A recent study by sports management company, SportzConsult, found that sports has become the most preferred marketing tool in India for brands, leading over celebrities, film events and product placements, music or art.
The study also found that 67% of the companies and their brands associating with sports are using the platform as a strategic, long-term opportunity.
Pepsi asserts that its association with domestic T-20 cricket in India, in its sixth season now, is a long term strategy.
PepsiCo spent Rs 400 crore on the season’s title sponsorship and has 210 seconds of ad time per match – exceeding rival Coca-Cola’s.
“If a platform makes you reach your desired audience and enhances your recall value, it is undoubtedly the best,” said Vidur Vyas, director marketing, PepsiCo India.
While cricket and football top brand association preferences, other sports are gaining traction with brands as they grab increasing viewership.
MotoGP World Championship, Formula One, Soccer Leagues and the Rugby World Cup are now shaking hands with Mahindra & Mahindra (MotoGP), Airtel (F1) and United Breweries (rugby). Raymond sponsored the RWITC Polo Championship 2013.
The Barclays Premier League football matches reached 64,000 households in India.
Sporting events MotoGP and Formula One get good viewership among urban youth, while hockey attracts the older audiences along with the youth. Golf and polo attract the elite.
Hero MotoCorp has set aside Rs 100 crore for sports-related associations. PepsiCo has also signed a one-year strategic partnership with the Asian Football Development Project.
Usha International is straddling cricket as associate sponsor of Chennai Super Kings (T-20), golf and flying disc.
Associating with sports also offers brands – Indian and multinational – a borderless opportunity to reach consumers.
Mahindra Group bagged the title sponsorship rights of Sri Lanka Premier League, Sri Lanka being a strategic market for it.
“What better medium than cricket to connect and engage with audiences, with a 1.5 billion fan base across India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” said S.P. Shukla, president and chief brand officer, Mahindra Group.
Global brands leverage their sports associations across countries. Beer brand Heineken extended its football association into India through a contest around the UEFA Champions League 2013. Heineken has doubled its India sales over the past year.
"We entered India with Heineken less than two years ago and have used sports to reach those who are young at heart," said Samar Singh Shekhawat, senior vice president, marketing, United Breweries Group.
Sponsorships of marquee worldwide sporting events, such as the Olympics, FIFA World Cup or Formula One, can create consumer connects faster and fetch better returns on investment (ROIs).
“To engage a relatively smaller audience, numerous luxury goods companies sponsor polo events drawing upon the ‘exclusivity’ values related to the sport,” said Navin Khemka, partner, ZenithOptimedia, a media agency.
DHFL, associate sponsor for Mumbai Indians in the domestic T-20, believes that ROI on sports properties are feasible if it’s a long term association.
“To escape the immediate reactions on wins and defeats, it’s important for a brand to associate with a sport for a longer term,” said Shekhawat.
“Sports have the power to mobilise and motivate. Brands have a huge opportunity to leverage the positive attributes of sports and enhance the value of the association,” said Jitendra Joshi, CEO, SportzConsult.