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Influence of Digital Media on the Indian Sports Industry

The way we consume sports has rapidly changed over the past few years. It’s no longer about watching games on television or in-person at the stadium. Sports has moved from the field to our living rooms and mobile phones. Digital media, and largely, social media has had a huge role to play in the sport industry.

Digital media is a powerful force. It has the ability to make or break careers and reputations in a matter of seconds. A growing number of sports teams are becoming aware of this power and are using digital media to promote their brand, stadium(s), games, and players. That’s why almost every sports league, team, and player has a social media profile because fans want to engage with them on a more personal level.

For example, the Royal Challengers Bangalore are the first team in the IPL (Indian Premier League) and the first sports team in India to adapt technology on a ginormous scale to connect with their fans. They introduced the RCB Bold Bot, a chatbot that provides fans exclusive content such as team news, player interviews, videos, photos, match reminders, and other behind the scenes content not available through traditional media. This way, the team stays connected with its fans even during the off-season.

Fantasy leagues are another hot pastime for sports fans. They allow fans to create their own teams with their favourite players and play away on their smartphone. While it may sound childish to non-fans, fantasy sports are played almost with the same fervour as the real games. There are hundreds of apps built for fantasy sports alone. Hence, it is a multibillion-dollar industry.

Digital media has blurred the lines between a player and a fan. It has created a relationship between them that goes beyond the field. It has personalized the relationship and changed the whole dynamic of how a fan sees the player and, by large, the team. Therefore, it is highly important to put out the right content for fans and manage their digital media effectively. This is where sports management comes into play.

Digital media is a great way to influence how fans think, see, and interact with sports teams and players. If you aren’t a player or aren’t interested in the athletic side of sports but still want to stay connected to the industry, then Sports management is the career for you.

The Rise of Sports in India

The sports scene in India has undergone a major transformation. No more is cricket the one and only sport worth watching. Today, the Indian sports industry is worth about $700 million. Thanks to the emergence of multiple leagues in a number of diverse sports, this number only seems to be getting bigger.

There was a time, not long ago, when television screens were jam-packed with news and images of cricket. ODIs, test matches, Ranji Trophy, and what not? All dealing with cricket. Hockey received a passing mention if there was an ongoing tournament. And other sports were largely ignored because they weren’t as “popular.” Hence, it’s no surprise that India was, and to an extent still is a cricket-crazy nation.

If someone would have mentioned, 10 years ago, that other sports would be dominating our screens, we would have laughed them off. But today, that person would be right. Because, today, cricket no longer occupies the coveted position it did at one point. However, it does deserve the credit for paving the way for the emergence of other sports in India.

Meteoric Beginnings

The Indian Premier League, popularly known as the IPL, set the precedent for other sports leagues by bringing sponsorships from big companies and popular celebrities. It added a touch of glamour to an otherwise serious industry. Other sports, taking a cue from the IPL, developed their franchises based on its business model. Today, there are a number of leagues in a variety of sports with millions in sponsorships.

The IPL wasn’t the first private sports league in India. Before it came into being there was the Premier Hockey League, India’s first professional sports league, established in 2005. Though it was backed by bigwigs like the Indian Hockey Federation, Leisure Sports, and ESPN Star Sports, it failed to strike a chord with viewers and sponsors. Thus it was discontinued after three years. Its failure can be attributed to the non-familiarity of the sport with the Indian audience.

The IPL brought together two industries beloved in India – movies and cricket – on one platform. This irresistible and infallible combination is largely the reason for its continued success

But even cricket, a sport the country almost deifies, had a rocky start. The Indian Cricket League or ICL, formed before the IPL, lasted only 2 years (between 2007 and 2009). It did not receive support from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or the International Cricket Council (ICC) nor did it have any strong commercial sponsorship.

The IPL, on the other hand, started with a strong foundation with support from the BCCI, corporate endorsements, and innumerable sponsorships. It also helped that teams in the IPL had celebrity owners. It brought together two industries beloved in India – movies and cricket – on one platform. This irresistible and infallible combination is largely the reason for its continued success.

Expanding the Horizon

The immense success of the IPL led to the creation of the Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League, Hockey India League, Premier Badminton League, Pro-Wrestling League, and many more. This is good news for sports fans and investors. For fans, it’s a chance to watch and enjoy their favorite sport on a grander and glamorous level. Sponsors can capitalize on this growing interest and turn it into a profitable investment. It’s not just televisions and mobiles that these leagues are taking over; stadiums are brimming with hardcore sports fans, who are thronging in huge numbers to watch them. Social media is also abuzz with discussions about kabaddi, hockey, gymnastics, and others.

The biggest development by far in Indian sports is the recognition of the contributions by sportswomen. With women winning top prizes in international sporting events such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, and the recently concluded Cricket World Cup, their tournaments are gaining a sizable audience. PT Usha (Track & Field), Anju Bobby George (Athletics), Sania Mirza (Tennis), Mary Kom (Boxing), Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu (Badminton), Sakshi Malik (Wrestling), Mithali Raj (Cricket), Deepa Karmakar (Gymnastics), Tania Sachdev (Chess), Deepika Kumari (Archery), Dipika Pallikal (Squash), and many more have become household names that we enunciate with pride. They have leveled the playing field and showed that talent has no gender.

Sports Management, the Future

The rise of sports in India has opened doors to a plethora of opportunities in sports management. As sport becomes a valuable industry for investors, there is a good chance you can make a lucrative career in sports. Career options include anything from managing a stadium to being a high-profile sports manager. There are also numerous sports management companies that have cropped up in recent years dealing with the business of sports.

With an inexhaustible list of sports that are yet to be tapped, India is well on its way to becoming a key player in the management and marketing of sports.

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