We live in unprecedented times. The global COVID-19 pandemic has led to most countries adopting strict social distancing measures, and with millions of people are forced to stay at home. When many of us would typically be attending sports events or at least watching them live on TV, pretty much all major sports have been cancelled or postponed until further notice. Although European football leagues have slowly started taking shape with empty stadiums, sports in India is yet to resume.
The Bridge hosted a webinar with Mr Paroksh Chawla, CEO, ITW Catalyst, to discuss the challenges for sports in post coronavirus world. ITW Consulting Pvt. Ltd leaps forward into the of Global Business Consulting with the launch of ITW Catalyst, a Sports, entertainment and media Consulting solution. ITW Catalyst, as the name suggests, acts as a catalyst in initiating brands into an extensive global network of opportunities for maximizing its outreach & turbo charge the process of reaching its desired goals using high powered marketing platforms such as sports.
As an arm of the Global Sports Marketing company – ITW Consulting Pvt. Ltd, one of the first deals ITW Catalyst was instrumental in making was between Marriott Bonvoy and the Mumbai Indians. As the consultant for Marriott Bonvoy (An exclusive customer loyalty program of the Marriott International) and Mumbai Indians, ITW Catalyst helped the two put together the landmark sponsorship deal by bringing out the best a sports marketing platform has to offer.
Talking about the sports sponsorship ecosystem in the Indian market, Chawla said, "The sponsorship scene evolved in the Indian market around 25 years ago, in 1995-96, where it became the main feature of the marketing plan. Every year we are seeing new innovations in sponsorship deals in sports."
ITW has been the brand behind BYJU's deal with the BCCI and also association between Mumbai Indians and Marriott Bonvoi. Reflecting upon these two deals, Chawla said, "Both the deals are unique. While Byju's were looking for national prominence, connecting with the Indian team would also yield an emotional connection. Whereas, Marriott is more about experiences. The association would bring out new experiences for the fans."
He tells when it comes to sports, cricket and Olympics sports are two unique ideas. While cricket is a kind of religion, Olympic sports is still growing. Grassroots has a big role to play in Olympics. There are academies opening up in every corners of India to fetch international level athletes in Olympic sports. On the brand perspective, it is moving in a greater scale. And more brand partners are being associated with the Olympic team. In 2012, there were just two partners, while in 2016, there were eight brands associated with the Indian Olympics contingent.
The COVID-19 scenario has hit the brand and sponsorship market and he believes that every brand has to find unique solution to get back to their customers. "There are two sides of the sports sponsorship deal ost COVID-19, one is brand side and another is right-holder side. While we will assess how much loss have been incurred in the right-holder side, we also need to find out what it will take to get back to the new normal side of the things. We know the fact that due to the pandemic, many brands are in a difficult situation. So after COVID, we need to identify the right brands for sponsorships. Owing to the pandemic, new categories have sprung up, so we would focus on this new brands for sponsorships. Digital content could be the biggest source of sponsorship. A brand should try to create a diverse portfolio to connect with their customers," says Chawla.
Further narrating about the IPL scenario on sponsorship, Chawla said, "Brands have been associated with IPL for a long time and brands will still be associated with IPL, since it is the biggest tournament to reach out to audience. For any brand, the most important concern is bring back business. Whether there will be any price reduction, it will entirely depend on how IPL will shape out to be, format-wise."