Team India sponsored by Sahara

03 Jun 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Indian Cricket Team

Sahara group logoThe Sahara group, a conglomerate owned by Subrato Roy, has once again won the rights of sponsoring the Indian men’s cricket team till December 2013. But what is important is the sponsorship deal. There is no doubt why the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) is the richest cricket board in the world. The sponsorship deal only goes to show the influence that the BCCI has on Indian cricket.

It is due to various sponsors such as Sahara and Nike, who pay millions of dollars for years and years, for marketing. Sahara has bid to pay a whopping $719000 for every match in all three formats of the game.This was because the BCCI set a base price of $541000. In the process, Sahara beat its own previous record of paying $300000-450000 depending on the format of the game played by India, in the period of 2005-2009.

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The news comes as a shock to many cricket fans as the Sahara Group had won the bid of owning the Pune franchise of the IPL, paying a mind-boggling $370 million. This had happened two months earlier and since Sahara would need cash in order to handle their IPL team from next year onwards, Subrato Roy wasn’t sure in his statements to the press whether Sahara would continue to sponsor the Indian team.

However, the conglomerate has put this sponsorship deal, in similar terms as the Pune ownership, calling it purely ‘emotional’ as the firm loves cricket. Sahara Group has been sponsoring the Indian team since 2001 and has also been sponsoring the Indian hockey team for a long period.

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The company’s interest in sports was also evident when they donated additional money to the hockey team, which was in a crisis, last year. In the light of recent events, their so-called ‘emotion’ could be justified, according to statements made by Abhijit Sarkar, the corporate affairs head of Sahara Group.

However, is this what they call ‘emotion’ towards sport? According to many critics of this deal, Sahara has only ashamed themselves by paying $719000 per match to sponsor only the men’s team. They have stopped their sponsorship for the India A, India U-19 and the women’s team respectively.

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This is unfair if they love Indian sport and in particular, Indian cricket. This is a clear example of a failed marketing campaign. They have won the bid to sponsor India for three years; however their corporate image could be in tatters soon.

This is purely a business deal as according to market sources, Sahara had earlier paid approximately $88 million for four years. And now, if they only sponsor the men’s team, they would have to pay $106 million on estimation. This will not hurt the group’s cash flow so much.

Cricket in India has become commercialized so much so that the game is totally dependent on money and the IPL’s growing stature is a clear proof of this. It is due to these sponsorship deals that board officials become more corrupt, and hardly spend any of this money for the welfare of young, aspiring cricketers across the country.

So, if Sahara really believes that they are doing this for goodwill, fulfilling their corporate social responsibility (CSR), they need to think again. Instead, they would be doing good perhaps to the entire state of Maharashtra, through the Sahara Pune Warriors team. Young talent will be brought up in the team and Sahara could also create jobs for those young cricketers who are not upto the mark.

Thus, its time that companies like Sahara think about their marketing strategies. They shouldn’t fall prey to the BCCI’s money-making tactics and instead use the sponsorship money to actually improve the Pune team or build new cricketing academies or improve hockey facilities in our country so that Indian sport and in this case, cricket benefits the most.

Sahara is already known by Indian fans as many matches have been played over the last eight years. However, the sponsorship deal makes sense as long as the BCCI uses the money with the right intentions.

If the board can help improve the standard of cricket offered by tournaments such as Ranji Trophy, then I don’t think that Mr. Roy and his company has committed a mistake of sponsoring India as Sahara would actually wish to maintain its pan-India image through the sponsorship, in the eyes of the avid Indian cricket fan.

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