For the longest time now, there was only one sport that existed in India – and that was cricket. Be it in terms of viewership, airtime, prize money, adulation and hero-worship for its players or sponsors pouring money into the sport, cricket has ruled the consciousness of the average Indian for the several decades, much to the detriment of other sports which have struggled to find their feet in the absence of corporate sponsorship.
But all that has been changing ever so slowly in the past few years, with non-cricket sports managing to garner some attention from not only the fans, but also the sponsors. Consider the recently launched kabaddi, badminton, hockey and football leagues, which managed to rope in several varied sponsors for their inaugural editions. That’s a fairly impressive achievement for sports that have only recently started attracting mass popularity in the country.
And while associating with a tournament as its title sponsor has been around for many years, companies are now looking at innovative ways to use their brand in the sporting world. Coca-Cola, which is the title sponsor of the International Premier Tennis League, has branded the tournament as the ‘Happiness Open’; it has woven the ‘happiness’ theme into its campaigns since 2009.
Coca-Cola has also branded one of the IPTL innovations – the Power Point – as the Happiness Power Point, which ensures its message reaches the fans at critical junctures in each set during the tournament.
Social media is another platform where brands have been constantly re-inventing the way they engage with sports fans. Using Twitter and Facebook to run contests not only provides a direct connect with fans but also helps increase the virality of these brands online. The moment the likes of Federer and Sampras stepped on Indian soil, social media was abuzz with posts about these legends and the tournament as a whole, which in turn made Coca-Cola one of the most talked about brands.
The success of the IPTL has proven that sport in India is no more just the bastion of cricket. People want to see stars from sports other than cricket, and they are willing to pay for that too, as attested by the sell-out crowds throughout the Indian leg. And even those who couldn’t be in Delhi to actually watch the action live, were very eager to talk about the tournament through their social media channels. All of this has led to greater awareness about tennis in the country, which can only be good for the sport in the long run.
India is on the cusp of a sporting revolution, and the brands are helping along the change through their innovative associations with sporting events. It’s a good time to be a sports fan in India right now!