Brands’ big race to the Olympics

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Opening the Tokyo Olympics with a sweet note for India, Mirabai Chanu made history by picking India’s first silver in the weightlifting category after a dry spell of 21 years. The athlete then expressed a simple desire to celebrate the moment – she wanted to eat a Pizza. And as soon as her wish hit the headlines, Dominos India was quick to latch onto the moment and offered her free pizzas for the rest of her life.

Aapne kaha, aur humne sunn liya ?

We never want @mirabai_chanu to wait to eat ? again so we’re treating her to FREE Domino’s pizza for life! #PizzasForLife — dominos_india (@dominos_india) July 24, 2021

This isn’t the first instance of brands joining in the success of Olympians. The sporting extravaganza has always attracted the attention of numerous brands, which has sometimes resulted in sponsorships and at other times in ambassador associations for athletes. Just this year, 18 athletes were signed by PUMA, Mia by Tanishq has partnered with three, and consumer electrical brand Gourav is running a digital campaign called #JeetKaGourav under its social initiative DeshKaGourav to applaud India’s female athletes.

Speaking of why the Olympics is a brand magnet across categories, Samsika Marketing Consultants MD Jagdeep Kapoor noted, “It is a three-fold opportunity for brands to partner with the Olympics. For small regional businesses, it is a chance to rise as national brands as the feeling of unity and patriotism is high. Second, it is an opportunity to enter the minds and hearts of consumers because you are also supporting brand India, creating an emotional connect with the consumers. The third thing is that you don’t have to necessarily sponsor the event but even at local and regional levels, the brands can bring out their support.”

For the Tokyo Olympics, Edelweiss, Nippon Paint, INOX Group have joined as national sponsors while Amul, Raymond and JSW Group are onboard partners for Indian Olympics Association. MPL Foundation has joined in as a principal sponsor for Olympics as well as Asian Commonwealth Games. All of them, along with others, are running extensive 360-degree campaigns to support the athletes.

Interestingly, this support is not only limited to the duration of the game but expands beyond the sporting extravaganza as brands are always eager to get a medley of ambassadors on board. In the past too, there have been instances of Olympians getting big brand deals following their continued success at the game.

Some of the key examples are the likes of shooter Abhinav Bindra, who has had endorsed brands like Samsung (2008, 2013), Walther Rifles India (2009), Fanatic Sports (2020); boxer Vijender Singh, who has had been the face of numerous brands including Bajaj Allianz (2008), Pepsico (2009), Ambrane (2016), JK Platinum Heavy Duty Cement (2017), RummyBaazi (2019) and sprinter Dutee Chand, who is associated with Puma (2018) and Senco (2021). Possibly, the most favourite Olympian for brands in the past few years, badminton star PV Sindhu has been the face of brands like Yonex (2015), Gatorade (2017), Panasonic (2017), Bridgestone (2017), Visa (2019), and many others.

Speaking about the trend, Zoo Media & FoxyMoron Co-founder Pratik Gupta highlighted, “Brands are hungry about having ambassadors that are not just cricketers and Olympians bring in a lot of value to the table.”

Kapoor added, “Olympians, even if they don’t win at the event, have a high propensity to attract consumers because they already hold great power as ambassadors on India at a global scale. That’s why brands are always eager to have them on board.”

However, at times, this popularity of Olympians amongst brands is short-lived. But Gupta believes that the trend is changing now as people are more receptive to all forms of sports, powered by the coverage they are getting in the media.

Kapoor seconded the thought, “See what happened with Kabaddi; it is now famous globally as it started getting telecasted and brand deals, sponsorships started pouring in. Also, with the Olympics, the buzz is higher as it happens once every four years. And there are a lot of athletes who hold a lot of power, especially in attracting the consumers from rural and regional areas.”

But will this year be the same, given the market conditions amidst the ongoing pandemic? The industry feels so.

A senior representative from a top agency on conditions of anonymity also shared, “We are also in the process of getting athletes on board for a few big brands, but that will only happen when the contingent gets back.”

Gupta, who too admittedly is in talks with a brand for getting a top athlete on board, shared, “A few brands have already shot some content before the Indian contingent left with the athletes. And if they come back winning, they will surely be attracting good brand associations.”

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