A juggernaut in the tyre manufacturing industry and heavily invested in sports, CEAT Limited, in its venture of promoting and supporting supercross, acquired the title sponsorship rights to the Indian Supercross Racing League (ISRL) in June 2023.
CEAT Limited, owned by the RPG Group, has been invested in dirt biking for the past decade and took a few more steps by affiliating with ISRL and initiating the Enduro Track training program.
To understand in detail CEAT’s strategy of helming the sport and sustaining it, SportsMint Media conducted an exclusive interview with Lakshmi Narayanan B, Chief Marketing Officer of CEAT Limited. Mr Narayanan spoke about the competition being financially viable, further editions of ISRL, credible riders acquiring ISRL franchises, and much more.
1. What was the selling point for CEAT to partner up with the inaugural edition of the Indian Supercross Racing League?
The first and most important factor for CEAT Tyres is that the Indian riders are changing. Recently, we have seen a lot of riders taking an interest in dirt biking and now they need access to see how the sport can evolve. Last year we conducted Enduro Training Programs in Bangalore, Pune, and Delhi, and the kind of interest that riders were willing to exhibit allowed us to understand their world.
Several more competitions like the CEAT ISRL will provide great opportunities for aspiring riders to build this passion into a profession. In this competition, Indian and international riders are participating, which could enable the former to recognise the opportunity of the sport in full glory.
2. Are there any parameters or benchmarks set by CEAT for renewing this association with ISRL for further editions?
We are not here for the sponsorship but purely because our association with the people who started this league goes a long way. CEAT Tyres isn’t new to the world of dirt biking as we’ve been associated with this sport for a long period.
Considering the association, there is also a passion within CEAT to promote this sport. As much as one looks at this as a sponsorship, there is also a powerful opportunity to build the sport and connect with consumers. In today’s time, multiple riders have the willingness to explore, but they need platforms, avenues, and opportunities.
CEAT would want to provide that opportunity because we take it upon ourselves and having been in the sport for so long we think we should sustain it.
3. How will this competition help riders monetarily and inspire further generations to participate in the sport?
The most important factor is to make the competition financially viable. The structure of the league, a franchisee-based tournament, is very interesting with six teams financially backing the players and creating not just vehicles but also riders. We hope that this competition becomes a major opportunity for everyone to participate. We’ll have to wait and watch how CEAT ISRL becomes viable for riders to make it a full-time sport. But we are pretty confident at least by interacting with the franchises as they’re also committed to staying in the sport for a long duration.
We are pretty sure that it’ll financially make sense for everyone, from sponsors to the teams to even the riders.
4. What are your thoughts on the likes of CS Santosh and Gaurav Gill coming on board as franchise owners?
We are very happy that people who have made a name for themselves in this sport have been associated with the competition as franchise owners. The initial first league, usually, tells about brands and people who are truly passionate about this sport. This is the first filter that brings the true aspirations and inspirations of people to the forefront. We are also very glad that the people who are running the sport are quite sincere and want to take it forward and that also matters a lot for CEAT.
5. What major differences did CEAT find while partnering with marquee cricket competitions and a supercross tournament in its inaugural season?
We have been partners of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for quite some time and the “Strategic Time-Out” in the very league is synonymous with our brand. We work on cricket because it’s the passion of people from within, but we have realised that the newer generation is very keen on motorsports.
We recently partnered up with Geoffrey Emmanuel, who is the first Indian to participate in the FIM World JuniorGP World Championship. He is a young lad and we’ve chosen to partner and sponsor him in his direction as well.
Cricket is the language of the country and we should be heavily indulged in it. But we also plan to cater to a certain niche audience of motorsport as we see potential in it.
6. How vital will it be for CEAT ISRL to have a popular rider who could be the crowd puller and also attract brands?
In the initial stages of the competition, it is vital that the sport takes precedence and it doesn’t become about just one player. The custodians of the competition who have worked immensely on the sport for the past few years are also of the opinion that the sport should be at the forefront. CEAT ISRL contains international players and the primary idea is to provide exposure to the Indian riders by interacting and training with them.
Such opportunities will be cherished by the Indian riders as throughout the competition they will be spending a lot of time with an experienced bunch of international riders.
7. What happened between the scenes while finalizing CEAT as the title sponsor of the inaugural ISRL season?
Two of the three co-founders, Eeshaan Lokhande and Veer Patel, have been associated with CEAT for a very long time. Back in the day, when they were actively riding, they were utilising CEAT Tyres, and the confidence they had in the product was quite robust. The first pitch they gave to us was of the “Title Sponsorship”.
We have known them for decades, and we know their passion and commitment to this sport and competition and that’s how the journey started. We are also expanding in this particular segment, so it’s a win-win situation for both CEAT and ISRL.