Game plan includes setting up an Indian tennis season, conducting a 20/20 cricket tournament and promoting sports tourism in the country

Swetha Kannan

Bangalore, Nov. 10

Sports marketing firm Havas Sports India, part of Paris-based Havas Sports (the sports marketing division of the Havas Group), has an ambitious game plan to give Indian sports a competitive edge. It includes setting up an Indian tennis season, conducting a 20/20 cricket tournament and promoting sports tourism in the country. Its long-term target is to popularise rural Indian sports as well.

Push to tennis

Havas Sports India plans to give a major push to tennis in India by organising a series of tournaments for Indian players in the latter half of 2007. The winners of open class events will get a chance to play against top seeds in the country in key "marquee" events. "The idea is talent spotting and development. Four men and four women players will be identified and sent abroad for international training. There will also be a significant increase in price money at these tournaments. It will be 10-15 per cent more per round compared to the current price money in the country. The finals will have a 20-25 per cent increase in price money," said Mr Arjun Rao, Business Director, Havas Sports India.

The company is talking to players such as Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna for their patronage to this venture. It is also in discussions with leading training academies worldwide to train the winners of the tournaments.

To get a foothold into cricket, it plans to organise a 20/20 tournament (at the State, college or corporate level) in association with former cricketer Ravi Shastri's talent and event management company Showdiff Worldwide. "We plan to use 20/20 to get into cricket and bring back the whole live touch-and-feel aspect of the game. It will help establish ourselves with corporates, reach a large population and provide media visibility," said Mr Rao.

(Havas Sports India has an "agreement of association" with Showdiff for all its sporting events.)

Also on the cards is sports tourism. Havas is in talks with a few State tourism boards to promote sports tourism in a big way. Plans include organising a calendar of sports events and infrastructure development.

Havas, along with Showdiff, is talking to the Tamil Nadu Tourism Board to tout the Marina Beach as a hot tourist spot and relate tourism to sports by organising a mega sporting event at the beach. "It could be a large-scale athletics activity such as a beach race or a visual sport spectacle such as sailing," said Mr Rao.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 11, 2006)
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