What's the role of a goodwill ambassador? IOA getting Sachin this late feels like a gimmick

Imagine a very simple scenario where you are asked a couple of loaded questions: Do you want to take care of your family? Would you like to do something good for the country? What would your answer be to either of these two questions? Think it out.

Now, imagine Sachin Tendulkar’s predicament when the Indian Olympic Association requested him to be the goodwill ambassador for the Indian contingent to the Rio Olympics.

“Sachin Tendulkar has accepted our request to become goodwill ambassador of Indian contingent at the Olympics. We have received the official communication from him accepting our request," said IOA Secretary General Rajiv Mehta.

Sachin Tendulkar. Getty

Sachin Tendulkar. Getty

But did Tendulkar have a choice? If anything he was presented with a fait accompli. If he had declined, the media would have gone to town with articles and talk shows calling him selfish, anti-national, indifferent and a whole lot of other labels. Further there would have been calls to strip him of his Rajya Sabha membership, national awards, national recognition, etc, etc.

Thus Tendulkar had only the easiest and certainly most prudent way out: to agree to serve as the goodwill ambassador!

Among other things that he said in his acceptance letter to the IOA, he wrote: “It will be my pleasure to meet these world-class athletes before they leave for Rio to learn about their experiences and preparations.

“I am also happy to be part of any awareness campaign that can rally the country around our athletes and motivate them, including amplifying their efforts and success on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.. .. I am keen to rally enhanced support for our champion athletes. I look forward to receiving details on your planned initiatives towards this objective. My best wishes to the entire contingent as we look forward to them proudly expressing themselves in Rio!”

It is obvious that the decision to appoint Tendulkar as goodwill ambassador came only after the IOA copped plenty of flak from sportsmen and media for their choice of Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the first place.

They hurriedly added a few others, including Tendulkar, in the hope that they could ride the Salman storm.

But what begs the question, whether Salman Khan or Tendulkar or AR Rehman or anybody else for that matter is, what is the role of the goodwill ambassador? Would he have to go to Brazil and represent the IOA contingent there or would he simply serve the role in India?

Major FMCGs, banks, and other big consumer brands appoint celebrities as Brand Ambassador in the hope that the celebrity’s association with the brand would boost sales. The Brand Ambassador’s services could be utilised in a variety of ways to promote the brand. These could include addressing dealers, customers, opening retail dealership showrooms, endorsements, appearing for media interviews, customer interaction, etc.

Would a Tendulkar as goodwill ambassador take interviews on the medal prospects of the Rio Olympics athletes or speak about their training methods, diet, etc? Or would he inaugurate training sessions, launch clothing range and the like? Or would he endorse IOA’s structure and practices?

Actually, the IOA if it really wanted to involve Tendulkar could have made him a mentor where he could reveal to athletes his experience with mental toughness. He was a champion in handling stress before and during competition and inputs from him on this score would have been invaluable. He could have talked on the fear of failure, handling expectations, mind games, training to build up to competition, importance of rest, recreation, focus, etc.

Instead, the IOA who revealed that they had roped in 2008 Olympics shooting gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and also hoped to get Oscar-award winning music composer AR Rahman to hop on to the bandwagon said that “these iconic sportspersons and celebrities will spread the idea of Olympic movement in every nook and corner of the country, every village, block and city of India.

"They will help in building up a sporting culture in this country. We need a sporting culture if we want to become a sporting country."

Noble intentions no doubt but this process should have been set in motion 15 to 20 years ago to ramp up for the Rio Olympics starting this August 5th. May be a Lodha-like committee would set things right here too. After all the Rio Olympics is just 90 days away, and the IOA is now talking of “building up a sporting culture in this country.”

Actually Tendulkar himself has offered to amplify “efforts on Twitter and Facebook to rally the country around the athletes.” There certainly won’t be too many budding athletes in villages and far flung areas of India who’d be on social media and hence television or even radio might be the best bet to create awareness even if that would be for events 20 years hence.

This won’t be a bad idea, provided IOA can plan that far ahead. Else this goodwill ambassador bit looks, feels and smells of another IOA gimmick.

Updated Date: May 05, 2016 14:14 PM

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