Can Hockey India League match IPL?

21 Jan,2013


By Ananya Saha


From getting big brands to tie up, to having celebrities lend a face to the initiative, all efforts are geared towards making the inaugural Hero Hockey India League (HHIL) a success.


The League, which began on January 14, is receiving similar enthusiasm from sports broadcaster ESPN, which wants to promote it similar to the IPL. It has even appointed cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu as the brand ambassador of the League. Aloke Malik, Managing Director, ESPN Software India, is bullish on the future of the League and said, “We believe that hockey as a game has the pull as well as the potential to become a prominent #2 sport in the country after cricket. The game has huge following across pockets in the country. This league has all the ingredients like franchisee-led teams, home and away matches and the world’s very best players in action, to make it a success.”


But can HHIL emerge a favourite for audiences as the IPL managed to do when it kicked off in 2008? Further, will the League provide enough bang for the buck of the brands involved? MxMIndia finds out what experts think.


Lloyd Mathias, Director, GreenBean Ventures

No, I don’t think the Hockey India League can become as big as the IPL, for two primary reasons. The fan-following for hockey is much smaller in India and the game format does not allow too much for advertisers: just 70 minutes and no advertising when the game is in progress, unlike cricket. Also, there are not as many superstars/big names as cricket – few people can name more than five hockey stars. There is little support from the allied entertainers that IPL benefits from – like Bollywood stars, politicians & other glitterati. Other than this, India has a relatively low standing in world hockey (we were 12th in the Olympics), fewer teams – just five this year, and not many category SA sponsors besides Hero, Dabur and Sahara.


Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Sports & Entertainment, and CEO, Havas Media, India

To compare any sport to cricket is almost unfair. The big league needs the big audience and cricket is an essential part of the Indian DNA, which is beyond any promotion.


Just as IPL gave further impetus to cricket and local players, the Hockey India League will increase interest in hockey as a game. This is much deserved and should lead to its popularity, but in revenue terms it will be no match compared to IPL/cricket.


Indian hockey in any form or league will only tend to gain, minus the politics the game has been plagued with for decades. It is sad and unfair to a game and its players when the game becomes a political playing field. Hockey has endured despite being written off many times, which speaks a lot about its popularity of this game which has won eight Olympic medals.


The international focus will enable a stronger domestic league, more competitive on international platforms, so the unfortunate events of Beijing 2008 are far from repeating themselves.


Ambika Sharma, MD & CEO, Pulp Strategy

The money involved in the HHIL is less compared to the mindboggling figures of the IPL, but it’s a good start. With this investment there will be better facilities, more viewers, recognition, fame, sponsors and pressure to perform. It will definitely motivate the Indian hockey players to improve their stick work and attract more talent to join the sport. IPL is now a brand and it was the brainchild of the BCCI, which had the business motivation to market it. Cricket was at the height of its popularity. On the other hand HHIL is run by Hockey India; they will need to pull out all the stops to get to the level IPL is at today. It will take time, but well begun is half done.


Aditya Save, Head, Media & Digital Marketing, Marico Ltd

There is no point comparing the two leagues. Sport is supposed to encourage and bring out values. As long as it fulfils that, it should not be compared. When IPL was conceived, it was not supposed to be an entertaining format but look at how it turned out. As long as the game is interesting, it should be good.


Raghu Viswanath, Founder & Managing Director at Vertebrand Management Consulting

Comparison with cricket is probably not relevant. Indian hockey last won an Olympic gold in 1980 and since then has been on the downswing. With every passing year, it has touched a new low. The string of controversies which has accompanied this game recently has only added to its woes!


Compare it with cricket, which won public imagination since India’s World Cup win in 1983. From being underdogs who pulled out a surprise win, the Indian team has gone from strength to strength. Cartloads of financial backing have poured in, making BCCI and cricket the richest things in the country today. This in turn has fired the aspirations of Indian youth, even in rural markets, each of who dreams of becoming the next Sachin Tendulkar and owning a garage full of Ferraris!


The same generation has virtually no exposure to hockey today. May be it will not take another 10 years for HHIL to come to the level of IPL but it is definitely a long haul. Quiz any youngster about hockey and they are likely to give a blank stare.


HHIL has tied up with a reputed industrial house, the Hero group. The challenge before them is not about making HHIL a hot property but about creating a favourable disposition for hockey as a game. How many of us would have really been interested in it but for the controversy of Pakistani players being denied participation at the last minute?


Indians are known to tilt towards hero worship. Cricket, though it’s a team game, lends itself to individual brilliance, which in turn means heroes and gods are created and worshipped. Hockey needs to find a way to create heroes who represent the game. Their onscreen and offscreen persona needs to resonate with young Indians and they need to adopt the game. This means that you promote the game at every level of the community.


So it’s a long way before hockey and cricket can even be compared.


Post a Comment 

One response to “Can Hockey India League match IPL?”

  1. G Desai says:

    And what about Football….? Why isn’t that important? I guess it gets more audiences from (major) metros than even cricket does… and it promises total edge-of-the-seat entertainment!