How can brands support new medalists and non-cricketing sports to build an inclusive ecosystem for budding sport stars
- With one Gold, two silver and four bronze, India recorded its best-ever medal haul at the Tokyo Olympics this year, which ended on Sunday.
- As the Tokyo Olympics came to an end, we talk to experts to find out who will land the most
brandendorsement deals, and whether the new players will become as attractive to brands as someone like PV Sindhu.
Indian brands also made sure that they leave no stone unturned in celebrating our athletes and their glorious win. The first athlete to bring back a medal for India this year was 26-year-old weightlifter, Mirabai Chanu. Shortly after her win, she was also offered free pizza for life by Domino's and the brand garnered a lot of attention from the press and the internet for this gesture. Hospitality brand OYO also offered women’s hockey team a chance to stay at any of their hotels in India. Apart from that, small start-ups to masters like Amul, brands made the most of our gold-winning moment at the global stage to congratulate Neeraj Chopra, who became independent India’s first Olympian to win a medal in athletics/track and field.
According to Facebook, Neeraj Chopra was the second most mentioned athlete on its platform across the globe, whereas on Instagram, he was the most mentioned athlete globally.
Over the years, we have seen brands spend the most on players from popular sports like cricket. While athletes get some screentime in ads closer to tournaments like Olympics, very few brands have long-term deals with most of these athletes, unless it is someone like a PV Sindhu, who has been around for a while now and has won many accolades and tournaments for the country. So with the curtains falling on Tokyo Olympics and the next Olympics games still being three years away, will brands bring the newer winners or even players who came really close to bringing medals home?
This year, however, many of the athletes have received a lot of attention from brands. It was not just Sindhu or Neeraj Chopra, who aren’t new to the endorsement world; other new medalists Mirabai Chanu, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Lovlina Borgohain and Bajrang Punia have also received an overwhelming response. Slowly and steadily, brands in India are branching out from cricket and looking to associate with budding sports stars to connect with the youth. We spoke to experts to find out who will land the most brand endorsement deals among the six medalists and hockey team.
Aviral Jain- Managing Director, Duff & Phelps - A Kroll Business said, “We think it will be a combination of both, though PV Sindhu now carries the tag of “She did it again,” which is unique and privileged. Other non-cricketing sports celebrities such as Hima Das, T. Gopi, Manika Batra, and Deepika Kumari have recently done well in terms of brand endorsements, driven by their splendid individual achievements on the field. Major brands like PepsiCo (PV Sindhu, Neeraj Chopra and Hima Das), Tanishq (Manika Batra and Deepika Kumari), and ASICS (Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, etc.) have successfully associated with various non-cricketing celebrities, and with these non-cricketing wins at the Tokyo Olympics, we can surely expect a greater share of athletes in the advertisement campaigns going ahead.”
Anjan Ghosh - Executive Vice President- Hansa Research also echoes these views. He said, “In all probability, more brands will sign up PV Sindhu; her brand standing has gone up substantially, having won medals in multiple Olympics. Brands that want to stand for consistency, fidelity, and grit will find Sindhu a compelling endorser. Also, those who wish to appeal to the young, aspiring women eager to achieve will try to harness Sindhu’s determination and intent and infuse these into their brand personality. The best part is that her success is not a flash in the pan; longevity is something that many brands aspire.”
Sahil Chopra, Founder & CEO- iCubesWire said that apart from Sindhu, India’s national sport might also gain more attention this year. “I guess it will be a mix of both known faces and new faces, but yes, the likes of PV Sindhu who have refreshed the memories, will have an edge over the new ones. Only exception to this could be hockey, being the national sport and the way it has captured people’s hearts in the past.”
According to media reports, Sindhu currently has 10 deals with Bank of Baroda, Bridgestone Tyres, Visa India, Google, real estate firm Pooja Developers, Chinese sports brand Li Ning, Stayfree, PNB Metlife, Sharechat and Vizag Steel. Experts said that her brand value is likely to double after her incredible performance. But Sindhu is just getting started. The 26-year-old shuttler still has a long career ahead of her, and we expect to witness more iconic wins from her.
TRA Research’s CEO, N. Chandramouli said, “PV Sindhu’s winning medals twice in succession is a phenomenal performance at the Olympics. Her value seems to have gone along with her second-time win, and would nearly double. She is young yet, and still has at least one more Olympic Games to look forward to, and so more years of sporting success ahead of her.”
On whether Sindhu and Chopra will attract the most brand roles or will newer medalists also get a chance, he added, “All Olympic medal winners from India will gain, some a little more than others. The newer medalists are just starting off, so it's only natural that they will have to prove themselves consistently to see their brand value increase.”
Jain also said that Sindhu’s fees and her popularity is likely to double. “Today, she is the undisputed queen of the Indian brand endorsement market (women sportspersons) with more than 10 endorsements and more than 7 million followers on social media. And we expect both the number of brand endorsements and the endorsement fee to increase significantly post her phenomenal success at the Tokyo Olympics, resulting in a significant increase in her brand value.”
New-age brands are more likely to onboard the new medalists as their fees is substantially lesser than a seasoned athlete. Mirabai Chanu and Lovlina Borgohain, who recently won Silver and Bronze medals, respectively, in the Tokyo Olympics seem to have caught the attention of many brands. While Mirabai Chanu is currently associated with brands like Adidas and Mobil, her endorsement portfolio is expected to rise post her success at the Olympics.
“Not all brands will look for Lovlina and Mirabai given the lesser fan-following for these sports (as compared to say badminton or hockey) – however, those brands that want to epitomize empowerment for women, a burning desire to break into the mainstream from the fringes, or stand up against many adversities may try to build a narrative around personalities like Lovelina / Mirabai. Categories that are looking for evolution through innovation / competing against the conventional might want to weave a story around such personalities – say, solar panels, unconventional energy, electric bikes etc,” said Ghosh.
Is the sports ecosystem really changing?
With cricket matches being limited this year, brands are banking on Olympic stars to gain consumer attention and stay relevant. However, cricket still gets the bigger piece of the pie.
Sahil Chopra is eager to see a sporting ecosystem where all sports get their due, equal recognition. He said, “I would personally love to see the change and this will be good for the ecosystem as well as the audience. The current ecosystem is so cricket-centric at times it isn’t good for the brand recall when you end up seeing the same faces all the time.”
Ghosh said that while there is certainly going to be a change in the fortunes of other Indian athletes/sports stars, especially with the surge in enthusiasm over sports other than cricket, and many will see better brand endorsement contracts coming their way – however, a significant difference might take more time.
He said, “Not sure whether the sports marketing ecosystem has changed in a radical way – the support / patronage is still lukewarm; the efforts are still guarded. Other sports stars are enjoying higher popularity and getting better visibility but the gap with cricket is still painfully wide.”
Jain told us how a marketer evaluates new endorsement opportunities looking at the extent of media coverage given to the sport, the tournament’s share in the national media broadcast, and finally, the degree of relevance a player has for the audience. So, it is important for new medalists to stay in the news.
He said, “While the Indian arena has a wide range of sports being followed by the masses, cricket continues to dominate and maintain a strong hold on the endorsement front. Lately, with the advent of professional leagues (on the lines of the IPL) for other sports like kabaddi, football, badminton, etc., brands and advertisers are favorably looking at these non-cricketing opportunities. However, brand endorsements by non-cricketing sporting stars in India are largely driven by individual visibility; this is in comparison to endorsements for cricketing stars that could be “across the board.” Brands typically feature athletes for their grit, patience and determination, and this helps in targeting millennials and Gen Z who are seeking new aspirational figures. With multiple Olympic achievements this year across non-cricketing sports (badminton, hockey, boxing, wrestling and weightlifting), these sports stars will definitely get more attention going ahead.”
After a historic performance at the Olympics this year, experts are hopeful that non-cricketing sports stars will also bag more brand deals.