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Opportunity That Lies in Managing Indian Sports Personalities & Properties Sport offers a quite unique platform to tell some of the most incredible stories of human courage, endurance, and triumph

By Namrata Parekh

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The most beautiful feeling in life is winning, nothing can ever come close to the uplifting feeling of winning. And winning is something that sports associates strongly with — be it teams, individual athletes, coaches or even team owners — everyone wants to feel like a winner. But the time has arrived for sports in India to be looked at from beyond its binary existence of winning and losing.

For sports in our country, the paradigm shift should be towards telling stories.

Be a Storyteller Before Marketer While Investing in Sport

For anyone investing in the sports eco-systems, maybe you should consider yourselves as storytellers before marketers because sport offers a quite unique platform to tell some of the most incredible stories of human courage, endurance, and triumph.

Being an athlete in India brings its own seemingly insurmountable challenges and thus, years on year, this Gordian knot will continue to persist, but when it comes to managing these athletes and various Sporting properties, it wouldn't be a stretch of imagination to state that never has so many opportunities existed, never has the potential to grow been this congenial.

To illustrate this point, let's take an example from a fortnight ago where India saw its first mass participatory Cyclothon – Saksham Pedal Delhi, where cyclists from all walks of life – both elite and amateur – participated to not just win a medal but begin a movement which would catalyse urgent yet diverse discussions around fuel conservation, the evolution of the health & fitness story and the need for socio-environmental awakening. The opportunity here was simply to have a mass-participatory cycling event, but on the back of a platform that leveraged Sport to bring to the fore aspects of Society, the response was unanimous as the citizens of Delhi got on a bicycle and pedalled for a better tomorrow.

Delhi told its own story of caring about the environment, about how it is conscious about how fuel is spent, but it also told a story of competing and triumphing despite the challenges.

IPL's Success Meant a Windfall for Brands

Examples like these are replete in the Sporting eco-system and nowhere is there more proof than in the explosion of franchises, thanks in part to the IPL percolating deep into India's conscious. This has resulted in a windfall for brands and marketers alike, but beyond the numbers, auctions, player deals, the IPL's success has resulted in a windfall for storytellers as well. The IPL's success has also galvanized other sporting bodies to bring their sport to the limelight and thus the opportunities are no longer restricted to a sport but spread across Sport. Cricket and Badminton are not beyond the realm of imagination, but could we imagine a decade ago that India would have its very own Kabaddi, Cue Sports and MMA leagues?

Plight of Athletes No Longer Ignored

But here we are, and these leagues are telling one singular story: Indians are no longer one-dimensional in their consumption of Sport.

Once an eco-system rewards original thinking and brands flock for a piece of the pie, it makes sense to start taking better care of the superstars who're making all this happen: our athletes. The plight of the athlete is no longer isolated to the back-pages of the newspaper as the media, the film fraternity and the everyday Indian fan have all taken up the burden of storytelling, be it "Dangal' or "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' or the nation holding its collective breath as the irrepressible Dipa Karmakar took flight.

Optimistic Developments in Indian Sport

Over the past few years, one of the most optimistic developments in Indian sport, insofar our athletes are concerned, are the powerful stories of our para-athletes. Collectively, we have witnessed how these incredible sportspeople had to battle not just against the elements but also against misfortune. From Devendra Jhajharia and Mariyappan Thangavelu to Deepa Malik and Karmajyoti Dalal, these athletes' stories have resonated powerfully not just as a sporting triumph but more importantly as a story of human triumph.

From the Paralympics in Rio to the 2017 World Para Athletes Championships, our nation's para-athletes have made us incredibly proud but the opportunity to explore this segment of the sporting ecosystem isn't being explored as diligently as it should be.

Imagine what these incredible athletes could do with even better infrastructure and a little more help from brands? The potential is huge.

India has always been a country where our population has thrown up various challenges, but Sport has been unique in this regard as there is nothing negative about a billion-people getting behind a team or an athlete. The time is ripe for India to become a Sporting Nation and collectively we need to start grasping and creating opportunities in Sport. In the end, when our athletes win, or when a sporting property bears fruition and ushers in a change to mindset, there is no us and them or who won and who lost, these successes make us proud as a collective and together, we all feel like winners.
Namrata Parekh

Co-Founder and Director, Meraki & Sport & Entertainment

Namrata Parekh is the Co-founder and Director of Meraki & Sport & Entertainment.
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