Tokyo Olympics: Pay gap continues to hound Indian players

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August 04, 2021 7:59 AM

India’s Silver at the Olympics led to a flurry of brands announcing rewards

Pay Disparity in India Players, Tokyo Olympics 2021Brands further accelerated ad-spend post weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu won a Silver medal in the women’s 49 kg category

Despite a delayed start, Tokyo Olympics 2020 which finally began on July 23, seems to have managed to get its set of advertisers and so have the players. But there still remains a pay gap which the genre of sports continues to deal with. It is believed that depending upon the advertiser, boxer Mary Kom earns Rs 15-20 lakh per day from an endorsement deal, while Saina Nehwal earns Rs 25 lakh per day and PV Sindhu earns about Rs 50-60 lakh per day. Kom commands a rate of Rs 40-50 lakh per endorsement, similarly, Sindhu’s endorsement fee ranges between Rs 1.2-1.5 crore. The difference is stark when compared to cricketers such as Virat Kohli who is believed to earn about Rs 3 crore per day and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who earns about Rs 2-2.5 crore per day. “Most Indian sportspersons outside cricket could benefit from a brand association that may provide them support – that could be monetary, or in terms of exposure or facilities. Today the gap between cricket and all other sports is vast, and any attempt to bridge this is welcome,” Lloyd Mathias, business strategist and angel investor, said.

It’s a no-brainer that in an effort to ride the Olympics wave brands including JSW Group, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Visa India, MPL Sports Foundation and ThumsUp, among others have launched campaigns. “Visa has been a long-standing worldwide sponsor of the Olympic and Paralympic Games since 1986 and runs a global athlete support program during each edition of the games. Our recent campaign ‘A Million Cheers’ which encouraged Sindhu’s fans to send cheers for her using #SmashItSindhu, has amassed a reach of over 22 million on Facebook and Instagram and has generated over 62,000 organic impressions on Twitter,” Sujatha V Kumar, head of marketing for India and South Asia, Visa, told BrandWagon Online.

Visa claims that in terms of media investments, 45% of total media budgets will be spent on live streaming of the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 across TV and digital platforms. TV is the primary medium with 70% of the spend, while the remaining will be spent on OTT platforms and other sports platforms. In run-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the brand signed PV Sindhu as the first ever Team Visa athlete from India. Meanwhile, sports brand PUMA India too signed 18 Indian athletes ahead of Tokyo Olympics 2020.

Moreover, brands further accelerated ad-spend post weightlifter Mirabai Chanu won a Silver medal in the women’s 49 kg category. From Wakefit Solutions, Dunzo, Nykaa Man to Mother Dairy and Berger Paints, among others, took to social media to celebrate her win. Many brands even went out to announce rewards for Chanu and the winners to be. For instance, QSR brand Domino’s stepped up to offer Chanu free pizzas for lifetime while multiplex chain and official sponsor of the Indian Olympic Team, INOX Leisure Ltd announced free movie tickets to the winners for lifetime. Fast&Up also pledged to support all Indian athletes “who win a medal in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with free nutritional supplements all through the next Olympic cycle.”

According to Mathias, announcing awards to winners at the Olympics is not a new phenomenon. “While a business may want to award an athlete for his/her super performance is welcome, using this to derive brand mileage is unfair. A noticeable trend is brands using moment marketing on social media to congratulate winners and with hashtags pushing their brand. This borders on the unethical and is akin to hijacking a sportsperson’s achievement for business gain. Responsible brands should stay away from this,” he added.

Moreover, much of the support needs to come at an initial stage. “Brands need to support sportspersons right from the beginning of their journey. It has to be a part of their long term strategy and followed by constructive action,” Sridhar Ramanujam, founder and CEO, Brand-comm, stated. In fact, Rin’s latest advertisement ‘It’s time to shine’ is a testament to this. It showcased the journey of Indian fencer Bhavani Devi and the sacrifices her mother had to make to support her, in terms of pledging her gold assets — thereby pointing to the struggles athletes go through.

As per Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea, several brands have been involved in genuinely investing in promoting sports in the country, while on the other hand, there are brands who have skipped the struggle phase and met the athletes only at the podium. “Olympians living in poverty, selling their medals for a meal is not a new story at all. I see a ‘pizza-for-life’ moment equivalent to the pre-election political ‘dinner-with-the-voters’ gig. However, it would be nice to see the brands involve more in the journey and not just participate in the celebration. And if they are a part of the celebration, it would be nice to see them extend it in a more relevant manner such as sponsorships,” he said, adding that together with entities like Olympic Gold Quest, brands can work and play a bigger role in building future Olympians.

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