India is a cricketing nation, yes. But do we understand any other aspect of sports? Not as an expert, but also as a layman, have we ever stopped to think of anything other than the pitch, the ground, the players, and their scores? The answer to these questions will certainly be a resounding no for most of us, but all that is about to change, thanks to Vinit Karnik, Head-Sports, Esports, and Entertainment at GroupM South Asia, and his path-breaking new book. Mr. Karnik has published, what is being called, India’s first ever book on sports marketing. Titled, Business of Sports: The Winning Formula for Success, it gives you an idea about the on-going relationship between a sports brand, product, or service, and its users. It goes well beyond the spectacle and the bravado of sportspersons. The book is the first in a series of three, and takes a deep dive into the business of sports marketing.
At first, it gives an impression of being quite heavy, but five pages in I realized that Mr. Karnik has masterfully crafted the book in such a fashion that it will interest even a novice. Most importantly, the book is exclusively for the Indian market, with examples of Indian sporting events, Indian brands, sporting committees and more. It is first and foremost an educational book, primarily meant for academicians and students, but a book with such vast knowledge, and that too the first of its kind, is a treasure trove for sports aficionados.
Mr. Karnik while speaking to IMPACT, said something that was striking to me. He said, “What people don’t understand is that the principles of marketing are the same. Whether you are selling a product, service, or a sport.” So for anyone who has ever attended a class on marketing, this is your book, and a rather interesting one at that.
A considerable amount of time has been spent to explain the concepts of marketing and sports marketing. It has been done with a lot of care and regard for the reader, to ease you into the more analytical parts of the book. Some of the ideas are quite thought provoking. For example when he says that we often confuse customers and consumers to be one and the same. But it’s not. He says that the customer is not always the consumer. He has also been extremely thorough, as I found myself reading the types of marketing strategies in the Indian sports industry. It gave me a great deal of insight into the marketing techniques in Indian sports, from cause marketing to diversity marketing, and even guerrilla marketing, there are no acts of randomness in the world of sports marketing, there is a thought behind each and every marketing campaign that we see.
The book can be considered the be-all and end-all of sports marketing in India, and one cannot overlook the care with which it has been written. Each chapter ends with a summary, ideas and concepts are further explained with examples. I have actually learnt a great deal about sports in general, and about sports in India. Mr. Karnik has generously listed Indian government’s initiatives for sports promotion in the country. I have even learnt about sports consumption, and the types of sports consumers. Did you know that sports marketing also categorises non-consumers? Isn’t that interesting?
There is also a section on sports endorsements, where the author discusses your favourite sportspersons and the brands they are associated with. From basketball superstar Michael Jordan’s incredible association with Nike and the Air Jordan shoes that are available in the market, to the unstoppable rise of Virat Kohli as the face of numerous Indian brands, and his 110 crore deal with Puma that has made him ‘one of the most marketable athletes in India.’ The scope of knowledge in his book is sky-high.
While we are predisposed to giving sporting events a lot more attention than its marketing tactics, the book is an exercise in stimulating the mind. The author has managed to present before us a world that we are an active part of unknowingly. Vinit Karnik’s 25 glorious years of experience and the insightful knowledge that he has gained in the process is now available within the pages of this book. It’s more than wining, losing, its more than the World Cups, and ODIs, it is a categorical winning formula for the business of sports marketing, unlike any other, and will always be remembered as the very first.