Sporting leagues have made a huge difference to the sporting culture of the country in the last few years. And while audiences have a host of sports to choose from, we (only) have the IPL to thank for it. IPL literally ‘changed the game’ and marketed cricket in a jazzier avatar. The lessons learnt from IPL have been imbibed by other sports as well. The format of having a truncated league or tournament has ensured that international quality sports action is available at primetime. And the marketing of the leagues, be it the IPL, PKL (Pro Kabaddi League) or the ISL (Indian Super League), has been nothing short of world-class.
For any sporting league to be successful, there are a few hygiene factors:
* The content needs to be world-class with the world’s top players featuring in these leagues.
* The infrastructure needs to be present. A sport will never grow if the public doesn’t have access to play it. You also need world-class venues if you want to have world-class action.
* The marketing must make noise and be as mainstream as possible with advertising going beyond traditional sports channels and pages. This is critical if a league is to take off. You don’t just need male audiences but also families and children to attend games and be entertained. This will help in growing the sport and make it a talking point within families, thereby taking the sport to a larger audience.
* Perhaps most importantly, you need to have Indian heroes. Unless you have Indian idols participating and doing well, they just won’t take off. Heroes need to be made of Indian athletes and they need to be marketed and projected in the right manner.
Luckily, most non-cricket sports have the above basics right. The presence of Indian stars such as Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Sunil Chettri ensure that there is an Indian connect, which when complemented with world-class talent is the perfect concoction for audiences.
These leagues have ensured that parents today see their children playing sports and perhaps making a career out of it, unlike in the past when cricket was the only option. For broadcasters, the success of these leagues is a windfall. They are no longer completely dependent on just expensive cricketing rights.
A new sports ecosystem has been developed and only means a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved — broadcasters, audiences and athletes.
The author is Indranil Das Blah, COO, CAA KWAN and CEO, Mumbai City FC