Thomas Cup triumph: are brands lining up for new champions?

Brand associations with sporting champions have started to go beyond cricket in recent years. Whether it’s badminton ace PV Sindhu or Olympian boxer Mary Kom, or Olympic track and field champion Neeraj Chopra, the blue-eyed new boy for brands. Each of them wooed the brands with their outstanding performance on the pitch, resulting in strong brand deals and associations.

The historic first Thomas Cup victory has now shone the spotlight on the city’s newest badminton champions: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. Can their victory over 14-time champion Indonesia translate into remarkable brand associations? We posed the same question to industry experts.

Hard road for team sports

While DDB Chief Strategy Officer Mudra Sr. Prakriti Pushp hopes some marketers and creative storytellers will find a way to include new badminton stars in their brand stories because there is no better way to create new sports models for the next generation, he thinks it’s highly unlikely they’ll attract immediate attention from marketers.

Explaining why he doubts, Pushp says: “Winning the Thomas Cup is a momentous occasion for Indian sports, but I don’t see marketers going after deserving sports stars for two main reasons. First of all, despite the enormity of the victory for the sporting fraternity, a large portion of Indian consumers did not hear about the Thomas Cup or know its significance even after the Indian victory made headlines. Marketers won’t do the job of introducing a sports star to their audience; the expectation is usually the opposite.

“Secondly, and more importantly, celebrity advertising seeks notable individual personalities for brand association. Team sports and team wins rarely receive the marketing attention they deserve. A recent recipient of this apathy is Indian hockey.The outstanding performances of the women’s and men’s hockey teams at the Olympics last year did not translate into brand endorsements as much as they did for an individual artist as strong as Neeraj Chopra .

Likely short-term media heat

Brand-Nomics MD Viren Razdan believes that much like Neeraj Chopra, the badminton team will turn up the media pressure, but that will eventually die down. “Maybe regionally or some banks or PSU companies will support the team – sorry but unlikely beyond that,” he remarks.

However, if they maintain their winning spree in the coming months, they can build a strong brand personality. “Charisma built beyond sport builds marks of superpower, the aggressive raw energy of a Kohli/the quiet supremacy of Sachin. We know next to nothing of our badminton boys, and a handful would know the importance of this great achievement. I hope the Baddy Boys can maintain their winning streak and break cricket dominance or create their own new territory,” Razdan added.

A small audience opens doors

Outlining the reasons to remain hopeful, Dentsu Impact Senior Vice President Arvinderjit Singh believes that there is a great opportunity for brands to come as these players will bring a lot of hope and excitement to the preparations for the 2024 Olympics, and will also consist of the strong sense of “Pride of India”, which brands can capitalize on and get better ROI. “Although the Thomas Cup does not have a large following in India, it certainly attracts a significant audience that consumes brands/products in the field of sportswear and health and fitness. Therefore, even though they may not be suitable for all product/service categories, as typically happens in film and cricket, they would certainly be an asset if hired by the right brands over the long term.

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