Move over cricket – Time to change the game

In India, cricket has never been considered as a game, but as a religion that has a huge follower base. En-cashing on this sentiment, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) started the Indian Premier League (IPL), a franchise modeled cricket league in India, which promotes participation of international players.

Today, it is the most lucrative sporting event in the country. It has attracted high profile personalities from every sphere of life, from Bollywood celebrities to industrialists and from journalists to sports enthusiasts. In its 6th season, it has earned a place amongst the most valuable sporting events across the globe and notably, franchises like the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have earned a place amongst the Top-150 Most Valuable Team Brands globally.

Although cricket is the top sport in India, with 190 million viewership, other sporting events and sports persons are gradually gaining popularity in India. Modeled on the IPL, the Indian Badminton League (IBL) recorded 21.7 million viewership on Star Sports. The Hero Hockey India League (HHIL) also recorded a whopping viewership of 41.4 million. Compared to both, the All England Championship, badminton’s high-profile event, recorded a viewership of only 1.4 million on Neo Sports.

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Data Source: Badminton and hockey leagues manage to attract viewers, September 2013

According to Vijay Rajput, COO, ESPN India, “India has primarily been a single-sport country. But at STAR Sports, we believe Indian fans would love to consume other sports as well, if a product is packaged well and presented in an interesting manner. Our main aim is to broad base consumption of sports in the country. IBL fit in well with our overall strategy of building multi-sport viewership. We see huge potential for a product like IBL, much like we saw value in the Hockey India League.”

Notably, international companies such as Hero, Vodafone and Pepsi are putting their money in sporting events and advertisements that are not related to cricket and are also investing heavily in marketing and promotional activities. This seems to indicate that the population has an appetite for other sports as well. As part of a change, a few months back Pepsi launched an ad campaign with a change-the-game theme. The ad featured some of the popular cricketers playing an entirely different ball game – Football.

According to a survey conducted by the leading sports and sponsorship market research agency SMG Insight/YouGov, India is one of the major sports market in the world with a population of 1.2 billion and a well-established sporting atmosphere. The report highlights the supremacy of cricket over other sports, but successful hosting of international sporting events such as the IPL, Commonwealth Games and Indian Formula One Grand Prix has placed India in the list of countries that are witnessing fast growth in sporting businesses.

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Data Source: SMG Insight/YouGov

The general public might have its strong attachment to cricket but a number of sporting goods companies are making diligent efforts to push through a number of other sports like tennis, badminton and golf.

The most recent happenings in the industry are:

  • The popular Japanese sporting brand Yonex is all set to launch its chain of retail outlets in India. Singapore based Sunrise & Co., which happens to be the distributor of Yonex goods, claimed that they want to start with 20 outlets and later scale it up to 50 in a year’s time.
  • French sports retailer Decathlon has opened outlets in major cities across India and has also received an approval from the Foreign Investment Promotional Board to invest an additional 700 crore rupees to open a number of stores throughout the country.
  • A report on the sporting goods and gear market released by a research firm suggests that the Indian sportswear sector alone constitutes an Rs.1,900 crore market and is expected to register 14% growth every year.

The population in the age-group of 15-34 increased from 353 million in 2001 to 430 million in 2011. Current predictions suggest a steady increase in the youth population to 464 million by 2021. With a median age of 27 years by 2020, India is all set to be the youngest nation of the world. With such a huge young population, and increasing health consciousness, sports is undoubtedly a lucrative market for the future. Be it cricket or any other sport like soccer, tennis or badminton sports companies, if the focus is in the right direction, it is bound to make a fortune.

References:

  1. Yonex gets ready to serve in India with standalone retail chain, August 2013
  2. India: The Sports Industry’s Emerging Opportunities, 2012
  3. Looking for life beyond cricket, August 2013
  4. Badminton and hockey leagues manage to attract viewers, September 2013
  5. IPL franchise Mumbai Indians among top-150 most valuable team brands, February 2013
  6. India is set to become the youngest country by 2020, April 2013

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