[PR Channel] Sports PR: A new wave of specialization

27 Mar,2012

By Neha Mathur Rastogi

 

For long I have had a strong belief that specialization is the only way to create true value in the often undervalued world of Public Relations in India.

 

There are agencies which have gone down this route in more sound sectors like IT, Financial and even Pharmaceutical PR. But few have treaded the path of Sports. Sports PR is a qualified specialization by the virtue of the nature of work involved. You need to be spontaneous, think and write on your toes and work with a very passionate set of media, sportsmen and women as well as the all-important cog in the wheel – the corporate sponsors. Each dimension presents you with a unique challenge.

 

It is common knowledge now that in the past few years, India has slowly become a global hub for sports, moving beyond conventional cricket to the recent Commonwealth Games, Hockey World Cup, F1 and several golf events being held here of international repute.

 

Each of these initiatives has been made possible due to a surge in corporate support to sports. No longer is corporate sponsorship in India considered as a mere philanthropic exercise. There is a direct linkage of these associations with the brand communications strategy and how it can be best leveraged.

 

The advent of such high involvement of corporates with sports has given an impetus to a latent demand in the PR industry for a specialised approach to sports. It is also great for the sporting talent in the country who also benefit from professional help in communicating more effectively with the media. We have in the past and present worked with the likes of Narain Karthikeyan and Ronjan Sodhi who are extremely talented sportsmen but needed the right kind of media exposure to be able to generate the deserved awareness about their sport and performance.

 

The key in sports PR is to strike the right balance between meeting media’s expectations of receiving quality material on the sport and sportspersons, and to ensure the corporate involvement is sustained since media presence is pretty much the key measure of success.

 

Sports PR is also extremely challenging since we need to always ensure the media exposure of a sportsman or woman is beneficial to them and does not in fact interfere with performance and practice.

 

Having worked with media across sectors; I have also noticed a unique quality in sports media. They are all extremely passionate about the sport they cover. It is quite common for many of them to have a real background of playing the particular sport they are covering. This makes our job even tougher, since we need to understand the technicalities of each sport we represent before presenting it further to the media.

 

Initially this proved to be a challenge for a person like me who has not physically played any sport at all! But the key was to learn from observation and a lot from the media and their style of writing itself. The adrenaline one feels while playing any sport pretty much rubs off on the PR around it as well.

 

We need to write content in real time as the result of a day’s event is announced. There is always a Plan A, B and C basis the results and performances of the day and then it needs to be implemented from the word go.

 

Our experience with reputed global organisations like Laureus and FIH has given us a taste of how international organisations have been setting standards in how one should optimise performance in sports PR. Working with Laureus in particular has been a great learning experience where a large part of their campaign revolves around generating media votes for the coveted Laureus World Sports Awards. Here the traditional PR assignment (though the word ‘traditional’ does not exist in the world of Sports PR) assumes the role of being similar to a political campaign where we meet media across different regions and sports and bring them on board to vote for their favourite sports personalities across the globe. The entire exercise culminates at the grand Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony where we accompany a group of select Indian journalists to be part of the most prestigious sports awards in the world. In the past, Laureus had a peripheral presence in India. But since the last few years they have upped their stake in the country and the exercise conducted by us is a big part of it.

 

One may question a specialisation in sports PR on grounds of sustainability and it being a more project or event driven model. There is some truth in this, where my company has also borne the challenge of seasonality in the world of sports. It takes a lot to convince any sports property or association of the benefits of long term and sustained communication instead of a burst purely around the culmination event.

 

Some brands, however, have discovered the benefits of this including the Women’s Golf Association of India, who have one key event at the end of the year but have decided to invest in PR for the association and Indian women golfers across the year which then builds up towards the Women’s Open. The media by then has enough exposure and interest in an otherwise niche area of reportage.

 

The other way we have sustained our presence in the area is via strategic partnership with reputed sports agencies and associations which work with several events and sports personalities across the year.

 

To conclude, sports PR is fast emerging as a beneficial specialisation for us to have honed over the past few critical years of the growth of the sports industry. There is tremendous potential and power in what PR can truly do to add value to sports in India. Beyond commercial success, the credibility attached to a job well done in sports PR is what keeps us going.

 

Neha Mathur Rastogi is Founder & CEO of WordsWork.

 

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  • Charu Kohli

    nice read neha!

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