Sports Trends in India

This week’s ET Brand Equity mapped the rising influence of Sports in India, the emergence of  domestic leagues across Kabbadi, Hockey, Football, Tennis, Wrestling, etc, the journey of Sports into mainstream Bollywood with certified hits like Mary Kom, Dangal, Chak De India, to the rising power of A list Sports celebrities. This massive  growth in sports in India has been fuelled by the prolific growth of sports content in cricket and other sports in the domestic scene and the growing eminence of  European football. From being only  cricket crazy, there is a move towards consuming other sports, of sports becoming sport-tainment. And while this transformation is underway, there is another quiet revolution ticking away, gathering force, in the Indian sports market – the rise of the sports licensing business.

Though globally sports licensing is massive, valued at a whopping $27.63 billion at retail in 2015 and is all set to reach $48.17 billion by 2024, India was valued at around 30 million $ at retail in 2015. But here is the interesting thing for the business in India – while cricket has the biggest draw, football is far ahead of the curve on the licensing front. The beautiful game has captured the imagination of the Gen next in India. India’s youth has found football to be the more aspirational sport to watch and are heavily engaged in European football leagues across EPL, La Liga and the Bundesliga. And this massive interest has fuelled the licensing business of Football in India. Real Madrid, FIFA World Cup, FC Barcelona already have sizeable licensing programs in India and there are many more European league clubs waiting to enter the market. Real Madrid, for example, has products across Apparel, both in kids and adults, Eyewear, Gifts and Novelties and Sporting Goods across key retailers, stand alone stores and e-commerce platforms and there is massive interest flowing in from other categories.  The business at retail for Real Madrid alone will be hitting INR 25-30 crores in the year.

Another shot in the arm for Football in India is the FIFA U-17 World cup being held in October 2017 across 6 Indian cities. This is the first time that India is hosting and playing in a FIFA event and will be vying for the coveted cup playing off the world’s top 23 teams. And off the field, fans will have a chance to buy a plethora of merchandise: Apparel (Rs. 499 onwards), Gifts and Novelties Metal posters, Plush, Ceramic Mugs, Bag tags, Magnets, Capsetc)  with prices are in the Rs. 150-500 range and more! The products will be available  in close to 150 stores of Shoppers Stop, Max Retail, Central,  Globus,  Sports Station and across a 1000+ apparel and sports stores in around 22 cities across India. What’s more, in a first for India, the merchandise will also be available at In-stadium kiosks in 6 cities where the matches are being held,  with fans being able to buy  authentic FIFA U-17 merchandise as they walk in to watch the matches.

Apart from the FIFA U-17 Cup, partners and retailers are already lining up for FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup. What was a 8-10 city retail footprint with Lifestyle, Pantaloons, and Central stores for FIFA 2014, has already grown to a 10+ key retailer tie-up with the product being available in 20-25 cities apart from E-commerce platforms. A 3 category product presence has already grown to  7-8 categories (apparel in kid and adults, accessories, gifts and novelties, footwear, rainwear, back to school, School Bags) with deals tied in and other categories still getting tied up. There is a clear 3-5 times increase in business in a period of just 4 years. From a sports licensing perspective, it is this sea change in interest across sections: consumers, partners, retailers for the World Cups which is truly phenomenal. The sports and the football fans sure have a lot to cheer about!