Keeping fans engaged is the need of the hour: ESP Properties

ESP Properties
ESP Properties

Sports sponsorship industry in India has been growing at a healthy CAGR of 12.8% over the last 10 years, with overall sports sponsorship market in India crossing the mark of INR 9,000 Crore for the first time. 2020 was a year of Tokyo Olympics, T20 World Cup, Euro 2020 along with major tournaments like Vivo IPL. With most of the sports tournament either cancelled or indefinitely postponed, YOY growth / estimation for year 2020 pre COVID-19 will not hold true.

ESP Properties, part of GroupM, has released their ‘Business of Indian Sports’ report that serves as a guidebook for sports marketing during these uncertain times.

According to the report, mobile gaming will be the biggest gainer in the post COVID-19 era. The report states that there has been a 20% increase in the monthly active users during the lockdown in India, with daily average session going up from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. The frequency of these sessions has increased to 5-7 per day as against 3 sessions per day during pre COVID-19.

A major change during the ‘new normalcy’ of the lockdown is the attempt by rightsholders to leverage gaming and virtual sports as a concept to keep athletes and fans engaged (for example: UAE Tour launching cycling event namely ‘UAE Tour Mubadala Ramadan Virtual Challenge’ on virtual cycling platform Zwift). We see more of these pushing the envelope of virtual and real-world merger.

Key suggestions form the report:

  • Keeping the fans engaged is an important KPI for a rightsholder & broadcaster. The lockdown times could be a perfect opportunity for both to make heroes off their fans
  • Broadcasters should toy around with various non-live sport-ainment formats as the fan acceptability quotient is high right now. Innovative content formats need to be thought of between the talent and broadcaster to make the most out of a fan’s interest in some sporting action.
  • Government partnerships in sports realm is the need of the hour. Government & sponsors have worked together beautifully as Public-Private-Partnerships. Post COVID-19 time will call for many such initiatives
  • Talent needs to make full use of the lockdown to enhance relationships with fans via social media. Live talent interaction on social media has caught the eyes of a large fanbase since the fans need to see some action happening between the talent instead of no-action. Gaming & virtual sports should definitely be in the consideration set for active fan engagement during current times taking a cue from how cricket world cup winner Ben Stokes engaged with his fans through F1 esports Vietnam Grand Prix.


The report also lays out a comprehensive playbook for all stakeholders in the sporting ecosystem.



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