The stage is set for the women’s 400 meter event at the IAAF World U20 Championships. An 18-year-old sprinter dressed in blue walks up to the starting line. She takes her stance, and with nerves of steel strengthens her resolve. The starter pistol sounds and she goes flying into the wind. Precisely 51.46 seconds later, Hima Das has clinched a historic Gold win, becoming the first Indian track athlete to be a world champion.
Hima’s personal story serves as a great motivator to girls across the country, especially her home state of Assam. It is no wonder then that the state has appointed her as the brand ambassador for sports. Her sheer determination to transcend limits throughout life makes for a compelling story, one that can draw the attention of people from varied walks of life.
That’s it – a compelling story is the key to meaningfully engage with your audience. With the advent of the digital age, it has becoming increasingly clear that holding the customer’s attention isn’t easy, unless you have powerful content. It is no longer only about the business you are engaged in; what matters more is the story you are telling. And athletes tell a captivating one!
As someone who has had the opportunity to see it first hand, I can say with absolute certainty that it is these athletes who hold the power of influence in their hands and if used effectively, they can help create a positive aura around your brand.
In fact, in India, brands have a much bigger and important role to play. A general lack of enthusiasm about non-cricketing sports has led to other athletes remaining out of the spotlight. These players have won multiple medals at international events despite the lack of support from all quarters and a poor training infrastructure. Brands have an opportunity to provide them with these resources they need to train adequately. It is an attractive proposition especially given the fact that your brand ambassadors would also be representing India at a global stage. In other words, supporting them is not just the noble thing to do, it is also a smart investment.
For instance, take JSW Group’s sports arm JSW Sports. The conglomerate enables training of about 40 Indian Olympic talents and recently inaugurated a high performance Olympic training centre. One such athlete supported by them is Neeraj Chopra. With Chopra becoming the first Indian javelin-thrower to win Gold at Asian Games and touted to win big at the 2020 Olympics, the brand has earned a lot of goodwill.
History has proven time and again that athletes can help a brand sell products. But, more importantly, they can enable brands to connect meaningfully with their shareholders, regulators, partners and even interact with an audience that would otherwise not have bought a certain product.
Case in point, Serena Williams’ recent campaign with Chase Bank titled ‘Mama said knock you out.’ Her performance is especially momentous considering one year ago she was facing life-threatening complications following a pregnancy. Since winning the Australian Open 2017, her story has been nothing short of inspirational.
The campaign is an open support to Williams and by extension, to all mothers across the world. The brand effectively communicated a powerful story to an audience, thereby establishing a meaningful connection with ‘mamas everywhere’. It created a synergy between the athlete, the story and the brand values.
As Maya Angelou said, ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ Brands have a unique opportunity of telling true stories of grit. And, they must seize it.