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The year of improved sports marketing and production

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The year 2014 may have seen a few new leagues coming up but cricket very clearly rules the roost both from an on ground and on air perspective.  While gap between cricket and other sports have shortened, it’s still quite significant.  Indian Super League (ISL) has begun well with aggressive marketing and managed to garner eyeballs for Indian football. ISL has also garnered encouraging response from advertisers. For the first time a non-cricket sports has more than six central on ground sponsors.  Though lot of work need to be done in the grass root development of football, it’s been a great beginning considering its first season.

Moving onto FIFA, the market in India for the sport is growing every four years as can be seen from the last three editions.  We have beaten the benchmarks of 2010 in 2014. It also generated lot of hype that helped garner newer audiences and fan base. Overall football, as a sport is growing and FIFA being the biggest football tournament has managed to score on all counts. The cumulative efforts over the last five to eight years, by  FIFA, European Soccer Leagues and the broadcast community backed by audience desire to see a more local flavor of football has helped in the formation of the ISL. 

The surprise package of 2014 was the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), a pleasant surprise I must say. It was a league which was very well marketed and packaged with fantastic production value. While everyone thought of Kabaddi as rural sports, it’s quite interesting to see viewership numbers ticking from metros.  Looking forward to season 2 of PKL with a hope that it continues to attract audience and build stickiness.

Indian Badminton League (IBL) launched in 2013 with top international talent and lot of fan following, missed the show in 2014. Hope to see IBL back with bigger and better show in 2015. The Hockey India League (HIL) also showcased fabulous production quality and packaging. HIL has also managed to grab reasonable response from advertisers till now. Currently with the fabulous winning performance of team India, in 2015 we would like to see a better marketing of HIL to attract and hold audience attention.

The Champions Tennis League (CTL) and the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) both failed to generate buzz because of lack of marketing efforts. CTL has been a bit disappointing with respect to the production value, while IPTL’s production was world class. Expectations from IPTL were quite high considering the participation of big current stars and legends like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Serena Williams etc…. Aspirational and emotional connect with IPTL was very high for the fans who have been following tennis for more than two decades. It was like a dream coming true to see the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Serena Williams or even Sania Mirza playing in India. There was high interest in fans to go and see their heroes play live and get to meet them or get a closer glimpse of them.  But would that translate into TV viewership is something we will have to wait and watch. Therefore while CTL’s structure is towards building affinity for tennis as a sport with a hope that more Indian start playing the game. IPTL is clearly going after the experience of getting up and close with the big international stars and ride on their popularity to garner eyeballs. However considering the structure of both leagues, the overall objective of both leagues is little unclear.

Marketing and production values of these sports have been a key highlight this year.  Sport marketing in India has been ahead of the curve in terms of marketing and production value. Great production values along with a greater thrust on marketing has led to a stronger audience and advertising interaction.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 is the biggest sporting event in 2015 and will continue to attract audience in large numbers. The advertising pie will grow and be bigger than 2011 as other sports are still catching up and are in the development phase.

(These are purely personal views of GroupM ESP national director entertainment sports and live events Vinit Karnik and indiantelevision.com does not necessarily subscribe to these views)

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