Branding through sports; premium brands in for soccer

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IPL did its bit quite well. Be it a premium or a mass brand, a retailer or a wholesaler, or a chaiwala on a street’s corner, every company or individual in the business of selling a product or providing service witnessed rise in the sales graph.

Can Euro Cup match the same? Hosted by Switzerland and Austria, with no Indians on the field, it does not sound as exciting. However, for premium brands, whose targets are defined and probably associated with ‘global’ and not just ‘Indian’ happenings, the propositions seem different.

A leading economic daily reports that makers of luxury goods see the three-week tournament as a boon for glamour. Beyond the marketing power of top players’ zealously groomed companions, luxury has seen the global fan-base for football evolve with increasing television rights, and now some brands find soccer an attractive vehicle.

Around 234.7 million people follow football in Europe alone, says Sport + Markt, a research and consultancy company in international sports business. With matches showing in China and India, companies’ sights are set there and beyond. “Football is acting as a shop window for luxury brands through the WAGs (wives and girlfriends),” said Ron Cregan, business strategy head at brand communications agency Navyblue.

Brands like Armani and Dolce & Gabbana have designed clothing for national teams as well as top-flight clubs across Europe, and now top Swiss watchmakers Hublot and Ebel are getting in on the act as well. “The thing most guys can spend money on is a luxury watch,” Cregan said.

Hublot, bought this year by the world’s largest luxury group LVMH, will act as official timekeeper during Euro 2008, whose main sponsors include mass brands such as Coca-Cola, Carlsberg and McDonald’s. It may be noted that 2008 (two thousand and eight) special-edition watches, each costing 15,000 Swiss francs, which Hublot had produced especially in relation to the Euro Cup 2008, have already been sold out.

“Football also ensures brands are seen in the right context and environment, so advertisements for these marquee brands are not sandwiched between commercials for unrelated products during television programmes,” Cregan said. “Thanks to football, the luxury brands don’t have local media issues in emerging markets. Hublot, for example, is embedded into Euro 2008. Their brand is out there with flashing lights and rockets. They don’t need to worry about their brand being presented in the wrong place,” he added.

– By Ranjan Kaplish

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