SBJ/April 18-24, 2011/In Depth

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  • Global growth markets: Brazil

    Population (world rank)*
    203,429,773 (5th)
    0-14 years: 26.2%
    15-64 years: 67.0%
    65 years and over: 6.7%
    Population growth rate: +1.1%
    * 2011 estimates



    GETTY IMAGES
    Helio Castroneves
    Media

    BandSports
    ESPN Brazil
    PFC Internacional
    SporTV


    Athletes
    Pelé (soccer, retired)
    Ronaldo (soccer, retired)
    Ronaldinho (soccer)
    Helio Castroneves (IndyCar)
    Tony Kanaan (IndyCar)
    Nene, Denver Nuggets (NBA)
    Leandro Barbosa, Toronto Raptors (NBA)
    Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)


    Key Sports Executives
    Orlando Silva, Brazil sports minister
    Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee



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    Brazil will play host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.


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    Brazilian Basketball League


    Upcoming Sporting Events
    2011 ATP Brasil Open
    2011 Formula One Grande Premio Do Brasil 2011
    2014 FIFA World Cup
    2016 Olympic Summer Games
    2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games
    Leagues and Governing Bodies
    Soccer
    Governing body: Brazilian Football Confederation
    President: Ricardo Terra Teixeira
    National league: Serie A (20 teams)

    Volleyball
    Governing body: Brazilian Volleyball Confederation
    President: Ary Graça Filho
    National league: Brazilian Volleyball Superleague (15 teams)

    Basketball
    Governing body: Brazilian Basketball Confederation
    President: Carlos Boaventura Correa Nunes
    National league: Brazilian Basketball League (15 teams)


    Recent Sports Headlines
    Blatter warns Brazil over slow pace of World Cup preparations
    IMG Worldwide forming joint venture with Brazil's EBX Group
    Rio 2016 signs Brazilian Consortium as telecommunications sponsor
    UFC announces plans to host first event in Brazil since '98

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  • Global growth markets: China

    Population (world rank)*
    1,336,718,015 (1st)
    0-14 years: 17.6%
    15-64 years: 73.6%
    65 years and over: 8.9%
    Population growth rate: +0.5%
    * 2011 estimates


    Media
    CCTV-5
    ESPN China
    Athletes
    Yao Ming, Houston Rockets (NBA)
    Yi Jianlian, Washington Wizards (NBA)
    Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo (figure skating)
    Li Na (tennis)
    Ed Wang, Buffalo Bills (NFL)



    GETTY IMAGES
    Shen Xue (right) and Zhao Hongbo
    Key Sports Executives
    Liu Peng, director of the state general administration of sport, president of the Chinese Olympic Committee
    Yu Zaiqing, vice minister of the General Administration of Sport, vice president of the China Sports Federation, vice president of the Chinese Olympic Committee
    David Shoemaker, CEO of NBA China


    Leagues and Governing Bodies
    Soccer
    Governing body: Chinese Football Association
    President: Wei Di
    National league: Chinese Super League (16 teams)

    Volleyball
    Governing body: Chinese Volleyball Association
    President: Yuan Weimin
    National league: Chinese Volleyball League (16 teams)

    Basketball
    Governing body: Basketball Association of the People's Republic of China
    President: Zhang Faqiang
    National league: Chinese Basketball Association (17 teams)



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    The Chinese women's volleyball team celebrates a point at last year's Asian Games.
    Recent Sports Headlines
    Pirelli drops Chinese Super League sponsorship
    China's sports minister vows to provide more public sports facilities in the coming five years
    China sports minister "saddened" by Chinese Football Association match-fixing scandal
    UFC set to open China office
    NBA names WTA President David Shoemaker NBA China CEO
    UNC-NCSU first NCAA regular-season hoops game televised in China
    AEG, MasterCard reach first naming deal for Olympics facility in Beijing
    Nash reportedly leaves Nike after 15 years for China-based Luyou



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    Dinara Safina of Russia competes in last year's WTA China Open.
    Upcoming Sporting Events
    2011 ATP China Open
    2011 ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters
    2011 Landsky Lighting Guangzhou International Women's Open
    2011 WTA China Open
    2011 Formula One UBS Chinese Grand Prix
    2011 World University Games
    14th FINA World Championships (2011)
    2014 Summer Youth Olympics
    2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships


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  • Global growth markets: Russia

    Population (world rank)*
    138,739,892 (9th)
    0-14 years: 15.2%
    15-64 years: 71.8%
    65 years and over: 13%
    Population growth rate: -0.5%
    * 2011 estimates


    Media
    Eurosport Russia
    NTV Plus Sport
    Russia 2
    Viasat Sport


    Athletes
    Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (NHL)
    Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz (NBA)
    Vera Zvonareva (tennis)
    Maria Sharapova (tennis)
    Ksenia Monko (ice dancing)
    Kirill Khaliavin (ice dancing)

    Recent Sports Headlines
    AEG nearing deal to develop Moscow sports complex
    Moscow replaces Japan as host of World Figure Skating Championships
    Construction of Sochi Olympics venues is on track
    NBA to open an office in Russia
    FIFA awards Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups

    Upcoming Sporting Events
    2011 ISU World Figure Skating Championships
    2011 ATP Kremlin Cup
    2011 ATP St. Petersburg Open
    2011 WTA Kremlin Cup
    2013 IAAF World Championships
    2013 World University Games
    2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games
    2018 FIFA World Cup


    NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
    Andrei Kirilenko


    GETTY IMAGES
    Vitaly Mutko



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    Russian Premier League

    Key Sports Executives
    Roman Abramovich, owner of English Premier League club Chelsea
    Leonid Fedun, owner of FC Spartak Moscow
    Alexander Medvedev, KHL president
    Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the Russia World Cup Bid Committee
    Vitaly Mutko, Russian sports minister
    Leagues and Governing Bodies
    Ice Hockey
    Governing body: Russian Ice Hockey Federation
    President: Vladislav Tretiak
    National league: Kontinental Hockey League (23 teams)

    Basketball
    Governing body: Russian Basketball Federation
    President: Aleksander Krasnenkov
    National league: BEKO Professional Basketball League (10 teams)

    Soccer
    Governing body: Football Union of Russia
    President: Sergey Fursenko
    National league: Russian Premier League (16 teams)

    Figure Skating
    Governing body: Figure Skating Federation of Russia

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  • Global growth markets: India

    Population (world rank)*
    1,189,172,906 (2nd)
    0-14 years: 29.7%
    15-64 years: 64.9%
    65 years and over: 5.5%
    Population growth rate: +1.3%
    * 2011 estimates


    Media
    Ten Sports
    Ten Cricket
    Set Max
    Star Sports Cricket
    Star Sports India
    Athletes
    Arjun Atwal (golf)
    Jeev Milkha Singh (golf)
    Somdev Devvarman (tennis)
    Sachin Tendulkar (cricket)
    PT Usha (track and field)


    Recent Sports Headlines
    India wins 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup
    Adidas stores in India to carry NBA jerseys for the first time
    NBA, U.S. State Department plan joint trip to India in '11
    NBA signs two multiyear TV deals to broadcast games in India
    India asking state firms to help fund Commonwealth Games

    Upcoming Sporting Events
    2011 ICC Cricket World Cup (concluded this month)
    2011 ATP Aircel Chennai Open
    2011 Formula One Grand Prix of India

    GETTY IMAGES
    Arjun Atwal


    GETTY IMAGES
    Formula One race cars will roll into India this year.



    GETTY IMAGES
    Suresh Kalmadi


    Key Sports Executives
    Shri Ajay Maken, union minister of state for youth affairs and sports
    Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympic Association, president of the Asian Athletics Association
    Sundar Raman, CEO of the Indian Premier League
    Cricket
    GETTY IMAGES
    Indian Premier League


    Leagues and Governing Bodies
    Soccer
    Governing body: All India Football Federation
    President: Shri Praful Patel
    National league: I-League (14 teams)

    Cricket
    Governing body: Board of Control for Cricket in India
    President: Shashank Manohar
    National league: DLF Indian Premier League (10 teams)

    Field hockey
    Governing body: Hockey India
    Interim president: Mariamma Koshy

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  • Race under way to become India’s No. 2 sport

    Standing half a foot taller than LeBron James, 15-year-old Satnam Singh Bhamara is the first Indian basketball player to step onto a court with NBA-worthy potential. When the teenager, who hails from a tiny village in India’s Punjab region, arrived in Bradenton, Fla., in October to begin training at the coveted IMG sports academy, the media wasted little time comparing Bhamara to another seven-footer to step out of Asia: Shanghai native Yao Ming.

    AP IMAGES
    Teen Satnam Singh Bhamara could one day boost the NBA’s popularity in his home country.
    Like Yao, Bhamara represents an important chess piece for the NBA’s business goals in Asia. An Indian basketball star could cement the NBA’s popularity in a nation of 1.2 billion, where the growing middle class is hungry for sports and entertainment.

    “We were able to learn a lot from our success [in China] and that resonates well for our plan in India,” said Akash Jain, the NBA’s senior director of business development and partnerships in India.

    The success of cricket, both the traditional and Twenty20 formats, has spurred a race between Western sports to occupy India’s No. 2 spot.

    In 2009, the English Premier League’s Liverpool club financed a soccer academy in the Indian city of Pune, and in December 2010 the EPL sent its trophy on a promotional tour of India. Formula One will debut the Indian Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit near Delhi in October of this year. The International Cycling Union sanctioned the Feb. 13 Tour de Mumbai, which drew a smattering of top European professionals.

    The European Golf Tour has held its Professional Golf Tour of India every year since 2006, and in 2010 signed a three-year deal with Indian conglomerate Avantha to sponsor an international pro tournament in New Delhi. Major League Baseball organized the “Million Dollar Arm” contest in 2008 to identify pitching talent, which attracted 37,000 participants.

    Sam Rush, who manages European business for Wasserman Media Group, said soccer holds an edge in the race for India’s No. 2 sport. In December 2010, the All India Football Federation signed the IMG-Reliance partnership to a 15-year sponsorship and marketing rights deal for the I-League, the nation’s top-tier soccer league. IMG-Reliance, a venture between the sports marketing firm and India’s Reliance Industries conglomerate, also is funding the Reliance Foundation to identify and train Indian youth in soccer, tennis and basketball, and to build sports academies in India.

    Aside from marketing dollars, Rush said, soccer is growing quickly at the grassroots level. “The best test of the Indian sporting landscape is to watch what kids are playing in the streets,” Rush said. “Five years ago all they were playing was cricket. Now a good number are playing soccer and other [sports].”

    Grassroots growth is also the approach of the NBA, which in December signed a deal with Taj Television to broadcast two games a week on the Ten Sports channel, with rebroadcasts in prime time and live broadcasts of the all-star, playoff and finals games.

    Currently the league has one full-time employee in the subcontinent, its director of basketball operations in India, Troy Justice. Jain and a small team of NBA employees are based in the U.S. but regularly travel to India. Justice helped the league launch a three-city youth tournament in 2010, and the league secured automaker Mahindra to a title sponsorship role. For 2011, the Mahindra Challenge will expand to five cities with an estimated 600 teams participating. Jain said the NBA’s goal is to expand to 10 cities by 2014.

    The youth tournament’s success story to date is Bhamara, who starred in the 2010 tournament after Justice identified him at an NBA-sponsored pickup game.

    “It’s going to take a long-term commitment,” Jain said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

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  • U.S.-based media companies eye opportunities for bigger role in India’s sports scene

    John Kosner’s first job at ESPN in 1997 was to identify sports that would play at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

    The venue had just opened in March of that year, and Kosner, the senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Digital Media, tried to secure some games from the 2007 Cricket World Cup, which would later be held in the West Indies.

    “That proved to be a long shot,” Kosner said, saying that the World Cup was too big to lure to Orlando.

    Not that anyone in the United States would notice. When it comes to cricket’s standing in the United States, even the sport’s staunchest supporters here hope it will one day rise to the level of a niche sport. But elsewhere in the world, the sport is a juggernaut, and U.S.-based media companies increasingly are looking to tap into that growth.

    This year’s Cricket World Cup final match between India and Sri Lanka broke television records in India, with 67.6 million viewers tuning in to the match. Throughout the country, 64 percent of all cable and satellite homes were watching the match on television.

    YouTube streams all IPL matches.
    The sport also has garnered heavy interest online, thanks largely to a two-year deal that the popular Indian Premier League signed with YouTube in January 2010. The site streamed all matches from the league’s Twenty20 season, during which time nearly 50 million users streamed games from the site.

    That kind of online popularity has helped other cricket-focused sites. ESPN, which bought the popular Cricinfo site in 2007, benefited from the amount of interest in India’s run to the World Cup title. The site logged close to 11.9 million unique users in February, nearly doubling the amount from the previous year.

    ESPN bought the Cricinfo site in 2007.
    Since ESPN bought the site, Cricinfo’s page views have increased by an average of 9 percent per month, culminating in the big World Cup numbers.

    “The 2011 World Cup was a little like the equivalent of Michael Phelps winning all the gold medals,” Kosner said. “That India, after 28 years, reclaimed the World Cup playing in Mumbai was just an historic event. There’s no place where Cricinfo is bigger than India.”

    Kosner predicts user numbers will continue to grow, thanks largely to mobile applications, which are just starting to take off, Kosner said.

    “Mobile is going to explode on the subcontinent,” Kosner said. “You’re going to have many more people getting phones with Internet connectivity where cricket information is going to be the first thing they want.”

    Kosner joked that when he asked friends in India to identify the country’s four most popular sports, they said they were all cricket. “In the subcontinent, it’s the equivalent of the NFL, plus every other major sport rolled into one.”

    ESPN increasingly is realizing how big the sport is outside of the U.S. ESPN sent one of its writers, Wright Thompson, to India to cover the start of the World Cup. The resulting story became his most-read piece ever.

    “There’s a universal appeal to this,” Kosner said.

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  • Billion dollar baby

    The scene two weeks ago at the opening match of the Indian Premier League’s fourth season was an international grab bag of sports fandom.

    GETTY IMAGES
    The four-year-old Indian Premier League has been valued at $4.13 billion.
    Some fans waved yellow flags and chanted with the same enthusiasm as a Liverpool FC supporters club; others banged ThunderStix with the type of energy Anaheim Angels fans showed during the 2002 World Series; and a handful held up handwritten posters reminiscent of the ones that appear behind Kirk Herbstreit during “College GameDay.”

    It should come as no surprise that fan elements from around the world found their way into a cricket stadium in eastern India. The IPL, after all, is perhaps the youngest and most successful sports league in the world, and a major reason the IPL has achieved that status is because it modeled itself on the professional leagues that preceded it.

    The IPL borrowed the idea of cheerleaders and musical entertainment from the NBA, the stability of a salary cap from leagues like the NFL, and the revenue benefits of jersey sponsorships from the English Premier League. The resulting blend has created an immensely successful league in a short time.

    In just four years, the IPL has sold a franchise for as much as $370 million — to Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy in June — completed a $1.69 billion, 10-year television rights deal with Sony, and seen the consultancy Brand Finance value the league at $4.13 billion.

    “It’s the first sports product to capture the country’s attention and the consumer’s attention,” said Jamie Stewart, founder of the Indian-based sports marketing agency Commune. “It’s been unbelievably successful and will continue to be so.”

    The league’s immediate success is surprising in light of the challenges the IPL has faced in its first four years. After its first season, the league had to relocate to South Africa for a year because an Indian election required most of the country’s security forces, making them unavailable for the season. Then the third season was marred by a scandal that resulted in the ouster of the league’s founder and commissioner, Lalit Modi, who has been accused of betting on IPL matches and holding a silent stake in three franchises.

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    The league has captured the country’s attention with the play on the field and the other entertainment elements that accompany each event.
    Somehow, the league survived both experiences without major damage. Indian sports experts attribute that to the strength of the league’s structure, the marketing vision of its founders, and the embrace of a nation enjoying heady economic growth and eager for a sports and entertainment outlet of its own.

    “At the end of last season, there was some controversy, but the country has put this behind it,” said Sangeev Kapur, chief marketing officer of Citi India, an IPL sponsor. “This is a juggernaut that is going to keep becoming bigger in size.”

    Commercializing cricket

    The IPL was born from two men’s desire to bring professional sports to India.

    Modi, the son of a wealthy Indian family, attended college in the U.S. and was a longtime admirer of the NBA’s successful blend of sport and entertainment. Andrew Wildblood, an Englishman who ran IMG’s business in India, was intent on replacing state-run cricket teams with privately owned franchises.

    The two met at a London hotel during Wimbledon in 2007 and spent the next nine months crafting the league’s structure and business model. They opted for a fast style of cricket called Twenty20 that could be played in about three hours, making it perfect for television. They proposed an eight-franchise league that would see each team play seven home matches during a 44-day season, allowing them to squeeze in a short season without interfering with the international cricket calendar. The top four teams would advance into a playoff to determine a champion.

    To control player costs, teams would buy their players through a capped auction. No team could spend more than $5 million on their first-year roster.

    Modi and Wildblood developed a prospectus for the league that emphasized strong central revenue. Television revenue would be the No. 1 revenue stream for each of the teams, which would split 80 percent of those monies. They would also share money from league sponsorships, including a presenting sponsorship for the league. The rest of revenue — local sponsorships, hospitality, ticket sales, franchise shirt sponsorship — would be kept by each team.

    Teams would play at existing stadiums, which they would lease from municipalities, and ticket sales would not be expected to be a major revenue stream in a nation where the average Indian makes $675 a year. (Ticket prices this season go for as little as $6 a game.)

    Before they auctioned off franchises, they sold the television rights. Only three bidders turned up at the table. One was excluded from bidding because of a technicality; another quoted a figure below the floor price. The last bidder, Sony, which owns a television network in India, offered $908 million for a 10-year deal. It was a monumental deal for a league that still didn’t exist, and it allowed Modi and Wildblood to bring their vision for an IPL to fruition.

    “That gave us a sum of money that gave the potential franchise owners confidence this was for real,” Wildblood said.

    Only 13 bidders showed up for the franchise auction that followed. Four or five of them were close friends or relatives of Modi, said Alam Srinivas, who authored the book “IPL Cricket and Commerce: An Inside Story.”

    “If they had not been there, there would have been less than eight bidders for the franchises,” Srinivas said. “The IPL could have been a flop before it began. The fact that it didn’t was part luck and part the personal powers of Lalit Modi.”

    GETTY IMAGES
    Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (left), part-owner of an IPL team, performs at this month’s IPL opening ceremony.
    Franchise buyers, who forked over an average of $90 million for a team, featured some of India’s top businessmen and celebrities. There was Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, who paid $111 million for the Mumbai team, and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, who paid $75 million for the Kolkata franchise.

    The owners shared in the league’s $90 million annual television rights fee and a half dozen sponsorships that ranged in value from $5 million to $12 million a year. Hero Honda, Citi, Pepsi and Vodafone were among the first to sign up. DLF, a real estate company, signed on as the league’s presenting sponsor.

    Each of the IPL teams earned $12.5 million from central revenue in the first season, and that number rose to $18 million each in season three. Srinivas estimated total league and team revenue eclipsed more than $500 million in 2010.

    “Most of us believed this would not click because there were too many ifs and buts,” Srinivas said. “Once it happened and it took off, the mix of cricket, entertainment and viewership in India took IPL to another level.”

    Facing the future

    There are a number of reasons why the IPL became such an overnight success. Much of it is due to the league’s stable structure and its ability to fill an entertainment void in a country with an emerging middle class.

    Modi managed to marry Indians’ fanaticism for cricket with their fanaticism for Bollywood in a way no one had ever done in India before. In addition to the actor Khan owning a share of the Kolkata franchise, actors Juhi Chawla and Shilpa Shetty co-own the Rajasthan Royals, and Preity Zinta is a co-owner of the Kings XI Punjab.

    Their star power was coupled with well-publicized late-night fashion shows and parties after games that provided plenty of copy and photos for the Indian press. There were also fireworks, cheerleaders and Super Bowl-sized concerts.

    Teams averaged 58,000 spectators a match in 2008, and a poll by the Indian Times after that initial season showed more people attended or watched games on TV to see Khan than to see the cricket.

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    Citi, Hero Honda, Pepsi and Vodafone were among the first to buy IPL sponsorships, which range in value from $5 million to $12 million a year.
    “It’s more than cricket, it’s celebrity glamour, as well,” said Charlotte Hollow, who manages Wasserman Media Group’s office in Mumbai. “As much as people love cricket, they love stars, and the combination of the two is what’s made the league a winner.”

    The emphasis on entertainment helped the league attract female viewers to a sport whose fan base historically was dominated by men. Their interest helped boost television viewership.

    The IPL became the first prime-time sports programming in India, and it was immediately embraced. In 2010, an estimated 67 million Indians watched IPL matches on average. Viewers tune in to the games on a nightly basis over the season in much the same way Americans watch the Olympics over its 17-day run.

    “The eyeballs are amazingly high,” Srinivas said. “Every day you have a captive audience. People are glued to the television set.”

    As consumption of the IPL rose, sponsorship interest followed. The Mumbai Indians recently signed a $5 million-a-year jersey sponsorship with Hero Honda. By comparison, the jersey sponsorship with Herbalife sold by Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy was valued at $4.5 million after signing David Beckham.

    Mark Ingall, Citi managing director of global strategic media, said that the company has been pleased with the return on its investment as the league’s official bank. The company gets in-venue signage at every game and is the presenting sponsor on TV and at matches of “Citibank Moments of Success,” which recognize significant plays during matches.

    “Being associated with the IPL gives us a chance to look a bit bigger than we probably are,” Ingall said. “That’s perceptual scale.”

    Commune’s Stewart said the IPL’s ability to offer marketers scale was what made it so appealing to sponsors.

    “It’s a nation with something like 30 languages,” Stewart said. “Cricket is a language itself that cuts across language, religion, caste and this large land mass. It’s the one thing that brings it all together.”

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    Some in the sports industry wonder if the IPL will miss Lalit Modi’s marketing instinct.
    Despite its early success, the infant league challenges ahead. The first will be how it copes without its founder and commissioner, Modi. The Board of Control for Cricket in India, which governs the sport, named its vice president, Chirayu Amin, interim commissioner last year.

    Srinivas expects that without Modi, who orchestrated much of the overlap between Bollywood and the IPL, the league’s entertainment quotient will decrease. Others anticipate the league will miss Modi’s marketing instinct. But few think the IPL will struggle without him, and that’s primarily because it has established itself as a player in the Indian marketplace so quickly.

    “The IPL is not a flash in the pan,” said Sam Rush, Wasserman Media Group’s international chief operating officer. “It combines the key environments you must have for longevity. You have a huge audience, you have a sport with great appeal, you have the interest of top brands, and you have built a top brand in the IPL.”

    Wildblood, who is still overseeing IMG’s work organizing and running the league, agreed.

    “If the question is can the league survive and flourish irrespective of the controversy, then sure it can,” Wildblood said. “It is something that’s bigger than any individual. This is now the biggest rock ’n’ roll show in India by a mile. It’s huge. It’s absolutely huge.”

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  • ‘Old school’ problems won’t sidetrack India

    There is a proverb that says, “It doesn’t matter how fast you are running if you are going in the wrong direction.” Flipping that statement, even if you are on the right path, speed and efficiency is not guaranteed. For those with a connection to the sports marketplace in India, that may describe your journey to date.

    Sarbit "Sab" Singh
    In the last year, India has had a pretty enviable run, at least on paper, with respect to sports victories.

    • IMG has begun executing on its groundbreaking joint venture with Reliance Industries, both via its academies and the purchase of commercial rights to basketball and soccer in the country.

    • The Commonwealth Games invited 7,000 athletes from 71 countries to New Delhi in October.

    • The just-finished 2011 Cricket World Cup had viewership estimated at more than 1 billion fans fixated with each wicket felled and century scored.

    • The NBA further committed itself by undertaking additional grassroots and broadcast initiatives, including its partnership with the Mahindra Group.

    • Individual athlete and team performances, including Arjun Atwal becoming the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour.

    • Indian national Venkatesh Rao bought the English Premier League’s Blackburn Rovers, giving India’s corporate community another flag to plant, this time in sports, on the world stage.

    But the run was not done on such a smooth road. Frankly, more than a few hurdles affected the type of operational and financial performance we would have hoped for, even with a young sporting nation. Unfortunately, India was gripped by some old problems such as corruption, bureaucracy and poor infrastructure.

    The IPL, and its first commissioner, Lalit Modi, have been subject to investigations surrounding government interference and corruption in the buying and selling of cricket franchises. In addition, there are issues with ownership of the broadcast rights to the lucrative league. This comes after the second season of the IPL was moved to South Africa — imagine moving the NFL to Canada — due to security concerns in the home country.

    GETTY IMAGES
    Among India’s recent sports highlights was hosting The Commonwealth Games in October.
    In the fall of 2010, India was strongly criticized for its extremely poor handling of the planning and execution of the Commonwealth Games, leading to poor attendance and soft revenue numbers. And even the Cricket World Cup was subject to alterations due to the lack of readiness of multiple facilities.

    Are these “old school” problems significant enough to sidetrack India’s progress, on and off the field? Not likely. And that is because the four pillars holding up this emerging sports market are strong enough to withstand those problems.

    1. Two-pronged economic attack: India’s growing middle class and uber-wealthy class (the number of billionaires has grown to total more than 55, according to the latest Forbes list), give it current consumers and funding sources;

    2. Its increasingly influential corporate sector, whose prominence both gives U.S. companies partners to work with, and also sway with those in government who may be impeding economic progress;

    3. India’s huge population, including its large percentage of young people, who are not only seen as a potentially lucrative consumer base, but the source of a new mind-set that strips away at least some of the layers of bureaucracy and corruption seen in the old India.

    4.
    Outside interest, i.e., companies and organizations from around the world that care about the Indian market. That outside interest draws in money and, just as important, expertise in planning and execution that may help elevate the market above those aforementioned hurdles.

    Issues plaguing India are also present with the other so-called BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia and China. In each country, the threats from corruption, bureaucracy and still developing institutions and infrastructure can weaken that fourth pillar. However, each country is combating those challenges with its respective core strengths. And, like the others, the sports business market’s confidence in India is being affirmed by the biggest and most influential sports properties in the world, who are awarding the country mega-events, deals and opportunities.

    While it may not be paved and requires some careful navigation, the last year has given ample evidence that the path to the Indian sports marketplace is the right one to take.�0;0;0;8;n

    Sarbjit “Sab” Singh (sarbjit.singh@farmingdale.edu) is an assistant professor at Farmingdale State College.

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