Why a Life Insurance Brand Created India’s First Para-Badminton Academy
In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Karthik Raman, Chief Marketing Officer and Head – Products, Ageas Federal Life Insurance, talks about the need for India Inc to invest in sport with a vision for the future, the potential of Indian para-athletes and continued.
Tell us about the company’s commitment to sports marketing? What are the short and long term plans?
Our goal at Ageas Federal is to empower people to create and lead the lifestyle of their choice. So while part of this empowerment is financial planning and timely investment in life insurance, we also believe that an individual should focus on their physical health and fitness in order to live a holistic life. . After all, good health is the best insurance you can have.
Over the years, we have used the sports platform to communicate our purpose to our customers and other audiences. With the cricket space dominated by huge corporations with deep pockets, we decided to look at other sports where we could make a difference. Running makes the most sense because it’s the easiest way to get in shape.
We have been running our hugely popular marathons in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kochi and Kolkata since 2016 and our efforts have greatly contributed to growing the running culture in the country.
We have also been associated with other sports such as badminton and football, supporting various programs and academies that provide high quality training and infrastructure to players at the grassroots level.
Our partnerships have always been long term. We invest time, money and effort in identifying and nurturing the budding grassroots talent who will be the country’s champions of tomorrow.
What convinced the brand’s shareholders to partner with Gaurav Khanna to create India’s first para-badminton academy?
To help advance the sport in the country, we partnered with Gaurav Khanna to launch the Ageas Federal ‘Quest for Fearless Shuttlers’ program in January this year.
The association aims to improve India’s medal chances at the 2024 Paralympic Games and to identify and develop new talent for the 2028 and 2032 Paralympic Games. Our support will also help convert India’s premier para-badminton academy into an ultra-modern and high-performance center equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.
As a marketer who invests in para-athletes? What do you think they bring to the table? How can brands empower them?
As a brand, we have always carried a message of positivity, hope and optimism. Our association with para-badminton aligns perfectly with our brand vision to be #FutureFearless.
Para-commuters are incredibly talented athletes who have overcome disabilities, and in many cases financial disadvantages, to represent the country at the highest level. Their determination to succeed against all odds is very inspiring and we want their stories to be further amplified.
Brand support can go a long way for these deserving para-athletes, providing them with better training, physios, training infrastructure, nutrition and finances to travel overseas and compete in international tournaments.
Greater awareness and financial support will also help more children with disabilities and their parents realize that parasport offers them a viable career option.
What are some of the challenges of sports marketing in India? What obstacles are you trying to overcome as a brand?
In the past, playing sports was not considered a viable career option because there were few jobs and little money to earn. But in the current scenario, the sport is getting a lot of visibility and opportunities.
To really build and sustain the country’s sports ecosystem, several changes are necessary.
Firstly, any sports investment by India Inc must be long term in nature. Short-term support would always have this dilemma of predicting the next consumer trend.
By providing long-term support in terms of facility upkeep and support to deserving athletes and academies, the sport has the time it needs to grow and flourish, while providing the business with the opportunity to capitalize on most of its brand.
For example, with the exception of Neeraj Chopra, who received several brand endorsements after his gold medal in Tokyo, there isn’t much corporate support for athletics. Much more financial assistance from Indian businesses is needed locally to identify and prepare the next batch of potential Olympic medalists.
Secondly, there is still a lot to do in terms of sports development. Sport must be made compulsory in our teaching program and we must promote teaching courses for sports management.
We need a transparent map of how an individual can progress to reach the highest level in their sport of choice; it would encourage many others to actively participate.
In addition, we need to significantly improve the quality of coaches and sports infrastructure in the country. We need to have coaching academies to produce more quality coaches. Whether in education or sports, the better the quality of the teachers, the better the students.
When more and more sports people reach the peak of their sports, the media, parents, children and sports viewers become more interested, which gives more incentive to companies to invest in various sports.
India is rich in sporting culture, but why do most brands play it safe by only investing in the proven?
For many less popular sports in the country, getting live coverage of their tournaments or leagues at reasonable costs, whether on TV or OTT platforms, remains a challenge. Also, for many smaller tournaments, getting fans to buy tickets for live events is another test.
We see that leagues backed by major sports broadcasters continue to thrive while others have come to an end after just a few seasons. A combination of these factors makes brands reluctant to invest in sports properties beyond cricket.
Do you think brands invest more in sports personalities than in the sport itself?
A marketer evaluates sponsorships based on the reach and impact they are likely to get for their investment. Whether it’s a sports personality, tournament, league or academy, sponsorship depends on the perceived mileage the brand is likely to get from the association.