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Sporting corporates go beyond cricket

By Freny Patel & Shweta Jain in Mumbai
Last updated on: September 22, 2004 11:00 IST
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Corporates looking to sponsor sports rarely go beyond cricket. The sheer popularity of the game ensures they get full bang for their buck in India.

Despite this, India Inc is increasingly looking beyond the "gentleman's game", points out Ravi Krishnan, managing director, IMG/TWI South Asia, and senior international vice-president of international sports marketing organisation IMG. To wit: Citibank recently sponsored the Indian Olympic team to Athens, while HSBC supports squash and horse racing.

Standard Chartered Bank sponsored last year's marathon and has followed it up by backing this year's 'Greatest Race on Earth'. Shaw Wallace is seriously into golf, while the Tatas are into tennis.

And Dena Bank sponsors the Mumbai hockey team.

Serious cricket advertisers such as LG, Hero Honda, the UB Group and Essar, along with Rabobank and American Express, are looking to sponsor golf, tennis, hockey, football, badminton, volley ball and horse racing today.

"Of the Rs 600-crore (Rs 6 billion) live event industry, 70 per cent is on account of non-cricket sponsorship," says Vivek B Singh, joint managing director of Mumbai-based Procam International Ltd, which is into event sponsorship.

The sponsorship of live event industry -- which is growing at 50 per cent plus year-on-year -- has also seen a marked shift. Singh says this is because the "emotional equity" for cricket is depreciating.

Standard Chartered Bank's corporate communications chief Neel Chatterjee says enough money has gone into cricket. "It is time to promote our athletes," he said.

The money being poured into non-cricket sponsorships is also rising. Procam's Singh says the prize kitty for a national golf tournament is in excess of Rs 8-9 crore (Rs 80-90 million), while the derbys, often sponsored by HSBC, the Times of India and the UB Group, carries prize money of Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million) plus.

Singh reminisces that in 1998, knocking corporate doors for Rs 50 lakh (Rs 5 million) for tennis was an onerous task. Today he finds corporates more amiable.

"It's about the spirit, and not about masses," said Standard Chartered's chief operating officer Sanjeev Agrawal, as he flagged off the bank-sponsored $1-million {Rs 4.5 crore (Rs 45 million)} marathon race across four cities on Wednesday last.

"That is not to say we shy away from cricket," he quickly adds. After all Kapil Dev is the bank's brand ambassador.

In the current ICC championship, ad agencies have found that advertising interest is half of what it used to be the last time round.

The reason? Viewer fatigue.

With four series -- the Asia Cup, the Amsterdam tourney, the ICC championship and the India-Australia contest to be played in two months on the trot, and the fact that the home team has not been playing well have led to dropping interest.

For other sports, however, things seem to be looking up. IMG's Krishnan says as Indians gain success on the international stage, the trend of more companies sponsoring sports beyond cricket will only increase.
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Freny Patel & Shweta Jain in Mumbai