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Global Focus

Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
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Indian brands that made it to London
Though a few big ticket Indian brands are making their presence at the olympics, their investments are largely aimed at audiences back home
Are you, perchance, one of the lucky ones who will be up close at the centre of action in the upcoming summer Olympics in London? If so, do take a tour of the 'Brand Exclusion Zone' around the Olympic park while you are there, and you will get a very good feel of the kind of branding frenzy that accompanies the event. The specially designated place, which extends upto a range of 1 km. around the stadium, has been sanitised of promotional activity to ensure that no advertising for brands competing with the official Olympic sponsors can take place at the hot spot. Hence, any burger sold here is from the kitchen of Mcdonald's and if you are making payment for it through a credit card, it has to be from Visa. The zone will be under the strict surveillance of the branding police, which has the power to bring down all promotional material belonging to competing brands from even toilets and corridors; in short, from wherever possible.

All major global brand names like Coca-Cola, Mcdonald's, Visa, Kodak, Arcelor Mittal & Dow Chemicals are make their presence felt in a big way. There are some innovative attempts to stand out, and P&G deserves mention in particular. It is sponsoring 11 top athletes across six different categories to promote nine different brands. However, no Indian brands will be on the official list of sponsors, of an event that is expected to bring in a whopping 11 million fans, sponsors and athletes to London in July this year and boast a TV viewership of over 4 billion worldwide (Beijing Olympics had around 4.7 billion TV viewers as per Nielsen).

In reality, Olympics, for all its hype, hasn't really been top draw for Indian media channels in the past. It is for the first time that a private channel ESPN will broadcast the games in India. Before this, Doordarshan has always been the official broadcaster. Estimates by media planners expect ESPN to make about Rs.1 billion by selling advertisement slots during the event. This amount is mammoth compared to Rs.50 million generated by Doordarshan by engaging in similar activities during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Indian brands have mostly chosen to be associated with specific events, which feature Indian players as in the past.

Coming to brands, Gujarat-based Amul (from the stable of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. or GCMMF), which, in recent times, has been associated with sporting events like World Cup Cricket 2011 and F1 racing is one of the biggies hedging its bets on the event. Commenting on the development, Shrinivas Ayyar, Brand Strategist from RBC Worldwide says, “Amul's association with the Indian Olympics contingent may not necessarily be an attempt to create the image of a global brand. It has more to do with the effort of sending the message of being a healthy and nutritious brand, on the domestic front.” India’s largest food product marketing organisation and Asia's largest milk brand has become the official sponsor of the Indian contingent in the category of dairy products. Amul will provide Rs.10 million to every Indian athlete who is qualified for the event. Talking to 4Ps B&M, the official spokesperson from Amul said, “Amul is not only India’s, but Asia’s largest milk brand, and its association and activities around Olympics will help in engaging youngsters and sending the message to them that they can enjoy a healthy life and strive to be swifter, higher and stronger in their endeavours by including Amul products in their daily life.”

The next big name in line is Bharti Airtel. The company has taken significant steps in the last five years to extend their business reach to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand as well as in the distant lands of Africa & Middle East. For them, establishing recall in global markets is extremely critical at this juncture. The company has also sponsored international sporting events like “Champion's League”, which features champion cricket clubs from different countries and the Indian Grand Prix. When the news came in that the Indian hockey team had qualified for the event, the TRPs of the India vs Australia test series dropped to less than 2 points (the Indian team's poor performance during the series was another reason). Airtel did not need a second invitation to change track from cricket to hockey. It's aggression for visibility during the games gets more obvious from the fact that its London-headquartered rival Vodafone is also gearing up for TV presence during the Indian hockey team's matches.

While discussing about the Indian hockey team, Sahara India is truly hard to miss, since they have been official sponsors of the Indian hockey team since 2003. Especially during the prestigious event, Sahara India was the first that came to the rescue when the boat of Indian hockey was literally sinking. When the team qualified for the event, Sahara pitched in with a total cash incentive of Rs.16 million, apart from the fees it paid to remain the main sponsor and ensure that the team would carry its logo on their uniforms. Sahara's five year contract to be the official sponsor of the junior and senior men's and women's hockey team has also been renewed in February 2012 with an 170% jump in sponsorship fees. Apart from hockey, Sahara is also sponsoring about 75 potential medal winners across six different games in the Olympics. All these athletes will have the company's logo on their uniforms as well as on various sporting gears they use. Clearly, Sahara, in line with its global expansion plans, is looking for some international mileage as well. Hero MotoCorp was also announced as the title sponsor for the men's and women's hockey qualifiers held early this year.

To crown it all, the Tatas are keeping a relatively low profile too. While Tata Archery Academy is preparing its cadet Deepika Kumari for the event and Tata Steel is the Corporate Partner for the British Triathlon Federation, the Tata group has clearly not resorted to an aggressive approach, especially when it could have been a huge boost for the Jaguar-Land Rover brand.

It is indeed an unfortunate state of affairs. Some of the greatest global brands have been built through their presence in such big ticket events. It was true global aspiration, which led a brand like Samsung to become a worldwide Olympics partner in the wireless communications equipment category in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, just 10 years after it participated in the event as local sponsor for the Seoul Summer Olympics. It has regularly been a sponsor for various global and local sporting events. Today, the results of such initiatives are there for all to see. At the risk of repeating an age old marketing mantra, Indian brands should view such big ticket advertising as the cause of a greater global play, rather than the effect. But before that, do they really harbour a true global vision at all so far?

Ashish Kumar           
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