Even recently, the country’s athletes had few patrons and only public sector companies would come forward to back them at top events. But all that has changed. For the upcoming Rio Olympics, as many as nine private sector companies have signed up as sponsors for the Indian contingent.

A growing list

Among the key sponsors are Edelweiss Group, Amul, Herbalife and Li-Ning. A global telecom company and a FMCG company are also expected to make announcements in the next few days. Sources said the deals are expected to bring in ₹12-15 crore — miniscule when compared with what cricket gets but seen as a ‘phenomenal’ jump for Indian athletics.

The Indian Olympic Association has for the first time given the mandate to a sports management company IOS Sports & Entertainment for selling the commercial and marketing rights. Neerav Tomar, MD & CEO of IOS Sports & Entertainment, says: “We have got a very good response from brands for sponsorship deals for the Indian team at the Rio Olympics. This is a huge positive change. We are sending the largest-ever Indian contingent to Rio and brands are keen to associate with this global sports event.”

While Tomar refused to comment on the financials of the sponsorships, he says talks are still on with several brands. “We believe the tally could be higher than nine,” he says.

There is already considerable buzz around the Indian contingent. Several celebrities, such as music maestro A R Rahman, Bollywood actor Salman Khan and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, have been appointed goodwill brand ambassadors.

RS Sodhi, Managing Director of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (Amul), says Amul has key synergies with sports and hopes to leverage these through this partnership. He says that the company will soon launch an aggressive campaign centred around the Rio Olympics. Official broadcaster Star Sports India will telecast the Olympics across all its eight sports channels.

Viewership boost

Media planners say this is expected to give a boost to the viewership.

Indranil Das Blah, partner and COO of CAA-Kwan, says Olympics is among the few sporting events that give brands the opportunity to cash in on national fervour.

“It is a good opportunity, especially for mass brands. Also, Star throwing its weight behind the event will give it a huge boost. There are a lot of expectations and much will depend on Indian performance.”

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