I-Day Special | Sports gets a corporate push

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani/TV Jayan | Updated on: Aug 15, 2021

The success of IPL over the past 13 years has set the benchmark in exemplifying what private investments can do to a sport | Photo Credit: RAGU R

IPL has perhaps given India a template for attracting investments

Guess the new sport that has caught the fancy of investors and will be seen in the league format? Handball, touted as the fastest Olympic sport, is expected to hit India’s TV screens next year in the form of the Premier Handball League (PHL), backed by Bluesport Entertainment under the aegis of Handball Federation of India.

Abhinav Banthia, President, Bluesport Entertainment, is confident that this indoor sport which is played avidly in schools, especially in the tier-2 and tier-3 towns, has a strong potential in the country.

Bluesport Entertainment is essentially viewing this investment from the lens of an angel investor and hopes that it will be able to grow the brand valuation of this start-up, which is the PHL.

Private investments

What's making Banthia optimistic is also the fact that in Covid times, the focus on health has increased massively, having a positive rub-off on both the health tech and sports space.


The success of Indian Premier League over the past 13 years has set the benchmark in exemplifying what private investments can do to a sport.

Despite the pandemic outbreak, IPL’s viewership soared in 2020 and advertisers, who did not have a viable format through the year, were seen scrambling to get on the IPL bandwagon. According to Duff & Phelps, a Kroll Business, the IPL’s brand valuation stood at ₹45,800 crore in 2020, seeing only a minimal dent of 3.6 per cent compared to 2019.

IPL has perhaps given India a template for attracting more corporate investments in sports. Many leagues have been trying to replicate its success albeit with some hits and misses. Companies are also finding ways to be involved in sports through other public-private partnerships.

Vita Dani, co-owner of Chennaiyin FC and Chairperson of Ultimate Table Tennis said that the Indian Super League has established itself as the second biggest sporting league in the country in terms of viewership as well as digital engagement.

“Any sport fundamentally requires funding to create incentives. With corporate investments, the Indian sports ecosystem has seen the establishment of infrastructure and development of facilities which also mean players are getting to play and train with better and improved infrastructure. Corporate backing has also seen the importance of grassroots competition along with performance evaluations and scientific approaches towards the sports being streamlined. Most importantly, all these investments have built the aspiration of athletes,” Dani added. Experts like senior sports administrator Amrit Mathur believe the spawning of leagues has also made sports a viable career prospect for youngsters.

Profitable proposition?

But has it been a profitable proposition for the investors? “The economics of each sport varies. IPL teams are making money. The Kabaddi League franchises are either making money or breaking even. The football league teams are losing money right now. But it all depends on the level of investment, the intent of investment and the kind of sport. Even if one is making some balance-sheet loss, the returns come through many non-tangible benefits such as brand building and publicity. For some, it could simply mean using their CSR spends for development of sports and, for others, it might just be contributing to a sport they are passionate about,” Mathur added.

JSW Group's sporting ventures illustrate how some companies are straddling philanthropic passions and commercial investments in the sporting ecosystem. JSW Sports led the creation of India’s first high-performance Olympic training centre called the Inspire Institute of Sport. Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra and bronze medalist Bajrang Punia are backed and managed by the company. among other athletes.

Divyanshu Singh, Head of Sales and Marketing at JSW Sports stated that the broader philosophy of the Group across its sporting ventures is to make a sustainable impact in the sporting field and identify and promote young sporting talent. Sports has also been identified as a key pillar of the group’s corporate strategy, he added.

But the league format is not the fool-proof mechanism for all sports and will require multiple strategies, adds Singh.

Published on August 14, 2021
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