#Interview Vinit Karnik, GroupM on the evolving sports marketing economy

Vinit Karnik

While the marketing ecosystem has evolved dramatically over the last few years, the role that cricket plays in it continues to remain the same. Time and again brands have created a mark in this cricket frenzied nation and now is the time to take it to the next level.

Social Samosa gets in conversation with Vinit Karnik, Business Head – Entertainment, Sports & Live Events at GroupM to understand the trends dominating the sports marketing segment.


#1 – Sporting properties offer more & more interesting opportunities to brands with leagues like IPL, ISL, PKL all becoming popular, what role will sports play in brands’ marketing mix in the coming year?

In today’s market scenario, planning cycle of brands is quite dynamic and with a short and middle term view. The landscape where you have 10 plus premiere leagues already, sports has become a part of many brands strategic marketing plan. While cricket is a mass sports, football is considered to be young and kabaddi has its unique edge of attracting audience in all edge groups across men and women. Sporting leagues have opened up a lot of opportunities for audience to be a fan and sample sports other than cricket. Having said that, cricket does contribute to around 80 per cent of the sports marketing revenue. Most sporting leagues have a fixed window which helps brands plan better and leverage the property, making it easier to measure the objective and success parameters.

India is not a sporting nation yet. We are a 10-year-old sporting economy; IPL was launched in 2008 and much within couple of year we saw a mushrooming emergence of emerging sports going the league format route. Most brands are currently using sports as a platform very tactically. It is imperative that brands take a longer-term view and stay invested with sports for them reap benefits.

For instance, Vodafone has used IPL for the last 10 years consistently; the brand has seen immense value in IPL by activating the ‘Super Fan’ and build interactivity in consumer activation. We have seen Hero Moto Corp’s association with multiple sports including cricket, golf, and hockey and football. Having said that many brands are still in an experimental phase when it comes to leveraging sports as a marketing platform and hence, while we have embarked the journey towards India being the sporting nation we are just partially there.

IPL 2018 brings into play multi-platform, multi-language feeds. IPL will stream live on mobile, reach Indian homes through 10 plus channels and over 6 languages  

#2 How can the marketers leverage the IPL in its new avatar differently over the previous seasons and gain maximum value? 

India is a diverse country in terms of culture and native language. While the young India is quite affluent and comfortable in English, IPL/cricket is very mass in its appeal and hence regional commentary will help in connecting masses in their native language. This has a potential to increase the audience base and even get women interested in sport. IPL is a great combination of entertainment and sport and hence has a potential to build the size of GEC audience for the sporting league.

#3 How do you think brand custodians can become more creative in leveraging and making their brands stand out among the clutter?

In a cluttered TV ecosystem, creativity is extremely important to be able to stand out and build share of voice. Star has launched a very interesting initiative Re.Imagine to push the creative envelope. Its first of its kind and very unique to the creative community. An initiative like to recognize the creative talent displayed during IPL and build competitiveness through gratification for the best creative team.

There is a growing focus on non-live content around IPL and other sports leagues, as fans are getting to see facets beyond just the live match. Auction, Pre Post shows, building team rivalries pre match, behind the scenes etc.

#4- What is your view on how can the brands ride upon the unique opportunity that sports genre offers can?

One of the key trend that we have identified for 2018 is non-live content. Like I said, India isn’t a sporting economy yet, we are only scratching the surface in sports marketing. Non-live content opportunities will encourage right holders by seamlessly integrating brands to create interesting stories around IPL that are distributed to TV and digital platforms. If you see the global trend, non-live content in developed sporting markets is built on the back of great behind the scene stories that are very well followed by the fan. This also helps the right holders in building fan engagement in off season and stay relevant to their fans thru the year.

#5- Which campaigns stand out in the way they have leveraged Sports Do you think Indian Brands need more inspiration from global brands? (Referring to how Brands leverage- Super Bowl, EPL)

India is a very native/inward market, biggest difference being the cultural and language alignment that changes geographically. It’s not a very easy task for any brand or any sports to apply global learnings to India. We can certainly take inspiration, but we can’t copy paste what happens in the West.

Vodafone’s ZooZoo campaign stands out in most minds as one of the most unique & engaging campaign around IPL

Also Read: #Interview Arun Iyer, Lowe Lintas on breaking clutter with sports marketing

#6- Which other campaigns as per you are some of the most impactful ones on IPL?

The way Heineken leverages football is worth learning and taking a deep dive in their insights. They empower the fans and bring alive really inspirational and rich stories that touch an emotional cord and connects beautifully. Back home, what Vodafone does is really interesting – their entire super fan initiative which they have done consistently for the past 10 years is a case study in itself. Imagine a fan getting a signed match ball from the winning captain, it’s a money can’t buy gratification.

#7What are the typical brand objectives to invest in sporting properties and what metrics are used to measure the success of such a campaign?

The brand objective will differ from band to brand and will also depend upon the product life cycle. Having said that some of the brand objective that we have worked upon in the past are; top of mind recall, share of voice, saliency, brand launch, increase awareness and build sales, build premium imagery etc…. Sports allows brand to beautifully bring alive various brand challenges on the back of money can’t buy experiences.

#8 What are some of the key trends marketers need to tap on to win over new audiences in this ever-evolving sports marketing environment?

  • Long term view with sports business
  • Pointed brand opjective we a measurable matric
  • Data driven fan enagement program
  • Content strategy in non live sports
  • Imagery building plan for internal and external stake holders

The interview is a part of the series, #BrandsLuvIPL, featuring Top Brand Custodians and Marketers to ascertain the reach, impact and the untapped potential of sports marketing in India with reference to IPL.