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Commonwealth Games 2018: Edelweiss Group shares their delight in partnering with IOA

Sohinee Basu
656   //    31 Mar 2018, 18:02 IST

Rani Rampal, Dipa Karmakar, Saina Nehwal and Prithvi Shaw
(From left) Rani Rampal, Dipa Karmakar, Saina Nehwal and Prithvi Shaw

As we stand on the threshold of March, ready to spill into April, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games are busy knocking on the door. India has been bustling with preparations for the Commonwealth Games 2018, which unfurl from the 4th of next month. 

The Indian contingent is being sponsored and taken care of by the Edelweiss Financial Services Limited. Bubbling with excitement ahead of the Games, the dynamic Shabnam Panjwani, Head of Marketing and Communications, Edelweiss Group, revealed the sheer delight in being involved with the CWG and the Indian Olympic Association, in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.  

Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Q> What are your thoughts on the 'Be Unlimited' campaign that you all at Edelweiss Group have started?

Shabnam: The 'Be Unlimited' is the Edelweiss Group's positioning space. There is a simple objective behind it -- to any of our stakeholders, we will remove their limitations and enable them to achieve their objectives or aspirations. Our entire space is around identifying the problems that hold people back, whether it is employees, clients, all the stakeholders whose limitations we seek to remove. 

We had Irrfan Khan in the commercials to popularise the ‘Be Unlimited’ campaign aimed at building an affinity with the SME. 


Q> When did your association with sports begin?

Shabnam: We have been connected with sports since 2009 when we started with Olympic Gold Quest which is made up of ex-Olympians like Leander Paes, Vishwanathan Anand, Prakash Padukone. They had a simple objective -- we have to get more Olympic medals. They came in and gave technical expertise and the flair needed to set it up. We admired this goal. We decided to begin the funding then and we decided to fund the women athletes. 

Q> Which athletes is the Olympic Gold Quest focussed on?

Shabnam: We will look to fund athletes of sports outside cricket. Movies like Dangal have shed light on the minor sports. For girls, they will be able to fight community pressure. Most parents did not understand why the child has to go play a sport when she should be sewing or something like that. So, we thought about promoting and funding women inclined towards sports.

It started in 2009 with Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Deepika Kumari, Ayonika Paul -- all of these are women who we funded through Olympic Gold Quest. Mary Kom started training hard, such a gutsy young woman. With every year they won medals and as they became better and better at their sport, we also felt elated for we made the right move. 

Then came the 2012 London Olympics. With Olympic Gold Quest, when we were not a part of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), we ran a fairly large and viral campaign which basically mocked ourselves. We conducted several vox pops. We went around talking to people with a handheld camera and we would show them the pictures of these athletes and ask them if they had heard of Mary Kom or Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu...all the way to Gagan Narang. And then we would put a picture of Anjali Tendulkar and they would be able to recognise her and not these other people. We did a digital campaign out of this. These people who are playing for the Indian flag, not playing for the cash and they don’t even know them.


Q> What kind of response did the campaign get?

Shabnam: We made it very provocative. We asked, ‘Why should India even participate in the Olympics?’ and 'What is the point if a nation of 1.2 billion people won fewer medals than Afghanistan?' We had a lot of views and a huge response.

Our second campaign was made to push people to Olympic Gold Quest. Their website views went up enormously. In 2012, we came back with the largest haul of medals. It was very, very heartening. 

Q> How did the partnership with IOA begin?

Shabnam: In 2016, we sponsored the Indian Team contingent for the Rio Olympics and we gave a ₹1 crore life cover to every single athlete that went to Rio. As soon as it was over, we approached IOA and told them we wanted to do a long-term partnership with IOA and it is currently extended to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It covers Commonwealth, Asian Games which is in August at Jakarta this year, two National Games that are to be played in India in 2019 and 2020.

Q> What are the plans of Edelweiss group post-2020?

Shabnam: We hope to be partnering IOA even after the 2020 Olympics. We want to continue to help women athletes through the OGQ. The story of Rani Rampal, the captain of the women’s hockey team and her family’s struggle in her younger days is very moving.

We are funding a promising shooter from the North East for the 2024 Olympics. We are also in talks with young shooter Mehuli Ghosh -- who is primarily being funded by OGQ but we are also looking to support her -- and her struggle is inspirational. We want to see if we can help at a family level. These are small things, but they make so much difference in the daily life. That’s what we want to keep doing. 


Q> Apart from the IOA, what other ways are you looking at to help sports grow?

Shabnam: There are 2 things we are actually looking at. Apart from seeing our name on the logo like most sponsors want, we want to make a difference by promoting the sport, the event and the athlete. For the 2016 Rio Olympics, we had a large campaign -- we ran an anthem, a contest by which people could know the athletes more. For Commonwealth, we are doing the same thing. The more we know about these athletes and their achievements, the more we become a sporting nation. 

The Government and the Sports Minister, Mr. Rathore are doing a commendable job. Khelo India was a brilliant initiative. 

We also hope to guide these athletes in their investment plans. We follow the maxim that you should spend the money left over from investments. 

One is to create awareness about all these various sports and the sportspersons playing it, the other is better financial management and investments for sportspersons for their future. 

Q> Lastly, what other areas do you all want to contribute to the sports community to help it grow?

Shabnam: We will continue with the IOA partnership into many other Olympics. We will continue creating awareness about all the sports. We will provide sports training using digital technology to as many young kids as possible and also any sports-related information; it could be tips, training through videos, through online chats with coaches and athletes who have already been champions. This way we can spread sports training all over the nation.

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Sohinee Basu
I am this teeny-tiny adult kid with a horrible obsession of poetry and words. It will be too less to say that I love everything about tennis and a certain Roger Federer also! I love everything from the smell of old books to the thrill of watching tight matches!
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