Cricket is the most loved sport in India. Its popularity is unrivaled — other sports are way below in comparison and ace badminton player HS Prannoy’s recent post couldn’t have endorsed it better.
The player vented out his anguish at lack of recognition for Indian shuttlers. Taking to social media, in a long post, he highlighted the challenges faced by himself and his fellow sportspersons when it came to bagging brand endorsements.
Prannoy lamented that the lion’s share is taken by cricketers and few badminton athletes who manage to make it to the prestigious Olympics. The rest have to run from pillar to post to bag basic endorsements, despite being World No: 7, and bringing a lot of glory to the country.
The impact of this struggle extends far beyond the individual players — it affects the aspirations of countless youngsters who dream of pursuing badminton professionally.
Federations to be blamed?
Prannoy’s statement sends shock waves across the badminton fraternity. Does this indicate how difficult it would be for the next generation to take up the sport with confidence?
Vijay Boddupalli, athlete, performance analyst and cricket commentator blames it on the federation. He says that unlike the BCCI which brought reforms and nurtured sports, no other sports body or federation groomed its players. "The federations should identify players, groom them and make sure they generate revenue. But most of the federations failed to do so," says Vijay, citing the example of how BCCI introduced IPL and is minting money. He says that federations should come forward to promote their players accordingly, but most of them lack forward thinking.
It’s about brand equity
Why do other sports achievers not attract brand endorsements like cricketers — Pronnoy is World No 7!
Branding expert Ramakanth Thumrugoti, Founder and CMD, RBC Worldwide, says that the principal agenda of advertisers is to reach out to their target audience. Adding that no other sport in India has so many fans and recognition than cricket, Ramakanth says that players from other professions are not recognised within and outside the country too.
"Naturally advertisers would like to invest in players who can generate good return on investment (ROI). So principally that’s the business logic on which advertisers work," he says, adding that when it comes to endorsements, advertisers weigh on a player’s brand equity. Cricket is undoubtedly the most watched sport in India. It naturally means that life gets tough for players from other sports.
Former cricketer Saad Bin Jung feels it’s also an opportunity issue. He asks how many Indians have the opportunity to play badminton. Or squash? Or table tennis? Or golf? Only a negligible percentage compared to cricket. According to him, cricket and cricketers make news because the masses can associate with it as it’s played on every street.
Lack of such support can dishearten players, more if they happen to achieve something considerable. While the Olympics is certainly the pinnacle of sporting excellence, the journey leading up to it should also be celebrated.