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Why brands need to up their investment in non-cricket sports

When it comes to sponsorship and brand investment, Cricket has always claimed the lion’s share. Be it the Indian Premier League or India’s series with different countries, brands have always come onboard with ad monies.

However, in the recent years, sports other than cricket have also been gradually making headway in attracting advertisers. Thanks to the various sporting leagues, such as the Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Soccer League, as well as badminton, tennis, boxing, wrestling. The good performance of Indian sportspersons at international meets has also made brands consider supporting either the entire team or individual sportspersons.

The flow of sponsorship into non-cricket sports is linked to two factors:

  • The number of sporting heroes and performance of that sport (for example, Badminton, Wrestling, Boxing, Tennis)
  • People who have invested in that sport (ISL, PKL)

Speaking on sports other than cricket gaining momentum in terms of sponsorship, investment and endorsement by brands, Manu Agrawal, CEO and Co-Founder, Bluesport Entertainment, license holder of Premier Handball League (PHL), said, “Leagues like ours spend a lot of money to raise the overall performance of players by providing them with the opportunity to compete against the best players and monetising their efforts. Good performance on the part of players brings fame and these two factors, money and fame are the ultimate motivation for the youth of the country to come forward and try to make a career in non-cricketing professional sports, which in turn enhances the player pool of a country, deliver better performances at the international level and build viewership and popularity. Sponsorships and endorsements follow thereafter. We are very confident that with such a young population in our country, which is looking at fast paced action filled sports that take a very short time for a match, non-cricketing sports have just begun their journey towards acceptance and the curve will only move upside, if non-cricket sport leagues are executed meticulously and delivered to the masses in a manner where people can connect with the heroes of these sports.”

Elaborating on how the celebrity faces have chosen to support teams or sports they liked other than the financial benefit, trends observed and the future expectations for the sport, Prasad Mangipudi, Managing Director, Sportzlive, licence holders of Pro Basketball League (PBL), said, “Not all celebrities have chosen to support a sport because they like it. Soccer is a globally glamorous sport, so there is no surprise that many celebrities invested in soccer. With regard to other sports, it boils down to their likes. For any celebrity association with a sport, particularly with a well-performing sport, adds a layer to their brand and enhances their image. In addition to bringing in revenue, we will see this trend increasing. However, celebs just can’t have a superficial association. They need to have some level of knowledge and involvement. In the case of Tapsee Pannu, we have seen that she does analysis about the players before the auction and she herself speaks to players before and after the match.”

The trend is very clear, celebrity faces associate with sports not just for financial benefit, but they also consider how much they can add to their fan base through such associations. While some celebrity faces are associated with the league, it is a belief that sportspersons from fields other than cricket having proved their merit on the international stage must now be also looked at and considered as celebrities.

On why brands need to invest in non-cricket leagues like Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League, Street Ball, etc., Manu Agrawal said, “There are many factors at play while investing in a non-cricket league, the same factors that one considers while investing in Cricket. The starting point is to look at the management team and financial strength of the promoter group. Sports leagues make money primarily through valuations and secondarily through revenues. A very strong promoter group is required to ensure the league sustains through its initial years while it creates mass viewership and popularity. The second criteria should be financial strength of the franchisees and their long-term vision and commitment to the sport and the league. A very crucial next criteria would be to go through the IP rights of the organizer to assess the risk of competition. Exclusivity to organize a professional league for a sport is something that is definitely going to create value if your promoter group and franchises are committed.”

Agrawal further said that a non-cricketing investor would also look at the kind of investment required for the property and measure that ROI against a cricket league. “The fifth and again one of the very crucial criteria is to go through the execution plan for such a league to ensure that the product quality should be good enough to encourage a sports broadcaster to bid for the media rights in subsequent years. There are other parameters like popularity of the sport and response from brands for endorsement, but these parameters may not be that encouraging for a new non-cricket sport and can be turned favourable if the above five basics are right. We at Premier Handball League can boast that we have ensured we pass above five criteria,” he added.

Prasad Mangipudi noted, “First and foremost, personal liking of the game matters, either because they played the game themselves or someone in the family played the game. Secondly, it also adds to their brand and enhances their image. This will also make them stand out compared to fellow celebrities. Lastly, it also a kind of diversification and sport can become a long term source of steady income.”

Lastly the matter of fact and the reason of the investment is the Return of Investment, the investors get. But on  the other hand Even if the ROI is good it’s still lacking behind the hype of cricket leagues.

“The ROI with non-cricket leagues is positive and can be better than cricket leagues because of their low-ticket sizes. While such endorsement may not help a large established business house in term of creating fresh brand recognition, it will definitely increase brand value by projecting the group as a business house that supports sports other than cricket, it will gain brand loyalty from existing customers who loves said sport, and such brands may have the opportunity to create an international presence at very small fraction of cost compared to cricket, because most of these non-cricket sports are played across the world. Coming back to new age tech companies, their ROI will be very good as their primary target is to reach new customers, creating awareness, and this can be done very easily with non-cricket leagues, as long as such a league has a good broadcast partner. While the reach numbers are going to be much lower than cricket, the money spent on reach/ acquisition per capita is going to be very less as compared to Cricket just because of the massive difference in ticket sizes. Not to mention, there is a dedicated base of followers for such sports, and the emotional value and brand loyalty created for a brand through endorsements remains unparalleled.”, said Mr. Manu Agrawal.

Prasad Mangipudi, spoke on if the ROI on the teams of these non cricket leagues is as good as Cricket, “Certainly not, but the investments are not as big as Cricket. In the case of PBL, the investment is in single-digit crores. But if the celebrity is smart they can generate good ROI by creating multiple revenue streams out of the sports team. For example in PBL in addition to the revenue from the league the team can launch and manage academies that give round the year income, they can conduct local tournaments, conduct clinics, launch retail stores under the same brand name, launch local leagues as well. One has to be enterprising and must have a professional team to carry out these activities.”

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