Stars prescribe packaging formula to boost other sports

Create stars. Create a Sania Mi­rza, a Leander Paes, a Saina Ne­hwal, a Mithali Raj. Wrap the­m in gold and watch the eyeballs fl­ood in.​

Published: 30th November 2017 01:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th November 2017 11:18 AM   |  A+A-

Sania Mirza, Harsha Bhogle at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit | R Satish babu

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD: How does a sport like tennis gain eyeballs in a land where men’s cr­icket is a religion? How can a sp­ort like badminton compete with the likes of cricket’s superstars? How can a national woman cricketer get access to the same resources her male compatriots do?

Create stars. Create a Sania Mi­rza, a Leander Paes, a Saina Ne­hwal, a Mithali Raj. Wrap the­m in gold and watch the eyeballs fl­ood in. Because, eyeballs mean money, and money is a prerequisite for growth.

This was the takeaway from the Global Entrepreneurship Summit’s masterclass on ‘The Business of Winning at Sports Entrepreneurship’ on Wednesday. The GES is held from November 28 to 30 in Hyderabad. The panel, boasting a who’s who of stars from the non-cricke­t­ing sports world, and moderated by commentator Harsha Bhogle, wa­sted no time in getting to the me­at of why other sports have not gained much traction in Ind­ia and how sports entrepreneurs can succeed in such an environment.

The answer, martial arts expert and entrepreneur Chatri Sityodtong asserted, lies in how sports as a business is viewed in Asia — due to the game of econ­o­m­ic catch-up Asian economies are playing with the West. “We do­n’t view sports as business. Focus was on infrastructure so far. In a few years, though, sports in Asia is going to explode as peo­ple understand this is massive business,” Sityodtong said.

“The IPL went from zero to a fe­w billion dollars because of gr­e­at entrepreneurs and a great ma­rketing plan. IPL gets eyeballs not because of any intrinsic th­i­ng, but because there’s great sta­r­s, marketing, packaging and media exposure,” he said.

Badminton coach P Gopichand agreed. “Whether we like it or not, that is the direction. It has to go that way to survive”.

Sania too said cricket has been cr­eating stars for decades. “How many tennis stars ca­n­ you name other than Paes, Ma­­hesh or Sania? There is not a fo­urth star.” She pointed out that Bo­llywood-style packaging alone is not going to make a sport “se­xy”.

A prime example of what med­ia attention can do to promote a sp­ort was on the panel. Women’s cr­icket captain Mithali stressed on­ how infrastructure could play a vital role. “As an India player, I travelled in unreserved coaches. We have come a long way since. Had proper facilities been available back then, maybe the standard of the game would have improved by miles,” she pointed out.

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