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Introduction

The electronic highway of information that is girdling the world has brought an end to the Gutenberg era. Transition from a “stones throw away” world to a “click away” world has changed the way we live, interact, socialize and work. It has also changed the way we perceive culture, people, processes, objects i.e. life in short. The high speed network fabric has rendered geographical boundaries irrelevant.

A few years back it may have sounded like an idea by Slartibartfast from the legendary planet of Margarathea(from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) but with the advent of technological platforms this ain't a far-fetched idea any longer but is the reality of the present times.

It all began with the technological outburst which led to the availability of various platforms that helped to efficiently maximize the transfer of information. The degree of separation between the company and the consumer has reduced considerably.

Branding Redefined

Branding is no longer the privilege of the larger conglomerates or the big pockets. With the advent of technology and the significant reduction in the costs associated with branding, smaller companies that are taking branding seriously have cropped up like mushrooms. The competition is much tougher and there is this race of owning properties both online and real to cut out the competition. In the context of sports we can take the example of the Indian Premier League (IPL) the largest sport event in India this year. So there would be sponsors for IPL who would demand exclusivity. This is applicable across industry sectors- say a sponsor of something like MTV Roadies who would end up owning the content rights of the show- just to kick competition out of the advertising sphere for the show.

The questions that loom large are “Has the traditional media died?” or “Has it just reduced to a mere supporting media?” or “Have the rules of the game changed?” or “Is it a new game altogether?”

Brand experience is both emotional and functional. It is not only a promise that a company makes, or an assurance to the quality of the product as mentioned by Aaker(1991) but it also has a psychological role to play. They make you feel good about yourself or are an expression of yourself. They also fulfil social needs like a sense of affiliation or belongingness to a community or a group of people who think alike.

The very fact that names like Arsenal, Manchester United of the English Premier League (EPL) are household names in a country like India where nothing but Cricket sell's, shows the growth of sports branding. This phenomenon has been more evident in the recent past all because of the media convergence (Kerr,2008). There are fan communities where people can discuss their teams, interact with people with similar sentiments, vent their anger when a player does not perform and share their grief when their team loses. The arrival of sport channels has provided a medium to the broadcasters to telecast all kinds of sports and not just cricket. There is as much of motor sports, basketball, tennis and football as there is cricket.

The question that pops up next is, what is the brand? Is it the player, the club or is it Football the game itself? If yes, how has a little white ball and a green field inspired the most successful brand principles that has led to true brand management?

The concept of a sport being a brand may sound a little ridiculous at first, but the figures don't lie. A Brand Finance survey conducted in 2005 revealed that Manchester United had a brand value of £197m, Liverpool a value of 156m, Chelsea £137m and Arsenal a brand value of £115mn.

Indian Premier League (IPL) - The Sport Renaissance in India

India has two primary religions - Bollywood and Cricket. The only differentiating factor that sets sports entertainment apart from the rest is the passion that it commands and the real time execution. The cricket economy world over is 1bn USD to which India contributes to more than 60%. This includes revenues from ticket sales, sponsorship, endorsements and broadcasting rights.

In 2008 the remote wars in the households in India had struck a truce as all the members in the family were glued onto one thing -the IPL for their own different reasons. Be it the glamour, be it the sport, be it the uniqueness of the concept or be it the hype around the event, IPL redefined entertainment. The General Entertainment Channels (GECs) observed a huge dip in the Television Rating Points. Nothing had grabbed the attention of the masses & the classes at such a scale ever before.

Next year IPL struck again-grander and better. The GECs delayed the launch of new shows as they were sure they had nothing that could compete against the IPL. Such is the potential for the Sport Industry in India.

The IPL '09 had rung the death knell of the whole arena of player management in India as small size sponsors signed the best of the players in the Indian team for a year at dead cheap prices. This fiasco happened due to the deals that the IPL Franchise had with these sponsors and the players were bound by it. This was the reason why we saw Master Blaster Sachin, Zaheer and Harbhajan promoting Luminous Invertors and Sehwaag advertising for Jetkings an equipment hardware manufacturer. Is it truly about club over country?

The club format brought to the public light through the IPL has shattered the myth that sports in India is about national identity and patriotism? In the auction the highest bid jersey was not that of Tendulkar or Ganguly, it was Khan's 11.

It has given rise to a lot of questions - What is it that makes a person support the Mumbai Indians or the Kolkatta Knight Riders? Is it Sachin, Sehwag, Shilpa or Shahrukh? Is it the success of the team or the strategy that they employ when at the field? The other areas of concern would be has this concept of IPL revolutionized the way sport is consumed in India? Will the spectators be interested in an IPL match over India vs Pakistan Test Match?

The Moment of Truth in the IPL that made it's success eminent was the fact that the crowd actually cheered when Sachin was bowled by Bret Lee. This is an indicator of the fact that sports in India is in the throes of evolution. People are open to accepting it as an entertainment option than a patriotic struggle. Literature Review

What is Media Convergence?

  • Britannica Encyclopaedia say's, “Media Convergence is a phenomenon that involves the interlocking of computing and information technology companies, telecommunication networks and content providers from the various media platforms like magazines, newspapers, radio, television, films and the likes. It also says that Media Convergence is the confluence of the 3 C's - Communication, Content and Computing”.
  • According to Henry Jenkins who is a highly respected media analyst and one of the foremost leading experts on the convergence culture paradigm, as well as, the DeFlorz Professor of Humanities and the Founder and Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT states that, “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences is what constitutes media convergence”. It is not just the confluence of the traditional and the new digital media but it is also about the unpredictable ways of interaction and association of the consumers and producers of media. It is not solely technological but there is a huge gamut of socio- cultural paradigm shifts that have changed the way the consumer evaluates a product, makes his decision and his social interactions to seek information. It also includes the experience that the producer of the media makes the consumer go through (Viau, 2001).

The world is witnessing the new forms of media in which they have a larger control over the types of feeds they receive, the ease with which they can interact with not just the media but with the media provider as well. This has brought a whole new dimension of competition to the traditional media platforms. This has also led to a lack of dependence of the consumers on any particular media which in turn translates to lesser loyalty.

Benefits of Media Convergence:

  • The content creators can use the platform to generate customized content that is targeted at a specific group.
  • This has also brought about a change in the dynamics of economy as distribution and cost structure is not the same in traditional media.
  • It has brought about a sense of Post Modernism to the field of media consumption where the consumer is not an audience but is also a co creator.
  • This has also brought about a change in the experience that a person goes through by consuming media. It has transcended the limitations of the traditional media.

Negatives of Media Convergence:

  • This has brought in a certain amount of unpredictability in the responses that a media would receive. With the audience being exposed to a plethora of media platforms it gets tough to understand what has had what kind of effect on the consumer.
  • Media Convergence has brought about a shift in the control that the content creator had over it's property. With the advent of blogs, mobiles and emails the consumers are exposed to large amount of unbranded content. This has led to an increase in the competition for consumer's time and attention that the content creators face.

Is Sport an Industry?

Does industry necessarily comprise of a product or service? NO! It could be an offering that is neither of the two but is consumed by the people. Entertainment is an industry and so is religion. Thus Sport is an industry too which comprises of selling sports or selling through sports. Be it the events, leagues and the tickets to view these or the marketing of products through sports- which would include merchandize, licensing and sponsorship (Mason, 1999).

The figure below represents a model of the Sport Industry

Parallels can be drawn between Sports and a Consumer Product. Below is a representation of the value chain of the sports industry.

Sport as a product can be consumed in different ways- playing, watching, reading or being entertained by it. The level of involvement of the consumers -fans in the sports jargon, differs for each of the way.

“Football is a million dollar industry. The sport has a long heritage in UK and has the most prestigious premiership in the world and has attracted players from all four corners of the globe. Most importantly, football inspires passion and the 'big four', Chelsea Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool FC, are among the most valuable brands in the country”, says Ruth Mortimer- a sports marketing blog owner.

What is a Sports Brand?

What constitutes a sports brand is questionable. It depends on what the product is? Is the league a product or is it the clubs in the league that constitute the product (Goldman, 1989; Grauer, 1983; 1989; Gray, 1987)? It is argued that the league can be taken as a cartel of these entities i.e. the clubs. This would determine the marketing strategies for the league and the clubs. But whatever the case be both are brands in themselves.

If football is the category EPL can be taken as the Umbrella Brand and the clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and the likes would constitute the sub brands. Even the players would be brands in their own respect. If Beckham is the brand then it is dedicated, suave and down to earth (Milligan, 2004). Manchester United stands for excitement and great entertainment all so because right from Cantona to Giggs to Rooney and Ronaldo, the club has stalwarts who are both excellent at the game and are trend setters in their own way. Hence there is a clearly identifiable brand proposition (Baeur et al, 2005).

How are sport brands different from the product brands?

NBA Franchise was the first to realize the potential of brand building and what organized marketing can do to fuel revenue generation. Andy Mulligan(2009), says, “ Brands are often, somewhat lazily by some people, equated with pure commercialism and worse still with a kind of 'fluffy' marketing that is about 'spin' and not substance.” He is of the view that though Sport is a huge industry, managing teams is not in the least similar to managing a business. The very premise that a business is a tradable property sets it apart. A team is a repository of emotional associations that fans world over share and build. Hence sports team is not a business but it could definitely be a brand as it's an identity and a promise that the consumer's believe in and an experience that they live.

The association of a spectator with a specific club is enhanced by the collaborative play of “local, national or emotional identifications” (Whannel, 1992, p. 199) or by the un-certainty of the outcome of the game (Clapson, 1992).The degree of association of the club and the spectator is so high that he develops a strong sense of affiliation with the club. He feels proud and celebrates the victories and is all gloomy over the losses. This phenomenon has been termed as Basking in Reflected Glory (BIRG) (Cialdini et al., 1976).

Media and Sports

The globalization, the opening up of trade barriers, this era of media convergence, the popularity of the internet, and the ever increasing number of netizens has revolutionized the sports industry. The advancements in communication technology provide omniscient access to all kinds of leagues that a team plays in. This coupled with the 24X7 dedicated sport channels has opened up a whole new arena of entertainment.

Today the English Premier League and Formula 1 are as popular in the Asia Pacific as they are in Europe. Earlier people used to watch just the league finals but now they have the option to follow their favourite teams irrespective of their geographic location and time. The qualifiers for the Champions League or the NASCAR have a sizeable number of viewers as does the grand finale.

  • When Real Madrid signed the superstar David Beckham, the live telecast of the ceremony attracted more than 2 million eyeballs (Hatfield, 2003).
  • Games of Houston Rockets had a viewership of over 30 million Chinese viewers who tuned in just to watch Yao Ming- their fellow citizen battle the National Basketball Association's (NBA) finest (Larmer, 2005).
  • Manchester United has a huge fan base of close to 24 million in China alone which is more than the number of viewers in Britain. More than half a billion people tune in to watch the weekly games world over. (Datson, 2004).

The popularity that these sports command has attracted the attention of sponsors and advertisers. The teams themselves have realized the large potential that the world of marketing has in store. They have capitalized on this opportunity and the audience sentiment by branding themselves. They have a prominent presence across the various levels, be it Below the Line or Above the Line. We have Team Anthems, Jerseys, Videos, Events, Parties, Posters- ALL OF IT!

  • Manchester United's branded licensed jerseys sell more in the USA as compared to all the other Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs combined. The number of hardcore fans has been approximated to a good 4 million in North America alone.
  • Japanese tour groups spent US$500 million on just the tickets and souvenirs from the New York Yankees'. All so to watch Hideki Matsui the outfielder from Japan. This was more than five times what the presence of Ichiro Suzuki in Seattle Mariners generated (Whiting, 2003).
  • Internet statistics tell the same story. There are more 'satellite fans' to the NBA. 40% of visitors to the website log on from outside the States and a humongous 20% of the licensed merchandise is sold overseas (Eisenberg et al., 2003).

Global Sports Industry & Recession

When the whole world is in the throes of recession, sports is one industry sector that has not been as badly affected as the others and was quick enough to bounce back within a year. Loss of sponsorship, events being cancelled, biggies withdrawing from the arena; these are some of the development the sports industry has witnessed in the recent past. On one hand we have been witnessing things like

  • Honda, Kawasaki and Subaru withdrawn from motorsport
  • Manchester United lose £56 million AIG shirt sponsorship
  • US National Football League indicates it will cut workforce by 10%
  • Tiger Woods loses five year $8 million endorsement contract with Buick
  • Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games takes out additional $800 million loan to cover financial shortfall
  • 2009 Indian Masters golf tournament cancelled
  • Arena Football League in US cancelled for the season

On the other hand the world witnessed the largest ever viewership and increasing advertising

spend

  • TV viewership increased to 1 million (97.4m to 98.4m); advertising investment up $20 million (from $186 million to $206 million) at the Super bowl 2009

Manchester City sold for £200million+ in summer 2008

  • Premier League signs new live TV rights deal for £1.78 billion, surpassing previous deal
  • Badminton England signs record-breaking sponsorship deal with Yonex
  • Manchester United and City will both sign lucrative, record-breaking shirt sponsorship deals if the rumors are to be believed

Sports Scenario in India

The Sports arena in India has been dominated by cricket for quite some time now. But with the converging media and the Westernization sports like soccer, basketball, motor racing have observed an increasing fan base.

A look at the Audience and Viewership data from TAM is enough to prove this point. Cricket is followed by soccer, tennis and wrestling. The reason for the monopoly of cricket is simple.

Cricket is the only sport where India has made a mark in the International arena and which still holds hope for Indians to win over others. This has provided it the status of religion in India.

The other popular sports would include Soccer, Tennis and Motor Sports as revealed by a TAM report. This marks the herald of a whole new era of sports entertainment and marketing. Below is an overview of the size of the sports industry in India

IPL- The Story so Far

India has two religions Bollywood and Cricket and the whole country was awestruck when the two joined hands. IPL is all about glamour, excitement and passion.

It works on a franchise model where each of team is owned by an industrialist, a celebrity or is a joint venture. There was an auction to own the clubs and then there was an auction to make the team and select the players. This was the golden time for the Cricket Board in India as it made a lot of profits. Franchise rights were tendered with a reserve price of USD 50mn for 10 yrs. The owners get a percentage of the revenue that the team earns and has other streams like merchandising to mint money from too.

The primary difference between the IPL and the English Premier League was the fact that in IPL there was a cap on the amount of money that could be spent in building a team. Unlike EPL where the teams that are backed by the deeper pockets manage to buy the best of the players and end up winning the tournaments and the others are a t a competitive disadvantage.

Apart from this sponsorship on Television and the ground constitutes a huge chunk of the revenues that the board and the team earn. The IPL website had 50mn page views in the first week and had received 530,000 column cm of stuff written about it in the newspapers in the Season 1.

The opening match in Delhi had a Television Rating Point(TRP) of 7.19 which was the highest for any event in India ever. It had a TRP of 6.7 amongst women which is a considerable number considering the fact that Indian women are generally not much into watching sports.

Thus we see that it ain't just a mere entertainment option but is an industry in itself.

The Need Gap

The clubs are no longer just teams whose players lend it its brand value. There is a huge industry of sports merchandize, events and the likes that thrives on this - it's a culture in itself. Keeping this in mind I plan to study formats like the EPL and NBA which are brands in themselves and arrive at the factors that lead to the success of such brands.

India as a nation provides huge potential to market these brands. It is not just the passion for the sport or the sentiment of belongingness to a particular nation that commands loyalty. There are several other factors that have converted sports clubs or teams into one of the most valued brands world over. Therefore there is a knowledge gap that exists. It is to study what these factors are and what are the things that affect these factors?

Parallels can be drawn between the sports industry in India and in nations abroad which in turn would help marketing sports, teams and clubs as brands in a nation like India- which is a burgeoning economy and holds great prospects for such brands.

Research Objectives

  1. To understand how sports branding has grown as an industry in the West, taking EPL, NBA, Formula 1 as a case study.
  2. To understand the consumer perception of sports as a brand in India by conducting a research amongst the audiences
  3. To understand how media convergence has led to the popularity and the cult like fan following of Western sports in India
  4. To analyze the Indian sports industry and devise a marketing strategy for building a sports brand in the Indian context

Research Methodology

Research Design

A fan “represents an association from which the individual derives considerable emotional and value significance” (Madrigal, 1995, pp. 209-210). Thus it is not equivalent to being a spectator. Therefore to understand their behaviour and attitude statistical data about what they watch and how often do they watch does not help in the quest to understand what makes them a fan.

Therefore the research methodology would be a mix of quantitative and qualitative as both have their own advantages and contributions to making this study more fruitful.

Quantitative studies use the deductive logic to explain social facts (Horna, 1994, p. 121) and thus would help in understanding the behavioural component. This would help in understanding what the crowd constitutes of and what are the primary scalable attitudes exhibited by them. But this fails to explain the underlying reasons for such behaviour, things that differentiate a fan from a spectator. Thus, qualitative study becomes important too.

Qualitative methods help in exploring the cognitive components. It also helps explaining the longitudinal behaviour of things rather than a mere snapshot of the present scenario which could be gauged from the quantitative.

In depth interviews would be the preferred technique as we seek to understand the reasons why an individual behaves the way he does and not really the collective opinion of a group.

The quantitative research can be carried out by administering a questionnaire online and in person. Some statistics can also be gathered from the various databases and research data available publicly.

Sampling

The research aims to understand how the emergence of media affected the attitude of the people towards Sports in general and the club culture in particular. It is conducted to understand what is it that makes them commit their loyalties to a particular team and how does this affect the economics of the industry.

Only SEC A and B are considered based on the assumption that the SEC's lower than this don't contribute much. Females have been considered as recent researches show that there are an increasing number of women who have started following sports and participating in it. Hence their opinion and perception could be a valuable contribution.

Expected Contribution

After studying the responses from the sample, the research would help arrive at answers to various questions regarding the future of the sports industry in India. Questions like where is the industry headed? What kind of sport would sell? How do the sports brands communicate to the people? How has the convergence of media affected their understanding of the sports industry?

Apart from this it would help brand managers and sports consultants to design the branding strategies for the various sports brands so that they can sustain themselves in this highly competitive and unpredictable market.

Secondary Research: Marketing of Professional Sports

Professional sports started with the leagues specializing in one kind of sport which would run for a season and the league enjoyed a monopoly in the arena. But with the advent of infrastructural facilities and increased investments in the industry of sport management there are multiple leagues fighting for the share of eye and heart. They fight for consumers who have a plethora of other entertainment options to select from. Thus the competition in not limited to just the sports industry but is with the larger entertainment industry (Grauer, 1989).

The one thing that makes professional sports appealing to the audiences is the uncertainty of the results. The adrenaline rush that the spectator experiences with every passing minute is dramatic and cannot be derived from staged content.

“Like other forms of entertainment, sport offers a utopia, a world where everything is simple, dramatic and exciting, and euphoria is always a possibility ... Sport entertains, but can also frustrate, annoy and depress. But it is this very uncertainty that gives its unpredictable joys their characteristic intensity (Whannel,1992, p. 199)”.

The intensity of appeal and engagement with the sport is further enhanced by the association that an individual has with the sport and if there are stakes that he has in the outcome. The concept of Basking in Reflected Glory(BRIG) talks about the highest degree of association where a fan is a loyal even if the team does not perform well(Cialdini, 1976).

Initially the sports leagues were owned by individuals or entrepreneurs but with the growing popularity it has achieved the status of an industry and has been successful in attracting corporate and has taken a more formal structure than a mere source of entertainment. It is due to the involvement of these corporations outside the realm of professional sports management that has brought in newer revenue streams like merchandizing and sponsorships. This model of corporate ownership of a league or a club was started in the USA and was later adopted by the leagues in the continents of Europe and Australia. The biggest advantage of this is that the teams are backed by deep pockets and investment into a team is a part of the investment portfolio of the corporation and not the main business area. Companies like Blockbuster, Disney and Turner from the North American industry of entertainment and broadcasting have benefitted from their presence in professional sports (Cousens and Slack, 1996). This has also helped Rupert Murdoch to extend his empire across the globe. This has also helped in attracting better players as the salaries are far better, improved facilities to train and huge advertising expenditures to build the fan base.

The corporations are not buying into the uncertainty of the game by owning a team but are using the reputation of the team to fuel their interests. For example the treaty between FOX network and the National Football League was not really a profitable venture for the broadcast network as it had to overbid to acquire the rights but as Murdoch puts it, “it has made [FOX] a real network in the US”(Swift, 1995).

Globalization of the Leagues

“Professional sports leagues are now a part of the powerful recreation and entertainment sector of the economy. In addition, sports have “delocalised”; the global marketplace has made sports less attached to specific places, particularly those which have world-wide appeal, such as football and basketball (Euchner, 1993)”. Satellite TV and Internet has sped up the delocalization of professional sports by making the content available across the globe in real time.

The total income of the “Big 5” football leagues in Europe in the year 2005-06 was £12.6 billion ($18.54 billion) (Deloitte and Touche 2007), out of which the Barclay's English Premier League(EPL) was the largest contributor, generating revenues as high as € 2 billion.

The most sought after customers of the industry would be the fans as they are loyal and facilitate generating the revenues required to rope in the best players and management. The media analysts refer the players, the clubs and the leagues as the “brand” (Globalisation of the league, Dr. Bridgewater, 2007). The brands in this industry are not same as the rest but there are strategies that remain the same. When a FMCG brand has to be made global, what companies generally do is start operations in the country where they would like to have a presence. Similarly, the leagues involve other nations or players that have a different nationality to increase the audience base which in turn would lead to building up the fan base which constitutes the target segment for the merchandise.

For example the National Football League (NFL) in the USA announced the first competitive game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants in October 2007, more than a 50,000 tickets were sold within 3 days of the announcement. The buyers comprised of local and expatriate fans. This is representative of the fact that there is huge potential in this industry sector.

The number of “E Loyals”- people who don't hold a season ticket or have been to watch a live match but support the game and the club as they have been exposed to it online or on TV- has been rising in the last few years. They are a segment that is as likely to buy the merchandise as a fan who is a regular at the stadium. Pennants, caps, shirts, flags, bands and other team branded articles are what have led to an increase in the revenues and facilitated penetration in other geographic markets (Cousens and Slack, 1996).

English Premier League (EPL) -A Case Study

English Premier League is a leading association of professional football clubs in the European Union. It has 20 clubs that play in the league every year and follows the system of relegation. Each of these clubs is a shareholder to the league. The EPL came into existence in 1992 when the First Division in the Football League decided to part ways from the Football League as it had struck a lucrative deal for television broadcast rights. It has the largest revenues in the football arena, close to a $4mn in 2007-08. It is perceived to be more glamorous, entertaining and action centred as compared to the rest of the European Leagues like the Serie A and La Liga in Spain. Premier League has undoubtedly grown to be a global brand.

The global fan base of the leading international football brands such as Real Madrid and Manchester United runs in millions of British Pounds and “shows no sign of waning” (Deloitte “Football Money League”,2008)

What is it that determines a person's identification with a club?

A Research conducted in 2002 has identified 5 important factors that govern the association of fans with the team. These are primarily

  • the support that the team gathers at the venue
  • the management of the team
  • the traditions, values, legacy that it entails
  • the social entertainment factor i.e. the fan community that it has, the friends and families that follow the team
  • the pride that the fan derives by being associated with the team

A study of sport fans, primarily amongst the English Premier League's Liverpool Fan Clubs suggests that there are factors that affect the loyalty of foreign supporters. These are: media reach and coverage, the game strategy and kind of play, history of the team or club, the presence of players and their health statistics, participation in various leagues, team successes and the way a team behaves on the field and off it (Jones, 1997).

The international support for teams or clubs in the EPL revolves around the presence of players from different nationalities. For example the Japanese took an avid interest in Arsenal when Inamato joined the team. The signing of Stelios in Bolton upped the Greek support for the club.

But the game has had its share of problems too. The drop in financial support due to the rising incidences of violence and hooliganism, the reduction in the number of attendees at the stadium which led to a drop in the gate revenues. All of this led to a decline in the status that the game once enjoyed.

English Football- A Renaissance:

  1. This changed with the advent of the Premier League structure in 1992.
  2. The inclusion of entrepreneurs to take over the management of the teams and clubs. Example Caspian Group buying out the Queens Park Rangers.
  3. Improved salaries and training facilities for the players
  4. The increasing demand for broadcast and rising advertising revenue. The contract was signed with BSkyB- a leading broadcaster in the Europe and the American subcontinent- for a period of 5 yrs.
  5. The improved rivalry amongst the clubs which made the sport more competitive and interesting to watch.
  6. There has been an increase in the clubs going public by floating shares in the markets. Manchester United and Tottenham to name a few.
  7. With the clubs going public there is an increased pressure to perform and attain certain levels of profitability as the team and organization as a whole is answerable to the shareholders.
  8. Clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have come up with brand extension strategies to leverage the brand value and capitalize the opportunities that the area of merchandizing has opened up. Manchester United is into catering too. They have a range of Beer and Champagne to their name.

Primary Research & Findings:

Objectives:

  • To find out the relationship between the brand perception of a sports brand and the purchase intention
  • To understand what are the mediums that spectators use to communicate and look for information
  • To collectively arrive at clusters that a sports brand can be marketed to Methodology:

The methodology adopted was primarily exploratory. It involved a Qualitative Research followed by a Quantitative Research. The Qualitative Research in the initial phases was carried out by means of In Depth interviews to investigate the behavioural aspects by carefully examining the various perspectives and views that the respondents had. The interviews were in accordance with the Discussion Guide but were unstructured to allow unexpected developments that might lend a different angle to the whole research. This was followed by a Quantitative research to substantiate the findings and arrive at conclusive results.

Qualitative Research

It was carried out by conducting 15 In-depth interviews to identify

  • What constitutes a fan- the behavioral, attitudinal characteristics and what are the different kinds of classifications based on the above
  • What are the various factors that affect the brand perceptions for a sports brand
  • What are the mediums used for communication and for what
  • What is the purchase behavior exhibited by the fans

Research Findings:

The modern day sports sponsorship is not merely a philanthropic act but a strategic business move to reach the target segment. Thus, manufacturers of sports merchandize are always on the lookout to sponsor teams that have a huge fan base so that they can exploit the potential that such a base holds for them. Sports sponsorship has got a global appeal and the ever increasing fee for broadcast rights speaks volumes about the importance that it holds.

“...sport generates fandom that is more intense, more obtrusive, and more enduring than it is for other forms of entertaining social activities without direct participation in the events being watched “ (Zillmann and Paulus, 1993, p. 604).

The size of the fan base is not coincidental but is hugely affected by the marketing initiatives that a club undertakes and the way. Hence studying the behavioural and attitudinal aspects of the spectators and the fans is the first step. Why people start following a sport?

One of the first things to be analyzed is what makes a person get on to become a spectator of the sport. What is it that introduces him to this world of sport and gets him to start following it, be it by reading about it in the sports journal or the newspaper, keeping track of the events happening around the globe in the domain of a particular sport, discussing it with friends, acquaintances or fellow followers over the internet in the virtual world.

Following are a few excerpts from the In Depth interviews conducted and the various reasons cited by the respondents to explain their involvement in the sport:

  • “Sports provide a collective identity to the spectators by involving them in a task that has a common purpose. The sense of affiliation with a group that supports the team that you do satiates a strong need for social identification and acceptance into a group”, says Ankura - a senior year management student from IMT Ghaziabad.
  • “I have been playing basketball since the age of 12. I was introduced to the sport in school and have participated in various competitions. This led to a growth in the interest in the sport and I started following it by reading about it in the sports magazines. I used to watch NBA matches to learn the tricks. Watching Iverson play was a treat to the eyes and would always leave me feeling happy. The pleasure and the sense of achievement that I derive from the fact that I play the sport is what pushes me to track it”, says Rana from the KJ Somaiya Institute of Management.
  • “I am a footballer, have always been. My friends consider me to be an authority in the sport and that is why I follow it closely as I don't want to disappoint them or lose the attention that I receive”, says Tushar, a striker with the team at MDI Gurgaon.
  • “I was fascinated by Badminton as I used to watch my Dad play in the club over weekends. I got my first badminton racquet when I was 8. I was really bad at it, I still am. But my father always follows it on ESPN or Star Sports and I give him company. I wonder how these Koreans play such a fast game and smash the shuttle all over the court”, says Kalpana, a first year student from MDI Gurgaon.
  • “After I watched the movie 'Bend it Like Beckham', I was attracted to the sport of football. I started watching videos on Youtube and then happened to watch the Champions league. This got me hooked onto the sport and now I follow it by watching matches whenever possible and if not that then checking the scores on the official website. I also am active on the fantasy football”, says Shilpi from the IMI Delhi.
  • Manoj Gupta, 2nd year student in IIT Bombay says, “I follow golf regularly and I never miss a tournament which Tiger Woods plays in. It all started a few years back, when they was a lot of coverage in the newspapers which was talking about Woods closing in on some record titles. I stayed up the entire night hoping that I could see history being made. He won the tournament and since then my interest in the game has grown a lot. I havent had the chance to play golf yet, but hopefully one day I will!”

“I studied in a boarding school since I was in Class 4. Some of my friends used to watch Formula 1 (around class 7). One day I watched along with them. Initially, I dint find it that interesting. But then, we started having some “friendly bets” on who would win etc and in a year or 2, I became a staunch supporter of Hakkinen (that time). I have watched many of the races live in the last 10 years and I continue to support Mclaren.”, says Ashwin D from SJSOM, Mumbai

What constitutes a fan and what makes one identify oneself with a team?

Team identification is defined as the level of involvement of a spectator with the team and the way he experiences a sense of loss every time the team performs poorly or loses (Ashforth & Mael, 1989). The social identification theory talks about how a person who supports a team, accepts the outcome of a game as his own fate.

There could be different levels of involvement. A passive spectator would take sports as more of an entertainment avenue, a social interaction topic or an activity to indulge in to relieve stress. Whereas, a person who is placed higher on the involvement scale would be a loyalist. He would support the team to an extent where a team's defeat is taken as a personal failure. It is this loyalty that results in building long term relationships and provides for a target segment that could be used to generate revenues.

Based on the behavioural attitude the fans can be classified into spurious loyals or true loyals. Spurious loyalists are people who do not have a strong positive attitude towards the sport or team but watch it nevertheless. Such people shift loyalties with every game and have very little psychological attachment with the team. Whereas true loyalists are people who have a strong sense of affiliation with the team and care about the long term objectives and success of the team.

The spurious loyals cited that their primary reason to support a team was the present performance of the team in leagues, the presence of a star player who they like to watch. Shrey, a management student from IMT Ghaziabad went on to say, “I support the Rajasthan Royals as I belong to Rajasthan and I have no particular reason to support any other team as all of them are equally bad. But such is not the case with football where I am a staunch supporter of Chelsea as it has a legacy that the other teams would kill for and in the present season it is undoubtedly the best team with the maximum points in the tally and the largest goal differences too.” This also speaks of the fact that the attitudinal dimension of loyalty differs from sport to sport. A person who is a spurious loyal to a team in one sport can be a true loyalist of another team. This is greatly influenced by the involvement that a spectator has in the sport.

Discussions over why a respondent supports a particular team helped identify the various reasons why spectators associate themselves with a particular team. Following are a few excerpts from the in depth interview:

  • “I am a Manchester United Fan ever since I was a 12 year old kid. I have an elder brother and he is a ManU fan too. I have been following the game that ManU plays since then. The team has a legacy and the Reds are invincible. They have won 22 honours and the Old Trafford is the Mecca of EPL. It is the richest club and has the highest revenues too”, says Krishnarjun, an employee with a leading IT company.
  • “I support the Bangalore Royal Challengers as I am a true Kannadiga at heart. I love the sport, especially the 20-20 format and have watched 4 live matches in the 2 seasons of IPL. I have lived in Bangalore all my life and am a staunch supporter of the team irrespective of the heart wrenching defeat in the first season and a dismal performance in the second one”, says Pallavi Rao, an employee at Cognizant Technology solutions.
  • “I am an avid fan of Barcaleno as Messi plays for the club. He is a prodigy, the best player his age and he was even awarded the Ballon dór. Last season was great as he scored close to a 40 goals. Considering the fact that he is my age and has achieved so much in life, has generated immense respect in my heart for him. I shall always and forever cheer for him, even if he is in the decline phase of his career which is definitely not sometime soon”, rants Aditya, a football fanatic.
  • “We are Ferrari fans. I was introduced to F1 3 yrs back when I and a couple of friends went to a sports bar to watch the Italian grand prix. The legend called Schumacher won my heart. My friends who had been following the sport since sometime went on and on about the team dynamics, coordination, efficiency of the Ferrari team. That is when I realised what goes on into the sport of F1 and it is not just mere car racing. We ie me and my friends have been Ferrari fans ever since”, says Ashwin D, management student at the SJSOM Mumbai.
  • What affects the Brand Equity of a Sports Team/Club?

    The interviews conducted with the sports fans and audiences helped me arrive at a conceptual framework to understand the brand equity of a sports brand in the mind of the fans by identifying the various factors that make them memorable, recognizable and popular.

    The respondents were asked their favorite sport, then they were asked to mention the name of what in their opinion is the most popular team or player and why is it that popular.

    Below are a few excerpts from the interviews:

    • Shrey: “Basketball is his favourite sports and he watches the NBA. LA Lakers is the most popular team as it has the maximum number of wins, the highest percentage of wins and has always had excellent coaches like Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. They have made it to the maximum number of championship finals and have an excellent track record. It is a feast to watch the team play as it has nurtured talents like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Magic Johnson. So many reasons why Lakers are the first team to be mentioned when asked about NBA.”
    • Ashwin:”I hog on football. I will stay awake til the wee hours of the morning to watch the EPL matches, The UEFA and the La Liga Espaneol. The most popular club would be the Manchester United as it is always in the limelight. Be it the Glazers or the SAF(Sir Alex Ferguson, the coach) or the stunning performance or the stars that play for it. Beckham, Rooney, Giggs- you name it and they have played for it. It is one club that has evolved with time and is jazzy. The jingoism that reverberates around it is commendable. It is always in the news for the sexy player sign ons, transfers or the controversies in the management. They have excellent marketing strategies too. It is no secret that the major revenues come from merchandize and broadcast right and not the ticket sales. They have signed on players from Asia to attract the attention of the Caucasian and the Asian audiences alike. I read somewhere that the maximum number of United jerseys are sold not in Europe but in China. ”
    • Aditya: “I believe Manchester United is the reigning club in the English Premier League. They have branded themselves quite well. The merchandize, the stores is what sets them apart. The ManU Red Cafes Southeast Asian nations are a rage. The enthusiasm also stems from the elegant colonial heritage that Britain has in these countries.”
    • Pallavi: “I used to think quite high of Manchester United but after the departure of David Beckham my perception of the club has changed. What club is it if it can't retain the best of the players that it has. A player like Beckham who has made the club what it is. ManU can never be the same now that he is gone.”

    Media Channels Used

    The Media consumption by the spectators was carefully studied to arrive at the various touch points that these sports brands have and how can each of these be tapped to market the brands.

    Below are a few excerpts from the Interviews:

    • Krishnarjun: “I grew up on cricket. The only sport I played and associated with. Soccer always came across as an English sport. But after I watched the movie Goal which revolves around Indians staying abroad and soccer, it made me a little open to the idea that soccer is not just an English sport. This happened around the same time I joined college. My friends in college were staunch followers of the sport and that is what changed the whole thing for me. I started taking cricket as more of a mass sport which every boy in every town or city would follow whereas soccer has an elegance that makes it a sport for the classes. There has been no looking back ever since. I watch videos of the goals by Cantona, Pele to brush up on all that I had missed, I read blogs and contribute to discussions post matches, I am an active fantasy football player who follows the teams not just on the field but otherwise too as team selection for fantasy requires you to be up to date with the fitness of the players, team organization and the like. I don't get to watch the matches as I don't have a television in the paying guest accommodation that I stay in but I stay awake and spend the nights when Chelsea plays refreshing the webpage every minute.”
    • Gladson: “I am a sportsbuff and that is the only thing that I watch on television. The sense of thrill, excitement that you feel while watching sports is something that cannot be experienced otherwise. I read the sports section in the newspaper religiously and am up to date with the tournaments in Golf, Cricket, Soccer, F1 and Tennis. The newspapers should also cover NBA, other European Leagues, badminton etc. I guess it is got a lot to do with what sports does your nation has a presence in as that is the sport that receives the maximum coverage and is preferred over the rest. But with the amount of information available on the internet it really is not much of a problem if all of this not reported in the national news. I have a daily routine where I start my day with ESPN website and then go on to read through the official websites of EPL, F1, the grand-slams and the like. The best thing is the way each of these tournaments is spaced out throughout the year so that buffs like me are entertained at all times. I have subscribed to receiving SMSs on the phone which keep me updated of the scores in the cricket match. I would not want to miss the excitement of the sixes and fours scored even if I am on the move and cannot access the TV or internet. I check live scores on cricinfo.com and cricbuzz.com... The live commentary and statistics updates have rendered a more organized and professional status to the sport. At times I actually find myself engrossed in discussions with friends where we discuss the historical performance of the team, the statistics of the players and speculate the outcome of the match based on the location and the pitch it is being played on.”
    • Aneesh: “I am thoroughly enjoying myself here at the sports meet. There is so much action on the grounds and so many sports being played at the same time. It's an extravaganza. My friends back in college keep asking about the outcomes of the matches and guess what I am doing to keep them updated- I am tweeting and the whole campus is following me on twitter. I am impressed by the way technology has advanced and how things have become simple. I update my facebook status with every match that I play by just sending a tweet and I can do all of this by just sending an SMS. The encouragement that I receive from friends back in college is something that boosts my morale. All of this without having to spend a penny. It is like all of them are here with me. ”
    • Sana:”I started following sports because my guy friends discuss it at all times and I felt left out. It started with Wimbledon 3 yrs back. I learned the basic rules of the game from my friends and found it easy to understand it. For history on how it began, the rule about challenges, the record of Federer and the William sisters there was the internet with loads of information to learn from. I used to come to know of the matches for the day from the status messages of the people in gtalk, this is what i say technology being put to good use. You know there were fanatics who would have display messages like '16th for the FED', 'Clash of the titans- the king of clay vs the world no.1'etc ”
    • Ashwin: “I collect issues of sports magazines. Also while travelling I would never lift a news weekly or a lifestyle magazine from the stand as they don't tell you something that you don't already know. The sports magazines on the other hand discuss the game that a person players, articles on what it takes to be the best in what you play, the fitness regime and the tough training schedule that is worse than a fulltime job. All of this is something that increases the respect that you have for the sport, the team and the player many folds.”

    Purchase Intention and the Drivers that govern it

    Licensing and Merchandizing constitute the major source of revenue for the sports brands i.e. the leagues, clubs and teams after the broadcast rights. Thus it is imperative for the marketers to understand the purchase drivers and intentions of the spectators so that the brand communication strategies can be in line with what positioning the brand strives to achieve. The respondents were questioned on what opinion do they have about team licensed merchandize, if they possess any and if yes why did they buy it or would buy it.

    “...I own Arsenal calendars, wristbands, studs, jersey, T shirt, flag and posters. I am a great fan of the club. Each one of my friends and family know that I am crazy about the club. I love to receive arsenal branded merchandize as gifts too. I buy it because it's a way in which I express my support for the team. I can't go to England and watch the matches, though that would be the ultimate fandom but the least that I can do is watch each one of it on TV and buy merchandize that would let the world know of my love for the club. I wear it whenever I go and play, it instils in me the confidence that I can be as good as the team one day ”, says Abhishek, football team captain.

    “I have no particular reasons to buy a Manchester United jersey. I bought it because I watch the sport casually but most of my friends follow it on a regular basis and they own atleast one... so I thought I should get one too as it looks cool. It gives the impression that you follow the sport and makes you feel a part of the group that follows it. I find Rooney really cute and like to sport a T Shirt that is a ManU licensed merchandize. I think it has a great brand value. I mean it is as good as a Nike or an Adidas plus has a Team Logo and player name too”, says Pallavi.

    “I own jerseys of the San Antonio Spurs. The first thing that it communicates to the people is that I am a basketball fan. Also the sporty image that it creates in the mind of the onlookers is something that I would do anything for. I am not all that good at the sport but nevertheless just wearing the jersey while watching the match makes me feel as one in the team and imparts a sense of achievement and pride every time they score”, says Shrey

    The various factors that the target segment looks at before purchasing the merchandise were identified as

    Each of these factors had different weights or importance attached to it by each respondent. Some preferred to settle for nothing but the best and would go as far as asking a friend who visits abroad to get them the merchandize as they are of the opinion that the one that is available in the market here is of an inferior quality or is a fake and not the authentic licensed merchandize.

    “.. When my cousin went to Singapore on a student exchange program, I gave him the money that I had saved to buy myself a Ferrari jacket and a keychain. I always thought that since India does not participate in the sport the product that they sell here would either be a fake or a reject and I did not want to end up spending a few grands on duplicate”,says Krishnarjun

    “I am a sports fan and I admire people who wear branded merchandize. I somehow have monetary constraints and I can never explain it to my parents how a shirt with Messi printed on it is worth a million. I am not allowed to spend more than a couple of hundreds on shirts and none of the licensed ones would fall in the range. I have no choice but to settle for the duplicates in the market as I too want to be a part of the league that follows the sport and admires the prodigy that Messi is”, says Gladstone

    Quantitative Research:

    The Questionnaire was mailed across to 150 respondents. It was circulated amongst a 100 more through social networking sites, chat status and twitter.

    This was done as the estimated attrition rate was close to 50%. Considering the fact that a few respondents would make errors in filling the form the sample size of 250 was selected. The Questionnaire is aimed to substantiate the findings from the Qualitative Research and comprises questions on:

    • Demographics, basic background and affiliation to sports
    • The various mediums like television, newspaper, internet, live events, magazines, radio, mobile, word of mouth that the respondents use
    • Questions that try and gauge the level of involvement into each of these media.
    • The reasons for using a particular media over the other
    • Opinion on merchandizing
    • Understanding the Purchase intention

    Statistics from the Primary Research

    • The explanation for the statistics has been derived from the qualitative research that was carried out.
    • The percentages for a few would add to more than 100 as they were multiple selection type questions.

    Screening Question

    1.1 What Sports do you play?

    The most played sport is Cricket followed by Badminton, Football and Tennis. This could be explained by factors like the media coverage for each of these in India, ease of availability of facilities to play the sport and the popular culture around these.

    Media Consumption: What Sports on each medium and Time Spent on each

    1.2 What sports do you watch on TV and Average Time Spent per day on TV? This is governed by factors like presence of Indian stars and their performance in each of these sports, the fan community existent in colleges and schools, the perceived value of the sport. Cricket wins hands down as that is a religion in India that unites one and all. Tennis has become a lot popular of late due the stunning performances by Paes, Bhupathi, Sania Mirza and children are even taking it up as a professional sport right from the age of 10. The participation in the Under 12 and Under 16 championships from all regions has grown by some 17% in the last 5 years. Soccer has a huge influence as it is considered to be an elite sport and is popular in colleges.

    The large audiences for sports entertainment in general is due to the quality of content available in other genres. The GEC which still continues to be the most watched genre is stagnant and the content is something that the youth does not associate much with. Live events, Reality content, lifestyle and travel is quite popular amongst this segment.

    1.3 What sports do you follow on the internet and Average Time Spent per day? The most popular websites amongst the audience were cricinfo.com and espnsports.com. They log on to these to track scores, see the schedule, discuss the outcome of the match with people who have common interests, discuss the performance of the team and players.

    Majority of the people use the internet to follow cricket. Primary reason being the popularity of the sport, the active participation of the country in the sport, the IPL, the unavailability of television in hostels leaves no choice but to follow the sport online.

    1.4 What sports do you follow in the Newspapers/Sports Magazines and Average Time spent?

    Sports fan generally go through the sports section of the newspaper regularly and hence are aware of the various sports reported in the most popular newspapers. They would not really go out of their way to search for information regarding sports that they do not enjoy. Mostly magazines are bought when people travel. Very few subscribed to the sports magazines as information is available on the internet.

    1.5 What sports do you follow on the mobile phone and Average Time Spent per day? The percentage of people who use mobile for tracking their favourite sport reduces considerably as most of these services are charged and people do not see value in the proposition of paying to receive the score updates. Thus cricket is the only sport that is followed through this medium.

    1.6 Involvement across Mediums:

  • Internet has the highest audience engagement and for the maximum amount of time too (>30 mins).Even amongst audience who access a media for 20-30 min, internet is more popular as compared to television. The advantage being that internet provides you the choice to view (videos, live stream) or read content about whichever sport you want at any given time. Whereas, television does not give the audience the freedom to choose when it comes to content. Though a number of sports channels are broadcast but they don't air all the leagues possible. Also each of these medium has a specific reason to engage the audiences. Television is solely to watch the events live. Internet is for discussions, information gathering, watch repeats and videos as and when required. Print is primarily newspapers to get a daily update on what is happening in the sports arena. It is more habitual than by choice. A few respondents mentioned that internet has become more of a habit.
  • Krishnarjun says, “The first thing I do, the moment I log on to the net is to visit the cricinfo and epl webpages to check out what is scheduled for the day and read the updates and articles.”

    Understanding the fan behavior- Since When, Why and How?

    1.7 Since when have they be following their favorite sport?

    Majority of the respondents started following their favourite sport at an early age of below 15yrs of age. This brings to the attention the fact that it is important to catch these people young who would grow up to become the brand proprietors.

    It is also representative of the fact that as you grow older, the tendency to get hooked on to a sport reduces. Thus the primary influencers to promoting a sport are people like your friends in school, college and family who you are surrounded by till you in your mid twenties.

    1.8 Why is it their favorite team/player?

    When asked to rate the most important factor that makes them become a fan of a particular club, team or player 33% respondents mentioned that the historical performance and the legacy that entails is what is the most important.

    There were a few who had strong regional affiliations and no matter what, they would support the team that plays for their region, country or state. The performance of the team is overlooked and nothing deters their support to the team or player. Such loyalists are easy to market to and some 18% of the respondents belonged to this section.

    Presence of star players and the present performance of the team were rated as important by 20% and 25% of the respondents respectively. This is a group of people who would switch loyalties easily as their support to the team is based on factors that are relatively more dynamic.

    1.9 What made them start following it?

    A majority of 33% of the respondents started following their favourite sport by watching it on television. This is indicative of the fact that this is the most important medium to get people interested in the sport. This should not come as a surprise as the value that sports entertainment has over any other content is that it is live and the rest is recorded. Live content is something that people relate to easily and the adrenaline rush that it makes the spectator experience cannot be achieved through pre recorded content, be it real life or fictional.

    A sizeable percentage of people started following their favourite sport as their friends or family members do so. The peer group is extremely important in generating interest in the minds of a potential spectator.

    25% of the respondents follow the sport as they play it and like to keep themselves updated on the developments in the same arena.

    1.10 Where do they follow it?

    The most popular medium used to follow the sport is television, almost 84% of them. 77% respondents track their teams on sports websites too. Websites like cricinfo.com, epl.com, nba.com are a major source of information. Radio too sees a mention as the local radio stations like Mirchi, Red FM have started mentioning cricket scores in between programs to grab attention. Also a lot of people access radio through their mobile phones and this has revived the almost dead medium.

    Cluster 1: Fashion wannabes

    These are a group of people who are not into sports but buy the merchandize as just another piece of fashion accessory or garment. They would buy a team shirt not because they like the team or even the sport for that matter of fact but would purchase it as they think “it looks cool”, “it is fashionable”, “it makes them look sporty”. They would buy the merchandize purely for the way it looks, the appeal that it invokes in the mind of the onlookers and to get noticed or grab attention.

    They do not compromise on the quality of the product or the brand and therefore would buy merchandise from the showroom and original ones too. They think buying something that is a fake is kind of a violation of their social culture.

    Cluster2: Sporty look aspirers

    Clothing has always been a society driven phenomena. People dress up a particular way to seek acceptance into a particular peer group. This provides them the confidence to move around with an aura of a sportsman. They don't really care about the quality of the merchandise and are price conscious. They would even buy fake merchandise as it serves the purpose just right. “I saw a friend wearing it and I would like to own one too”, “each one of my college friends has some or the other merchandize from a football club, they discuss about it all the time. I too would want to be a part of it”. All that they really seek is social affiliation and blindly follow the influencers, which in this case would be a bunch of sports buff or other wannabes. They do understand the sport but don't really associate with it to the extent that they would spend a lot of money to make it known to the others. Their association is more of a social engagement than an emotional one. They would wear the team colour, buy merchandise but would not be really moved by the way the team performs.

    Cluster 3: Sports Buff

    These are people who are the true sports fan. They live on sports and would go to any extent to express their affection for the team, club or player. They follow the sport- be it watching, discussing, playing- all of it! “I have never missed an Arsenal match”, “I bought a Ganguly 99 Jersey as he is my inspiration”, “? bought myself a ManU watch after it won the EPL for the third time in a row”. They also have knowledge of the classic victories, the goal scorers, the phenomenal goals and opponents in cup runs and most other past successes.

    These people are also influencers to the other two categories. It is their love for the sport, the nonchalant attitude that makes them admired. They would settle for nothing but the original product. This is something that they treasure and it is more important than any other thing in their closet or on their table. They don't really care if the jersey is lanky or the calendar is not all that good as long as it is from the team they die for.

    TV & Newspaper Heavy Users:

    This constitutes people mostly in the metros or studying in colleges and staying at home who have access to a TV. These people follow their team on TV- watch the sports channel, news and also track it on the newspaper by checking out scores and reading articles. They would not use the internet for watching the live telecast or buffered videos from the sport. Internet is used to gather information once in a while and not to watch matches.

    Only Internet Users:

    This is a cluster that has access to the internet but not to television. They comprise of people who are studying in colleges where either there is no television access or there is a common TV. It also comprise of people working and staying in rented or shared accommodation where they do have internet access. Such people keep on refreshing websites that update the scores and watch live streams of the videos from the matches. They read about the sport on blogs, official websites, sports websites and the likes. They would even contribute in the discussions online and have no other medium to turn to. Their attention span is high as they don't navigate from one page to the other frequently, whereas, a person who watches the sport on TV would switch channels often.

    A Little Bit of all:

    This constitutes of people who keep track of what is happening by accessing all possible mediums- be it print, broadcast or emerging media. They would read newspaper for a while, read magazines too on and off, watch TV - maybe not as religiously as the TV heavy users and have access to the internet which they may not use to follow sports.

    Recommendations:

    The area of sports marketing in India has finally started to take a professional approach due to the presence of foreign brands exploring the Indian markets. The opening up of media and broadcast industry has given impetus to the industry by popularizing foreign sports. There is an increased focus on revenues from merchandizing and licensing of a sports brand than ever before. The leagues in the Europe and the American sub continent have set an example to follow.

    1. Recommendations for New Media in Branding Sports in India

    • Live streaming is an important media channel that the youth audience uses due to the unavailability of access to television. The sports brand should strive to have a prominent presence here. Not just the scores should be updated but live match to be telecast online. The League owners can sign a contract with websites like youtube.com, espn.com to provide the videos.
    • Social networking websites have a great potential. Twitter, facebook, orkut have millions of users and the youth in the target segment is present on these websites for large amount of time. These are quite engaging and provides a platform where the influencers i.e. the friend network is present too. The status messages on facebook, the tweets can prove to be effective ways to promote the brand. Discussions on matches (the product of the brand) can lead to enhanced awareness amongst the audiences. The players can have profiles online and add the fans, this provides for a higher level of engagement and affiliation.
    • The merchandize can be advertised as banner ads on these websites which are the most visited by the potential target segment.
    • The teams (the sub brands) website is a hygiene factor to build a legacy that would be tough to be wiped out. Most of them do have a website but it is not appealing. It should lay emphasis on co created content and provide a platform for fan engagement.
    • Media rights for branded online games, broadcast rights can be leveraged to charge a premium and establish syndications. Example: BSkyB and the Premiership.
    • They can have a fan magazine that would be delivered on subscription. This would impart exclusivity to the group.

    2. Recommendations for Merchandizing

    • The teams or clubs should come up with a range of merchandize and not just the jersey. This could include sports gear like shirts, caps, bandanas, wrist bands, towels, shoes, mugs, key chains, flags, calendars so that they have a range where there is something for everyone.
    • The people expressed dislike towards the branded jerseys of the clubs in IPL as they look like “billboards” with multiple sponsors and the outrageous colors. They would not like wearing it anywhere except when watching the match at a stadium.
    • Range of branded sports equipment present in sports retail stores.
    • There are a lot of phony brands present in the market. There is a Liverpool and a Barcelona and neither of the two have anything to do with the football clubs. They manage to pull a crowd too. Hence there is a huge opportunity here. The brands once established can even have a standalone store. This would lend it a character and the store would have interiors that live the story of the brand. This makes it exclusive.
    • They can start leagues of their own with other nations. Say the Royal challengers play a “League of the Royals” with teams from South Africa, England and Australia. This would help push the merchandize and also establish the brand in different geographies. It would help the brand have global presence.
    • Players can come up with a range dedicated to them. Tendulkar can leverage his brand value to come up with a range of branded bats. Sania Mirza can have a clothing range named after her. Partnerships with sports brands like Nike, Adidas can be expedited. Other partnerships with garment manufacturers like Madura, Raymonds can also be looked at.

    3. Indian Premier League (IPL) has a huge potential to grow and can implement strategies to suit the needs of the Indian audiences.

    • The way forward would be to develop a fan base by tapping into the various avenues to reach the audiences. Steps to build a strong brand association and identity should be undertaken. The brand should be built around the non product related attributes as that is what is sustainable in the long run because the composition of the team, the performance and the likes are subject to instability and discontinuity.
    • Introducing relationship marketing schemes for the loyalists. Clubs should organize fan tournaments and thereby provide a platform for the fans to live what they dream of.
    • The fans too should be carefully profiled so that each identified segment can be catered to. The sports buffs who have a higher level of engagement with the brand can be the target segment for the extensions that the brand plans to come up with. This would be an effective use of cross selling.
    • The brands should spend money on highlighting their positive aspects as that directly leads to strengthening the association with the fans by augmenting their self esteem. They could get involved with a social cause like drug addiction as this would directly impact the image that the team has in the minds of the fans.
    • The teams should be made more accessible to the fans by organizing “meet your favorite player” contest or a mid night rally or a sports camp for the youth or a picture signing session. This leaves an indelible mark on the minds of the consumers and makes them a loyalist for life.
    • Once the base has been established the teams can look at brand extensions by foraying into related categories like business lines in sports bar management, hospitality, recreation parks, a club museum, organization of division leagues etc.

    Conclusion:

    The high levels of competition in this industry leads to a sense of “short term benefit” orientation where the sports brand invest in roping in celebrity endorsers and mass media campaigns, i.e. the time tested conventional way. With the technological evolution of the youth, it is a new ball game altogether. We have 10 yr old, school going children registered for social networking, using the internet to gather information for assignments, playing games online or on handheld devices, extremely mobile phone savvy and hooked onto the television. It is this generation that lives ahead of its times.

    Thus the perception of a sports brand (includes clubs, leagues, players, brand extensions into merchandize, hospitality) was studied amongst the youth (15-25yrs) in age to arrive at the factors that lead to making purchase decisions and the clusters existent amongst the youth based on the similarity that they exhibit in perceiving sports brand and their purchase behaviour.

    Thus the brands can select the target segment and position themselves accordingly so that they appeal to the segment identified, be it the Fashion Wannabes, the Sports Buffs or the Sporty Look Aspirers.

    Though the sports have gone professional and sports brands comprise of not just the players and the game but a huge array of things like the management, merchandize and brand extensions like secondary businesses that generate revenue by leveraging the brand value established by the sport. But, what should be kept in mind is that though all these are important business division units the most important factor that affects the brand equity is the team and the game. It continues to be the sole decision variable when it comes to being a brand loyalist or a proprietor. The team management would be more of a “corporate identity” building criteria.

    There are infinite possibilities to sell a sports brand and they are quite contextual too. This research provides a starting point and a fresh outlook on how branding has been redefined in this era of media convergence and on the purpose that their brand is fulfilling.

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