“Are you sure you know what Sports Management is?” “Maybe you should be looking at advertising.” I was told during my interview with a Sports Management MNC that had just set up an office in India 12 years ago.
To be honest, I really didn’t know what Sports Management and the Business of Sport was all about. But I belonged to the set of people that opened the morning newspaper from the back and read the sports news first!
In 2005 when I joined the industry, there were just a handful of companies that were doing sports management in India. Whereas in advertising there were already some of the biggest creative houses of the world that were present in India, so it was already quite a saturated environment. But I always looked at sports as an industry in a very nascent stage of development in India. Always comparing it to the US markets which had reached the pinnacle when it comes to commercializing sports and sports people.
I think the birth of IPL really gave our industry a big boost, and we made a 10-year leap while catching up to the US. Suddenly from just a few sports properties we had 8 professionally run teams and their operations, cricketers started getting big money contracts. All of this increased the demand for professionals who understand the sport as a business.
Today, we have the Indian Super League, Pro Kabbadi League, International Premier Tennis League, Premier Badminton League, Hockey India League, Premier Futsal League, Indian Table Tennis League, etc. All of these are televised leagues and therefore commercial vehicles for marketing. All the leagues, the teams and the players need professional management. And I would say we are still a decade behind the American sports scene.
India is passionate about cricket, and that’s because it told a great story. We used to be the underdogs but then we went and won the world cup in 1983 and 6 years later one of the best batsman the world had ever seen joined the Indian team and started taking on the World. Sachin Tendulkar and his commercialization were the building blocks of the sports industry in India. When he signed his 25 crore contract with Worldtel in 1998 people had never heard of that sort of money in Sports. And now in 2017, we are expecting a $2 billion dollar (13,000 crore) bid for the IPL media rights.
As the Sports Industry grows so will the demand for professionals – and I am happy to see the Education sector recognizing Sports Management as a vocation and offering to supply well-equipped individuals that are passionate about their sports.