Sania Mirza grabbed quite a few eyeballs recently, and not only for her on-court performances. Yes, she is the reigning mixed doubles champion at the US Open and won the WTA finals in women’s doubles, but her glamorous turn in a recent promotional campaign by a TV channel has been the talk of the town.

That is the power of television and advertisements. The visibility and reach is simply tremendous. And when you add sports – that oh-so-glorious pastime – to the mix, then you have the most potent triad of influence ever.

Brands recognise the power of influence sooner than most. Marketing is, after all, the art of creating positive impressions through subtle associations.

Sport in particular has countless positive associations tied to it. It has the power to unite. It is the one platform that can claim to be free from superficial biases of race, colour and nationality. It has the ability to energise and re-invigorate, and it stands for hope and camaraderie, for respecting your opponents, for taking defeat in your stride and victory with humility.

No wonder then, that leading FMCG brands are always raring to identify and build on these positive connotations.

With marquee events like the FIFA World Cup earlier this year and the ongoing Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League, not to mention the countless other sports leagues popping up in India, leading brands are willing to shell out big bucks for ad slots ranging from a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

Coca Cola, in particular, has been aggressively pushing for the development of a sports culture in India by fronting campaigns centred on promoting an active and healthy lifestyle via sports. The soft drink giant has not only come on board as the title sponsor for the star-studded IPTL, but also taken the initiative in promoting tennis in India. The timing couldn’t have been better.

The next generation Indian youth are making no bones about their desire to look for careers in sports outside of cricket. So when Tier I brands such as Coca Cola shift their gaze to promoting less popular sports in India such as tennis or football, it really is an occasion to cheer for all general sports enthusiasts. The financial muscle that was earlier concentrated on one sport is now being redirected to others, which can ensure a more diversified sporting atmosphere in the country.

Coca Cola being the trend-setting and iconic brand that it is, it is hoped that other businesses will also follow suit in presenting and promoting non-traditional ventures and initiatives in sports. But pumping money into promotion is one thing: real change can only happen when the officials helming the various Indian sporting federations efficiently utilize these new revenue windfalls for the creation of long lasting grassroots development programmes; programmes that are aimed at improving playing infrastructure and coaching standards at all age groups.

Winds of change are up and about in the Indian sporting universe, and brands like Coca-Cola are ensuring that the winds continue blowing in the right direction. That’s just about all a sports enthusiast can ask for right now.

Gopalakrishnan R
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