Across the last decade, sports has evolved in India. The emergence and growth of several sports leagues have transformed India into a multi-sporting country, which was previously renowned for excelling in cricket and hockey.
Historically, leagues across different sports in India have endured mixed fortunes, enduring success as well as failures. Today, the sport or the sports league is no longer seen as an amateur, gentleman’s game, which they used to play for recreational purposes, but it has evolved as a business opportunity like any other field.
The Sports leagues are now designed as a product for the evolving market that focuses on fans as consumers, and experts as opinion-makers.
The main goal of the leagues today is to remain in sync with emerging sports (done by building leagues for viewer attractive sports- such as Pro- Kabaddi League). It focuses on developing a large fan base for the league and generate passion for the sport in order to generate long term consumer loyalty towards the league. These leagues are mega-events that are promoted on a huge scale, with millions of dollars at stake. There is a thick layer of business that is involved in the running of the league.
In the present time, sports serve two purposes:
- Firstly, it acts as a platform that create and provide marketing opportunities for the brands.
- Secondly, it focuses on delivering competitive games that will enthrall sports-loving fans.
These two purposes go hand in hand and serve the business industry as well as sports fans.
As fan behavior and interests evolve continuously, sports leagues guarantee a revival in Indian sports and its economy. The period of 2013-2014 when major sports leagues started to develop in the country such as Pro Kabaddi League, Pro Wrestling League, India Tennis League, Hockey Indian League, and Indian Soccer League was in clear divergence from cricket.
After an incredible beginning, the growing sports economy needs to take bigger leaps and scale up quickly. The sports leagues had to start focusing on vigorous engagement programs for increasing fans engagement, investing more on professional coaching and training facilities, merchandising of the teams involved in the leagues and the leagues itself, focusing on off-season engagement plan are some of the essential areas for our sporting leagues to adopt and work on.
The success of any sport starts and ends with ‘fan acceptability’ for that sport. Fans are the biggest stakeholders in any sports league, having maximum impact on the sport as well as on its league. The acceptability of the sport and its league by the fans plays a vital role in generating additional revenues via gate collections, media rights, merchandise sales, and sponsorships deals.
If leagues are the answer for the growth of sports in India, sports franchises or the team owners should start focusing on building a strong and sustainable fan base. Franchises in the Indian Premier League have managed to form a solid and sustainable fan base.
The duty lies on the shoulders of the franchise owners to help in developing players to become eventual superstars since fans connect more with players that are successful. Players are the sticking factor that keeps the fans engaged with the team and hence the sports league.
With all these extravagant approaches towards sports, leagues in India have to learn and adopt some of the best global practices on how some of the biggest sporting markets and its league structures have developed an ecosystem, which provides maximum value to all the stakeholders.
The business in Indian Sporting Leagues has to come up with solutions to make ‘Fan’ as the center stone of their model.
Even the fans of the league or the teams need to feel that their love for the team and the team’s love for them is mutual. Franchises need to lead the way by creating a sustainable fan acceptability movement that unleashes the passion of billion people.
By Aashish Jaju
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