‘Start marketing other sports like cricket’

February 23rd, 2008 - 5:24 pm ICT by admin  

By Saumojyoti Singha Choudhury
New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) Auction of cricketers for millions of dollars by the Indian Premier League has left sportspersons in other disciplines wondering why their federations cannot lure corporates to market their sport. There are quite a few individual world champions and their refrain is: “why can’t other boards take a leaf out of the cricket board and project us as world-beaters and role models”.

The IPL, an initiative of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has already made other cricket boards around the world sit up and take note of the way the game is being sold to big business houses and film tsars. The stakeholders have realised that the game is a sure shot for handsome returns from the investment.

India’s football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has always believed that money is essential to promote sport in a big way. He said it’s high time for all the sports federations to take the initiative like the cricket board and market their sport in a strategic manner to attract private sponsorship.

“It’s good that corporates are coming in and investing money in sports. I am not disappointed that people are pumping money into cricket. But other sports bodies must learn how to market their product in order to lure corporates,” said Bhutia.

He was sceptical of franchise owners’ claims that their motive behind investing in cricket was to promote the game. “No one is here for charity. They are investing in cricket not because they love the game, but because they will get good returns. If they had to promote the game they should have done it at the grassroots level.”

The country’s top table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal reacted similarly. “People are investing in cricket because they see a bigger market in it. They are not here to promote the game.”

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who makes 1000 euros a month playing in the Spanish league, feels that to make other sports popular in the cricket-crazy nation, a proper marketing strategy is required.

To add to that, he said, sportspersons in other disciplines should also start producing results at the international level.

“For society, cricket has become a priority because it is marketed well. Why can’t other sports bodies make an effort in that direction,” Kamal asked.

Champion shooter and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna winner Manavjit Singh Sandhu, a medal prospect at the Beijing Olympics, does not blame the corporates for sinking money into what appears to be a bottomless cricket pit. His anger is directed towards the fickle public and dormant sports federations.

Manavjit told IANS from Jaipur, where he is taking part in the Asian Clay Shooting Championships: “It is happening only because India is not a sporting country and cricket has grabbed the opportunity to attract a vast majority of the countrymen.

“I don’t blame the corporates for flocking to cricket or, for that matter, the game itself which is getting away because sport is not broad-based in the country.

“The game has turned out to be the biggest source of entertainment after films and cricket officials seized the opportunity to bring in market forces. I wish other sports also get a look in.”

Reigning World Billiards champion Pankaj Advani feels cricket is no longer a sport, it is pure and simple business.

“Money in sport is good, but it should be commensurate with the performance and at the same time it should not act as a distraction or a spoiler. There has to be some moderation, the money should not flow unhindered, otherwise it kills the purity of the sport.”

Whatever be the reason behind the torrent of money into cricket, one thing has clearly emerged out of the IPL auction: market your sport or perish.

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