Active sportspersons in today’s times earn their livelihood not just by playing all around the world against different opposition in front of different crowds. Unlike in the past, a lot of the premier athletes also have multi-crore deals to their name from some of the most recognisable brands which puts them in an elite list that often sets the benchmark for the rest to follow.
Present Indian batting mainstay Virat Kohli will not forget the opening two months of the year 2017 for a long time. From a cricketing perspective, the 28-year-old was elevated to full-time captaincy in January after MS Dhoni stepped down from the role.
Then in February, the Delhi cricketer landed a whopping Rs. 100 crore deal with sporting brand Puma for an eight-year period. The deal was historic from the point of view that Kohli had become the first ever Indian sportsperson to be signed on by a single firm for a sum as large as that.
One of the men responsible for bringing Kohli on board was the Managing Director of Puma India Mr. Abhishek Ganguly, whose sharp business acumen and prior success in the field of sports and lifestyle played a critical role in bagging the deal for Puma.
A graduate from IIM Lucknow, Ganguly spoke exclusively to Sportskeeda on the reasons behind signing Kohli, the expectations from him and more.
Q: Why Virat Kohli? (Who were the others in consideration?)
A: Why not Virat? Virat has transformed the way fitness is looked at in Indian cricket. He has emphasized the role of an athlete and reshaping cricket in the millennial culture, thus endorsing our brand ethos. He is a youth icon with an effortless style. He inspires those around him, is an excellent role model and will bring great value to PUMA in the years ahead.
Q: How does he compare to other ambassadors PUMA has (Usain Bolt, Luis Suarez)
A: He is at par with them all and Usain has already given him a warm welcome.
It is a long term partnership and in mutual interest of both parties. There are a lot of similarities between Virat’s personality and PUMA’s brand image. Hence the interest in inking this partnership has been mutual. Virat will be present in all major Global marketing campaigns. This will be rolled out in due course of time.
Q: You have signed him for 8 years: is it a gamble or a calculated risk?
A: Given the popularity and relevance of Virat Kohli for our target consumer, we wanted this association to be long term. We strongly believe that his popularity will become even stronger in the future. Also Virat was looking for an association where he could work very closely with a Sports Brand and with long term objectives. Hence we decided on a long period for our partnership.
Q: What can we expect from Kohli that we haven’t seen in the past from a branding perspective?
As part of this exclusive association Virat will work closely with us in developing a line which will include cricket, fitness and Sports Style. The merchandise will include footwear, apparel and accessories. The collection will carve a niche for itself with Virat’s signature style amalgamated with his fashion sensibilities targeted to the Indian youth. This range would be launched in the Autumn Winter season this year.
Q: Was convincing him easy?
A: It was a mutual partnership and so it really wasn’t about convincing Virat. It was essentially PUMA and Virat coming together to work on a common goal – that of transforming the sports and fitness ecosystem in India.
Q: How does signing a world-class athlete add to your company and to the player?
A: The partnership will see PUMA and Virat Kohli work towards transforming the sports and fitness ecosystem in India. That’s the best value addition for both PUMA and Virat.
Q:What are the growth plans of PUMA in India? Are there specific areas where you want to expand?
A: We want to continue our leadership position in the market and to stay Forever Faster.
Q: With so many brands in the sports lifestyle category, how can PUMA bring about something different?
A: We have always done differentiated and quirky marketing and we intend to continue with that.
We don’t do conventional or traditional marketing. New age media is the medium we use most. Right from Instagram to twitter to Facebook and Snapchat each of these platforms lend to our marketing campaigns but not necessarily all together. It’s all about mixing these in order to communicate to our consumer. Experiential marketing is also key to us.
Having said that, we don’t rule out ATL entirely either. ATL/BTL depends on the content we have to share with our consumers.
Q: Has the ease of doing business in India improved now when compared to earlier times?
A: The Indian government's latest FDI policy on single brand makes things smoother and simpler for a foreign entity to invest in retail in India. PUMA had applied for approval for running mono brand stores and ecommerce and we were delighted at the verdict! In such a short span of time, we have become a retailer!
We were always hopeful of the ruling and hence, prepared for the same thus resulting in activation of 43 new stores! We are grateful to the Government for such a positive outlook towards retailing in India. This is sure to create waves in the industry and push India, even more, on the Global map.