Affinity towards sports branding is moving upwards, says Spykar COO Sanjay Vakharia
Having signed a two-season sponsorship deal with Rising Pune Supergiants last year, Spykar COO, Sanjay Vakharia, tells Firstpost why sport is becoming the first pick for leading brands.
"A new era begins now. With Puma." Last month, Virat Kohli sent the market into a frenzy by penning down a Rs 110-crore deal with international sports lifestyle brand Puma. With the landmark announcement, Kohli became the first Indian sportsperson to go past the Rs 100-crore mark as regards a deal with a single brand.
The contract not only signified the ever-increasing stature of the Indian captain but also the increasing interest of brands in getting associated with sports. In the last few years, the market has seen an exponential rise in sports sponsorship where brands have harnessed sports as successful medium for communication about the brands. One such brand which has jumped on the sporting bandwagon is home-grown apparel brand Spykar. The denim major decided to engage with the Indian Premier League by investing Rs 20 crore on a two-season sponsorship deal with new franchise Rising Pune Supergiants, last year. Firstpost sat down with Sanjay Vakharia, COO Spykar Lifestyle Pvt Ltd, to understand why sport is becoming the first pick for leading brands and the ingredients of brand-sport relationship.
FP: What made Spykar get into cricket?
Sanjay Vakharia: Spykar addresses the ever dynamic Indian youth market, and cricket is all about exhibiting talent and reaching out to enthusiastic audiences, which is where the root of the association lies. IPL is one of the few sporting events, which cuts across the entire spectrum of towns and cities and resonates well with both men and women. With the wide reach this sport offers and considering we are strengthening our base in tier two and three cities as well — this was an appropriate tie up.
FP: What factors are taken into account by a brand while choosing an athlete/team?
Sanjay Vakharia: The team should match the spirit and ethos of the brand.
FP: Why did Spykar choose Rising Pune Supergiants?
Sanjay: A team mix of young , enthusiastic, skilled players resonates well with Spykar.
Does a brand decide to invest taking into account few star attractions in the team or is it the overall stature of the team that matters?
Sanjay: It’s the overall team mix.
FP: Is two months of high-octane cricket an overdose? Research indicates that consumers see this as an overkill, did you take these things into consideration while deciding?
Sanjay: Cricket is evergreen in India , the fan following is immense, the excitement levels are high. Irrespective of the opinions that keep floating, the two months will be as much fun and as nail-biting as they should be. And we are sure the Rising Pune Supergiants team will come back strongly and demonstrate that they are as strong on the pitch as on paper.
FP: Apart from the sponsorship money, what does a team expect from the brand?
Sanjay: The team would expect a sync with the brand it is associating. A force fit is not something that is well-received.
FP: Is cricket the fastest way to grow a brand these days?
Sanjay: A brand building exercise is a continuous effort and has a 360 degree approach. Considering the varied interest levels of our young consumers – only getting skewed to one genre is not something we as a brand believe in. However, the visibility we get with the logo on the back of the RPS jersey is noteworthy.
FP: How do you see the increasing association of brands with sport growing?
Sanjay: Sport is looked upon as a serious effort and not just a free time activity. Hence the affinity to sports branding is moving upwards.
FP: Do brands consider it as their responsibility to grow sports in India?
Sanjay: It’s thoughtful to give the youth a platform and encourage more people to opt for this field as a profession and not just as a hobby. Each brand has their own objective. We personally believe that by supporting such events we are helping in our own little way in boosting the support system and building confidence amongst the youth.
FP: How does a brand help in increasing the connect between the fans and the team?
Sanjay: The patrons of a brand trust the associations the brand does – it helps in bonding the fans and the team further.
FP: While it's all about attracting the fans, does a brand try to build a personal connect with the players too?
Sanjay: It’s the team we support and not an individual player.
FP: What brand/promotional campaign are you planning to launch for your consumers and IPL fans?
Sanjay: We plan to launch Spykar RPS perfumes.
FP: What are the biggest challenges a brand faces while sponsoring a sports team?
Sanjay: With the kind of pressure the players go through during the tournament, the brand needs to ensure the comfort level of the players, the stringent schedules and at the same time optimise the association.
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