Sony Sports has embarked on a mission to popularize the athletes participating in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and to make them household names: Rajesh Kaul of SPN
Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer - Distribution and Head - Sports Business, SPN
There has been a high interest to watch Athletics and Gymnastics

Sony Sports has embarked on a mission to popularize the athletes participating in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and to make them household names: Rajesh Kaul of SPN

There has been a high interest to watch Athletics and Gymnastics
  • Sony Sports has played a key role in bringing non-cricket sports to India.
  • This year, Sony Sports is the official broadcaster of the once-in-a-four-year global sports event, Tokyo Olympics.
  • Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head – Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India tells us how the broadcaster is trying to popularize other sports in India, its plans to immerse consumers with innovative marketing and more.
With the lockdown being enforced, subsequent stoppage of play on the field and IPL getting postponed, advertisers have been starved of a good sporting tournament. After the pandemic, many sports properties have either been cancelled or postponed, directly affecting India’s ad revenue and sponsorship pie. While India’s most worshipped sport, cricket, still dominates viewership and sponsorship, Sony Pictures Network (SNP) has given its fans more choices between sporting events and SonyLiv has given them options in terms of what, when and how much to watch, leading to a rise in demand for subscription viewing in live sports.

After a long, dry spell, millions of Indians are expected to tune into Tokyo Olympics this year. Sponsors and brands have also started seeing the Olympics as the one occasion to capitalise on the media and consumer attention. As a result, Sony Sports has seen an uptick in demand from sponsors and advertisers across categories for the summer games.

To help its advertisers get the best bang for their buck, SPN launched an ‘innovative’ advertising format ‘Split-screen ads,’ which has gained mixed reviews on social media.

We caught up with Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head – Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India to further understand what kind of response the broadcaster and streaming player has seen from advertisers and sponsors, how it is trying to increase non-sporting events’ viewership in india

Q. This year, brands across categories have started to roll out campaigns celebrating the inspirational journey of athletes. This wasn't the case a few years ago. More and more advertisers are exploring international sports that represent India. Are advertisers open to exploring sports beyond cricket now?

Indians have always been extremely supportive of the Indian athletes when they compete at a global stage. Their performances are celebrated as it is a huge thing to even get to participate, let alone winning a medal at Olympics. More and more business houses/organizations/brands have started promoting various athletes and or Indian contingent.

Sports in India is growing dramatically as an entertainment option beyond just cricket. This year. Sony Sports has embarked on a mission to popularize the athletes participating in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and to make them household names. Sony Sports launched the grandest ever campaign in the history of Indian Olympics, Hum Honge Kamyab to galvanize the whole nation to cheer for the India contingent. From the honorable Prime minister of India himself to the sports minister as well as industrialists, sports personalities, philanthropists, Bollywood Superstars, Youtube influencers joined us in our endeavor. Sony Sports has collaborated with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports as well as eminent personalities and joining the brigade are Union Minister for I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports, Shri Anurag Thakur, General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and Mr. N.P. Singh, MD & CEO, Sony Pictures Networks India, along with Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Sajjan Jindal, Sudha Murty, Nita Ambani, Gautam Adani, Rana Daggubati, Yuvraj Singh, Anjali Bhagwat, Parth Jindal, Boman Irani, Farhan Akhtar, Sonakshi Sinha, Johnny Lever, Ali Fazal, Adille Sumariwala, Arshad Warsi, Pullela Gopichand, Vijender Singh, Anjali Bhagwat, Harsha Bhogle, Shankar Mahadevan, Anurag Basu, and many more to catalyze the Olympic momentum in the nation for the landmark event. This was unprecedented and Sony Sports’ efforts have pumped up the volume of Olympics in India and the #Olympicsjosh decibels have gone up to another level.

Q. Can you tell us what kind of interest you have seen from advertisers and brands?

We have received a phenomenal response from advertisers and we have got sponsors on board across categories like beverages, FMCG, education, automobiles, banking, finance, gaming, sports foundations amongst others. The sponsors are Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd., LIC, JSW, MPL, Hero MotoCorp, Amul, Reserve Bank of India, AMFI and other advertisers include Visa, Byju’s, Adani Group, Herbalife Nutrition & Lenovo and more.

Q. This once-in-a-four-year sports event attracts eyeballs from across the world hosting sports such as shooting, wrestling, long jump, and hockey. Which sport do you think will perform the best in India in terms of viewership?

We expect great Sports like Wrestling, Shooting, Archery and Hockey, which have also done extremely well on TV in the past, due to the medal winning performances by Indian Athletes. Additionally, there has been high interest to watch Athletics and Gymnastics, owing to the visually engaging nature of the sports. During the 2016 Rio Olympics, Badminton had the highest viewership owing to PV Sindhu winning a silver medal. The final match between PV Sindhu and Carolina Marin was watched by 42 million viewers across the country. This year, we have our largest contingent ever of 127 athletes travelling to Tokyo and the whole nation will want to support and watch our athletes in the various sports disciplines they are competing in like boxing, wrestling, tennis, athletics, badminton, hockey, shooting, archery, weightlifting, Equestrian, Table tennis and more. Some of the athletes that the audiences are already looking out for are Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary in shooting, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia in wrestling, Amit Panghal and Mary Kom in boxing, Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das, PV Sindu in badminton and more. Also, for the first time, we will see participation in fencing with Bhavani Devi and Fouaad Mirza making it to the equestrian event which will also attract audiences.

Additionally, to reach out to a wider audience and engage viewers across India, Sony Sports will have a Live wraparound studio show called SPORTS EXTRAAA with a distinguished panel that comprising former Olympians and legendary Indian athletes like Vijender Singh, Gagan Narang, Karnam Malleswari, Anjali Bhagwat, Anju Bobby George, Sakshi Malik, Viren Rasquinha, Somdev Devvarman, Trupti Murgunde, Rahul Banerjee, Kripa Shankar and Satish Shivalingam. We will also have the world-renowned Sprinter and four-time Olympic medalist, Yohan Blake, considered to be the second fastest man after Usain Bolt as a marquee expert on the show. The comprehensive coverage for the global event will be broadcast LIVE in four languages: SONY TEN 2 and SONY SIX channels in English, SONY TEN 3 channels in Hindi and in Tamil & Telugu on the newly launched SONY TEN 4 channels.

Q. How do brands get to benefit from advertising on Olympics through Sony this year? What is your advice to brands who are advertising? How can they get the best bang for their buck?

The Olympic Games is an extremely premium global sporting event, the greatest show on earth with 200+ countries, 11000+ athletes across 339 events in 33 different sports, encompassing a total of 50 disciplines. As I mentioned earlier, this year, we have rolled out the grandest campaign for this showcase event involving 30+ luminaries across the country. The sheer association to the Olympics for any brand will create and drive great brand perception and awareness value.

We have offered value-based propositions to our clients and have ensured that we amplify their associations with athletes in the Indian contingent which they might be sponsoring. The brands have also been given the opportunity to ride on the back of the amazing build- up programming which we have locally produced adding to the brands association and visibility. Series like “Torch bearers” are resonating well with our audiences.

We are also excited to offer a new breakthrough innovation “Split Screen” advertisement opportunity during the live broadcast. This will help the brands break away from the clutter and amplifies the brand’s visibility manifold without intruding into the viewing experiences of our audiences. This new technology is a game changer and will surely get the best ROI for our key sponsors.

Q. How do you think sports marketing has changed in India in the last few years? Any interesting trends that you are expecting to see as we move forward?

While Indian Cricket will dominate viewership and revenues, Sony Sports has been consistently making efforts to massify and popularize other sports. Sony Sports is a global multi-sporting arena and sports marketing here, is not only talks to the purists but also focuses on attracting fence-sitters and newer audiences to join the Sony Sports community. This has paid off and every year our viewership for sports like WWE, UFC, football properties like UEFA Champions League and non-India cricket is steadily growing. Even the recently concluded UEFA EURO 2020 on our sports channels has seen massive growth compared to the last edition in 2016 by almost 70% Sports as an entertainment quotient is only going to grow.