs 3.5 billion, could double to Rs 7 billion in the next four years, says Anthwal.

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