Changing the Game

Jamaica, despite being a smaller country than our own, has won more Olympic medals than India. And it took Sundar Raman only thirty minutes to tell us why, providing answers to many of our pressing questions about sports in India.

Only the other day, Usain Bolt ran his last race. To the dismay of his fans worldwide, he placed third. He still got a standing ovation because “Usain Bolt is a story of a how one man, for fifteen years, can hold up the world of athletics with the highest level of integrity.”

According to a marketeer like our Tuesday speaker, Mr. Raman, to tell the story of great sportsmanship is a challenge that must be taken up. Taking us through a few graphs of the competitiveness of countries like China and the United States of America in the field of sports, he was able to divulge the opportunity that people like him are trying to tap into.

As many well know, Mr. Raman served as the COO of the Indian Premier League. It was during his tenure that stadiums were filled – both in India and South Africa – to uphold the spirit of sportsmanship and the gentleman’s game. So it is no surprise that he is currently the CEO of Reliance Sports, creating the same magic that had cricket fans mesmerised for a month every year during the IPL.

His success has given a new definition to the term “a career in sports:” As a sports marketer, he closed the IPL title sponsorship deal in 2008 at 200 crores, and in ten years, it has appreciated ten times. This wouldn’t be possible if people weren’t lapping up the content offered to them through various mediums. It definitely wouldn’t be possible if cricketers like Virat Kohli did not showcase their phenomenal talents.

An important outcome of these rapidly-increasing investments in sports is that sports personalities, like Usain Bolt and Virat Kohli, have become pioneers for a new generation of aspirants. What follows this phenomena is that more and more people come forward to add their bit to the flourishing industry.

“The world of sports is attracting a lot of professionals, so what can we do as individuals?” He asked.

The biggest impacts will be felt if we begin to support the sports industry at a grassroots level, suggested Mr. Raman: “All our research shows that kids fall out of sports once they are 13 or 14 years old.” So by encouraging our children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces to play a sport, we can break the old mindset of “I can’t make a career in sport.” It is also a misconception that a child lacking the right attitude and aptitude for a particular sport cannot ace at another sport.

Taking the example of successful marketers like Mr. Raman, we must remember that the sports industry is also in need of some creative thinkers who can carry on the great work that has been set in motion. A clear indication of this lies in the fact that the IPL, although the largest sports property in India, still dwarfs in front of the kind of numbers the NBA and NFL claim in terms of digital viewership and revenue.

In conclusion, the speaker reminded us that the path is long and to become an overnight success actually requires years of hard work. But since he took the example of Jamaica, here’s how the Jamaicans would put it: Every mikkle mek a mukkle. (Every little counts).