It’s been a pretty long journey for IOS Sports & Entertainment, India’s leading sports management and marketing firm, which marked it’s 15-year anniversary today. While the entire Indian sports ecosystem had been thriving on the popularity of cricket, IOS Sports & Entertainment has been the market leader in non-cricket sports. Apart from the athletes, it also holds exclusive marketing rights of the Indian Olympic Association and has been working as a marketing firm with national sports federations and various sports leagues. Founded in 2005, the Delhi-based firm develops and manages a diverse portfolio of sports and entertainment properties, with an operating model that provides a 360-degree value add for all our stakeholders.
IOS Sports and Entertainment manages leading sports stars including Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, Manika Batra, Hima Das and Mirabai Chanu, among others.
The Bridge got an opportunity to interact with Mr Neerav Tomar, CEO and Managing Director of IOS Sports and Entertainment, who shared the story of the 15-year-old successful journey and how it brought a revolution in the Indian sports ecosystem. “When we started off, the Indian sports industry was at a very nascent stage. There were no leads. Olympic sports was not looked at the way it was. And the only medal we had won was Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver in 2004. The professional management and commercialisation of sports were also at its infancy. In 2005, I was fresh out of university and was passionate. The vision was to do something around sports and remain in that domain. After getting investments, we set up our company and boxer we signed boxer Vijender Singh, who eventually, of course, went on to win the bronze medal in 2008. This is how it all started,” said Tomar.
The 37-year-old entrepreneur adds, “We also signed Mary in 2009 and she also won a medal at the 2012 Olympics. Having two Indian Olympic medallist boxers with us was a moment of big pride and reflects our incredible journey.”
In 2015, IOS entered the cricket domain after staying out for 10 years. They started by signing Suresh Raina. Before that, they were one of the first firms to be in the Indian football scene as well. “Signing Raina was a huge benchmark because we had not entered cricket before 2015. And before that, we had the Indian Hockey League, the Indian Football League. We entered football in 2006 when we acquired the rights of New Delhi Heroes, a club established in 1939. I am also planning to bring a revival of the club,” said Tomar.
The sports management firm has been representing Mary Kom exclusively since 2009. During this decade long relationship IOS has been responsible in tying up with more than 25 brands like Herbalife, Emami, Dalmia Cement, Bridgestone Tyres, Tata Salt, P&G, GSK, NECC, Lakshmi Tea, Monnet, Piramal, Artemis Hospital, Manpasand Beverages, Vodafone, ITC, Tourism Thailand Authority, Star India etc. IOS also facilitated the licensing deal with the Priyanka Chopra-starrer Mary Kom, which was produced by Sanjay Leela Bansali and ViaCom 18 Motion Pictures. The company has also been the marketing agency for the biopic. “Director Omung approached us in January 2012. He wanted to make Mary a household name. Sanjay Leela Bhansali agreed to produce the movie and Priyanka Chopra was roped in. We had done the book deal as well with Harper Collins. We did both the film and book as branded content. Because we were a sports company and we had the brands of Mary, we brought in more than 1,213 brands inside the film, which was a branded content project. It was a licensing deal which got Mary into houses of people in this country,” he adds.
Over the 15 years, IOS had the opportunity to work with more than 250 people and some of the sporting brands of the country which has brought about a win-win situation in the Indian sports ecosystem. In the last couple of years, IOS has been focussed on signing up youngsters who hold plenty of promise in the coming days of Indian sports, which is taking the firm towards a new direction. Tomar says, “I have given the other managers a free hand and let them decide who they want to sign. In 15 years of existence, we have become like an autopilot system also, where anybody who’s coming up would know about us and we would have the access to the person or the Federation and we would go and sign people with good potential.”
Apart from the sphere of managing athletes, IOS has been associated with over 250 deals with more than 500 brands. And it has been quite a brilliant journey to create the market for Olympic sports athletes. They are now hoping to make bigger strides with the athletes on board. However, it has been done by crossing my roadblocks. Tomar concludes, “In 2009, Vijender had left us for a year. That was a setback. However, he came back later and we had signed Mary at that time. It was a tough time. Also, in 2016, the demonetisation brought a big setback to sponsors and brands, which was another downtime for us.”