Brandscore seminar highligjhts Indian opportunities

Brandscore, a sports marketing forum organised in India by ESPN-STAR Sports and media agency Mindshare, aimed to study successful international sports brands and sports marketing trends that will help the Indian sports marketing community. "The sports marketing genre is gaining ground in this country,” said Sundar Raman, Manging Director of Mindshare India. “More and more brands are hooking on to sports as a media vehicle to reach out to their target audience. The sports forum is about understanding how and what we can do learning from these leading brands and corporates." ESPN Software India Managing Director, R C Venkateish added, "The perception that cricket is the only sport is slowly but surely changing. Look at the deliveries of the English Premier League and Formula One and you would know that consumption of various forms of sports is steadily on the rise."

According to Mindshare Performance Asia Pacific Managing Director Mike Rich and Marketing Director Jamie Lord, four myths of sports advertising are (1) women do not watch sports; (2) sports cannot be measured; (3) sports is expensive and (4) there is no emotional quotient for brands that associate with sports. They told forum delegates that Mindshare's 3D database shows that while men watch sports, women also do. In a survey 43 percent of women expressed an interest in football and women also watch badminton and golf, so clients should not completely ignore women in their sports campaigns. They said here are three areas where measurement of sports is occuring: media evaluation, quantifying the exposure of brands in a broadcast environment; effectiveness tacking; and econometric modelling. Regarding sports being expensive, they explained that what really counts is return on investment (ROI). On sport not giving a brand emotional visibility, they gave the example of Tiger Beer in Singapore. Earlier the brand had been associated with golf but that proved to be a "waste of money" in terms of getting to the TG so the agency shifted the brand's focus towards soccer. It created the platform Tiger At Sea and worked with ESPN Star Sports to get brand good visibility with EPL. "Sports is not the only solution for advertisers. However, if you decide to use the platform, then embrace it completely. The sports theme needs to be introduced in all communication channels," they said.

Phil Lines, the English Premier League's Head of International Broadcasting and Operations told forum delegates that the best advice to sports federations hoping to run a strong business was to invest well in the clubs and have a strong relationship with a broadcaster that works like a partnership. He said the EPL now receives 1.7 billion pounds from UK Pay-servoces Sky and Setanta and around 700 million pounds from overseas TV services, half of which came from Asia. However, the starting point was in 1989 when English soccer reached its lowest point when 100 fans died in a tragedy during a FA Cup semi final. At that time the stadium facilities were poor, hooliganism was rife and English soccer took a long hard look at itself. It realised that it needed a more professional structure. It was decided that a Premier League would be established and the clubs signed rules governing the league. It was also decided that the league would negotiate its own broadcast and sponsorship terms. The EPL came into existence in 1992 which was also the year Sky Sports launched and Lines gave credit to Rupert Murdoch for his vision. "Sky revolutionsed how soccer is covered in the UK with features like close ups. Due to their investment, the clubs are able to spend money on facilities and infrastructure as well as getting in top overseas players. This is something that Sky understands which is why it pays us more each time the deal comes up for renewal, although it has successfully managed to keep competition at bay. We have had trouble with the regulators on several issues including the fact that soccer should not onl6y be on free TV. The fact though is that earlier when it was on free TV not many matches were shown live," Lines said.

The league has 341 overseas players compared to 1992 when there were less than 100. EPL is now being seen in 200 countries. "We are seeing Japanese, Korean players participate in the league and I am hopeful that Indian players will also take part in the future. The game has over the years become more fast and masculine. A lot of matches are played in front of capacity crowds," Lines added. What has also helped the league has been the fact that English clubs started doing well in European competitions after the EPL was established. For instance Liverpool won the UEFA Cup. Sky paid 617 million pounds in 1997. In 2001 the figure crossed one billion. In 2001 the league added 40 pay per view matches and in 2004 it was decided to consolidate this and have 138 matches. The league has also benefitted from the fact that new platforms have come up. Telecom firms now compete with traditional broadcasters for EPL rights. Untill 2003 the PL used an agency to sell rights, now it sells directly to the broadcasters. The league sells clips of matches in a separate deal. In order to be a solutions provider, it also does shows. A new one added this year is called Premier League World. Barclays has been sponsoring the league for nine years. The production unit IMG has been with the league for several years now. This has contributed in a big way to the solid ground on which the league stands today, said Lines.

Indian advertisers who want to leverage sport beyond just cricket, need to look at more than just eyeballs. They should look at being associated with a unique platform which will grow in scale as it gets repeated from year to year was the major point of the 'Sports And the Indian Advertiser' panel session with Globosport India VP Anirban Das Blah, Harit Nagpal, GroupM CEO India and COO South Asia Vikram Sakhuja and HUL GM media services Rahul Welde. In India the fact is that only a few brands like LG and Pepsi have sports as the central part of their marketing plan. At the moment apart from cricket, brands are also flirting with sports and testing the waters. Brand managers need to realise that sports gives authenticity to a brand. The trouble with getting on to a unique platform and then seeing the fruits of it as it grows from year to year is that advertisers want immediate returns. Therefore there is always the temptation to simply run after the low hanging fruit. Advertisers argue that they do not have the time to wait for a sports brand to grow. They look for some amount of scale right off the back - and that in India comes from cricket.

The session pointed out that the advantage of investing in another sport though is that you can own it. Cricket has now become too expensive to own. The days of the 1987 Reliance World Cup are long gone. The Mumbai Marathon is a good example of how a brand - Standard Chartered - used sport as a platform effectively in a way that goes beyond eyeballs. But it is important that the event gets repeated year after year or else it and the brand will be forgotten. Brands can also look at leveraging an existing passion for a sport.The common belief in soccer is that interest in EPL and Spanish league come from soccer states like Goa. However, Anirban argued that there is growing interest in those leagues from affluent pockets of Mumbai like Bandra where a lot of water cooler conversation happens around it. Once that has been identified, then a brand can think of doing initiatives around the event like contests and thus tap into the aspirations of the fans. It would be more effective for a brand to hook onto a sport at this level as opposed to a grassroots level.

Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai dwelt on the relationship between sports and the Indian consumer in another session. He noted that there is a tenuous relationship between what sports people play and what they watch. A lot of people would have played table tennis but how many watch it? Sport allows us to embark on a symbolic quest for perfection. Therefore there are rules, it is very fair. Sport, he noted, is the ultimate in reality TV as the storylines are unscripted. "We are also seeing the emergence of the spectator owner in cricket. Here fans feel that they are entitled to a good performance from the team," Desai said. Addressing the forum to offer a ratings service provider's point of view, Tam CEO LV Krishnan says that sports as a genre needs to move from a commodity to an engagement arena. Drama is essential for sports to get good viewership. This drama could, maybe, come from a good batsman versus a bad batsman. It is important that sports broadcasters think of new ways to create drama. Krishnan gave the example of the Shaz and Waz show on ESS back in 2004 when India toured Australia. Drama can even be created around a local hero which was the case when Kartikeyan was driving on F1. The FIFA World Cup coverage in print last year was huge and the cricket that was being played at the same time paled in comparison.