How Tokyo Olympics will change the way brands collaborate with athletes & sports influencers

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Apaksh Gupta of One Impression sheds light on how Tokyo Olympics experience a deeper reach in the country, resulting in a change in approach towards sports marketing.

The Tokyo Olympics 2020 were the most celebrated Olympics for India. We witnessed a whole new feat of Indian athletes on the world stage. From winning 7 medals to the first-ever athletic gold by Neeraj Chopra, it enamored history for India. While the dynamics were changing at the Olympics, the world of brand communication and social media was also keenly watching. The remarkable performance by the Indian contingent put new Olympians into the limelight with organizations trying to celebrate their hard work and success with meaningful brand associations.

Events like the Olympics are an opportunity for brands to amplify their brand messaging and secure eyeballs with relatable and catchy gestures. Since the early days of marketing, brands had been actively engaging with sports personalities. Nike’s brand strategy had always been centered around top figures of major sports, be it Michael Jordan (Air Jordan) or Tiger Woods in Golf. Following its footprints, a lot of brands started collaborating with fitness celebrities and players. While globally, it is not new in the world of brand marketing, India is also gearing up for pace. These dynamics have changed sports marketing in India and revolutionized the way brands interact with athletes. Let’s take a look at the catalysts for this change:

Increased Focus On Olympics

With the Tokyo Olympics, we saw brands actively congratulating players on their victories by offering them free pizzas for life (Dominos) and free stay in their hotels (OYO). Moment Marketing has been the go-to strategy by brands during such spotlight events. This rise in brand collaborations can be attributed to the growth of the Olympics as a whole. This growth can be understood with the fact that NBCUniversal, a television broadcaster in the US, reported ad revenues netting $1.25 billion from over 120 advertisers. This figure is 20 more than last time, surpassing the $1.2 billion from Rio in 2016. Collectively, brands had invested more than $3 billion in sponsorships and ad campaigns around the games.

Earlier, brands were hesitant to sign long-term deals with athletes outside the field of cricket. However, with the advent of the internet and social media, we are witnessing increased support for other sports as well and subsequent brand collaborations around it. The Indian Premier League opened up a plethora of opportunities for other sports like Football and Kabaddi to try out their own league. The Pro Kabaddi league is a prime example of this growing fan base for sports other than cricket. The media rights for the 2021 edition of the Pro Kabaddi league were retained by Star India for a whopping 905Cr rupees.

Higher Internet Penetration

Another reason for the growth of the sports industry is the increased internet penetration in India. Sports and games today are not just limited to television screens. Due to stronger connectivity and technological innovations, live matches can now be streamed on smartphones, overcoming the perception that a family watches only one channel or game. people, today, have the liberty to tune into their favorite sports and root for their teams. The Internet has revolutionized the act of spectating by making it more personal for the viewer. Fans now have extreme reactions to the defeat and victories of their teams.

Social media has paved a new way for athletes and teams to interact with their fans, which is more personal and has a bigger reach than the traditional ways of communication. This lets their following be translated into numbers and brand value. Neeraj Chopra’s Tokyo Olympics gold medal win translated into a following of 3 million on Instagram. He became the most mentioned Indian athlete on Facebook and Instagram during the Olympics. Women athletes are gaining their due prominence because of which brands have actively started approaching them for collaborations, as well. Such sportswomen, who participated in the Olympics have witnessed a surge in their social media following which resulted in an uptick of brands approaching them for various endorsement deals.

Growing Distrust In Ads

Earlier, ads were the primary way through which sportsmen and brands used to come together. It was easier for brands to just sign an endorsing contract of a year or more with any sports celebrity post their win at a major tournament. But now people don’t trust ads altogether. According to Kantar’s Dimension study, only 14% of people said they trust advertisers and the claims made by them. This growing distrust is due to the fact that the same repetitive messaging is no longer appealing to the audiences. With social media and SEO, ads are now personalized, specifically directed towards a particular audience. Brand collaborations via social media also have sale conversion data attached with them. Everything can now be translated into numbers and this gives the brands a better understanding of their ROI and sales.

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Future Of Sports Marketing In India

Sports as an industry is expected to grow over time. The size of the Indian Sports Industry in 2020 is estimated at INR 5894 Crores. Hence, brands across categories are keen to actively sponsor young athletes from the start of their careers and offer mentorship programs. One such brand is JSW Sports, which currently supports 49 athletes across four disciplines. Many people may not know it, but JSW has a major role to play in the success of Neeraj Chopra. The Sports Excellence Program by JSW provides financial support to these athletes, while also providing opportunities to train under world-class coaches at Olympic training facilities. The program covers expenses for travel, accommodation, nutrition, and sporting equipment, along with access to dedicated physiotherapists.

So, what we are seeing is that brands are open to partner with sportsmen and athletes at a larger level now. What used to happen in the NBA and NFL, might apply to all the sports tournaments. We might even witness an Indian version of the Michael Jordan-Nike collaboration with the Indian contingent for Tokyo..there is no denying that sports in India are a growing economy. Brands have the opportunity to fuel this revolution and influencers have the potential to amplify these messages. Therefore, it is only a matter of time that these two players will come together and revolutionize the way we engage with sports.

The article is written by Apaksh Gupta, Founder and CEO, One Impression


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