With sports gaining traction in the country sports apparel brands are eyeing the opportunity to build a sporting culture and experiences in India by encouraging participation in running, football, tennis, martial arts and more. Coupled with this, increasing awareness about health and fitness is also driving growth of sports apparels or athleisure. And as Debosmita Majumder, Head-marketing, Puma India, points out creating exciting experiences for consumers will also help develop a sports ecosystem in the country.
And there are initiatives galore from brands. Reebok has come up with Fitness is Life, Nike’s Nike+ Run Club (NRC) and Nike+ Training Club, adidas’ Uprising initiative. Brands are focussing on building running communities. adidas has started a club called adidas Runners in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. It also has brand ambassadors and running captains in each of these cities to advise runners on the right exercise, schedule, footwear, etc. Similarly, Nike+ Run Club has helped runners achieve goals by enabling them with adaptive coaching as well as motivation and interaction platforms within running communities. Puma hosts Ignite Your City runs to motivate people to take to running, besides being associated with the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and Tata Steel Kolkata 25k, while Reebok claims to see high engagement with its Reebok Running Squad and Reebok CrossFit.
Associating with the sport
Running takes the lead and football follows second for sports brands. Nike organises the Nike Premier Cup under the aegis of All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) for young footballers every year, while Puma was associated with the Indian Super League (ISL) as the official ball and boot partner for 2015, besides being the kit partner for some teams. adidas too leveraged its partnership for the FIFA U17 World Cup and was part of the Mission 11, which was a build-up to the tournament. Additionally, it has also invested in a football centre in Delhi — The Base, that hosts school tournaments.
Surprisingly, brands seem to be not interested in cricket, which has a huge fan following. Experts says, either the sport is very popular and does not need a community or cricket properties are expensive and not every brand finds resonance or returns in such an investment. Sean Van Wyk, senior marketing director, adidas India, explains in the past, adidas was involved in IPL but they no longer are. Some of these assets have become expensive and difficult to activate. So they have shifted their attention on other upcoming sports. For instance, adidas Uprising, in its third edition, will be held this year in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi featuring nine sports and special-needs athletes participating for the first time. But cricket is not completely off the list. Nike supports Indian cricketers such as Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, while Puma Cricket Studio brings to the fore locker-room secrets of famous cricketers through videos.
Women driving growth
With more women participating in sports and gaining recognition, they have become lucrative endorsers for brands. Silvia Tallon, Senior Marketing Director, Reebok India, says the brand has a greater focus on women’s segment as it sees a visible growth in this category’s fitness market with a skew in metros being as high as 40 per cent. The women’s wear segment is expected to cross 30 per cent of its business by next year. These days, companies are simply not just copy pasting men’s products into women’s, rather they are taking steps ahead and designing specific women clothing range to suit their needs as this is the highest growing category for them lately.
Keerthana Ramakrishnan, Marketing Head, Nike India, points out in a country where sports participation and women’s participation are at lowest, progress is reflected with 70 per cent of our runners at NRC below the age of 30 and over 40 per cent participation from women in Mumbai. Brands are further enhancing the female connect through women-centric campaigns like Reebok’s FitToFight with brand ambassador Kangana Ranaut. This year, the campaign has an overarching theme of Girls Don’t Fight tackling eve-teasing and inequality in pay. Last year, Puma globally launched the Do You movement igniting a spark in the women’s segment for training and being themselves unapologetically. Brands are also activating their stores to up the ‘fitness’ cause. For instance, Reebok’s Fit Hub stores inspires people to get fit and have fun exercising in a gym-like environment built inside the store, besides other activities.