Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can effective marketing change the fortune of hockey In India?


Gagan Arora, IIM Shillong

Year 1992; Revenues of English Premier league (EPL): £155m, one of the worst performing football leagues in Europe. Fast forward to year 2008, EPL revenues are at a jaw dropping high of £1,932m despite recession. What turned the fortune of EPL around?

Answer: The creation of “brand EPL” and a simple yet effective marketing strategy built around it. If English Football could turn its fortune around, why can’t Indian Hockey?

At the heart of every successful brand is a great product and we are having one in “Hockey”. A hockey match lasts only 70 minutes, whereas a cricket ODI lasts approximately 8 hours, in spite of which it is madly followed. Hockey has straightforward rules; hence it’s simple and exciting to follow. Premier Hockey League (PHL), with much fanfare, was launched to revive hockey’s fortunes in India. It’s a classic case of a good product falling flat on its face due to the lack of effective marketing. One of the biggest reasons for its failure was a chaotic marketing campaign and the inability to create a cultural brand. STP was almost non-existent for PHL. PHL wanted to target the teenagers but the regular season was scheduled in December- January, when most of them were busy with exams. Traditional Hockey bastions such as Jharkhand, Orissa and other hockey playing nations were not targeted at all.

Had the IHF gone for a better marketing campaign, and an emotional attachment had been created with the brand PHL and integrative marketing, who knows if the Indian Hockey team would have been on the plane to Beijing for Olympics 2008 and maybe our exasperating wait since 1980 would have come to an end.


Ankit Sharma, Nokia Siemens Networks

In the present context effective marketing is a crucial tool in any business model as it is a mode for the creation and retention of the customer base. But we are talking of a customer who turns to the sports page just to get a look at the “Men in Blue” and all the associated trivia. Here we are talking of a customer who is more interested in Dhoni’s hypothetical love affairs than the biggest event in any other domain. Here we are talking of a nation where Cricket is a religion and Sachin Tendulkar, its God.

Considering the Indian scenario, the Hindi Movie Industry is one of the most effective and widespread marketing tools. And one of its most influential members, Shah Rukh Khan made a wonderful attempt to bring our National Game into the spot-light through the super-hit movie Chak de India. The attempt was applauded but the effect was short-lived. The reason is simple: Cricket is too strong a feeling to be replaced by any other form of sport through any means. Hockey might be our national game but it is cricket that runs in our veins.

The fate of Hockey can only be changed by a drastic improvement in the talent pool that seems to have degraded over the years. After all, the product will make a mark only if it can stand against its substitutes. So the current need is not to market our National Game but to develop it into a marketable product through better infrastructure and support facilities. Marketing will pay good dividends only if the product in question is worth the effort and resources diverted towards it.


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