This is the second article in a 3-part series on the growing phenomenon of baseball in India, as an introduction to BRIC media consumption habits, and media’s influence on consumer preferences in India. By Dah-un Hau of Criterion Global (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It’s the World Series. Bottom of the ninth with the score tied. Bases loaded with two outs and a full count. An extra two million people might be turned-in to watch Danesh Patel and Rinku Singh throw the last and final pitch. These local heroes from Uttar Pradesh, in Northern India could potentially attract millions of additional viewers to this traditionally American sport.
The question for MLB is how to increase awareness in a country that knows so little about baseball – and one so loyal to cricket for that matter?
Baseball was first brought to India by the Amateur Baseball Federation of India in the 1980’s, and the game’s popularity is growing slowly but surely. Indeed, proponents of the sport in India are shocked by the number of players with experience at the University level. But baseball has the potential to gain a greater following. Supporters expect more promotions on the scale of the “Million Dollar Arms” TV show, along with TV, cinema, and radio ad campaigns to boost the sport’s visibility.
With a growing middle class tuning in, TV seems like the most broadly effective media buying channel for this purpose: Roughly half of all Indian households own a television, which is exceptional for a nation in which 77% of the population lives on less than Rs.20 (US$0.50) per day. Additionally, cable television is growing at a rate of 8-10% per year, according to Wikipedia. Of course, India is geographically large, and demographically nuanced by generational, class, and regional preferences, and while mobile advertising is soon expected to take off, India is a market particularly responsive to TV. A 2009 MTV Networks International study on youth consumers worldwide showed a vast majority of young people in India have a favorite channel (88% in India compared with 70% in Germany, 73% in the UK, and 80% in the US).
More importantly for advertisers seeking adoption by Indian consumers, young people in India are deeply brand conscious. In this same survey, Indian youth were found the most likely to talk about brands, with two in three saying they do so ‘a lot’. Perhaps an even more staggering finding: the study also found that Indian youth associate brands as trends and as “a way of belonging,” with 25% of respondents agreeing.
In all likelihood, television would be considered the best way to increase awareness. Targeting younger people, specifically in sports marketing, builds long term loyalty, and is ideal since baseball is meant for younger people to learn and love the game as they are growing up.
Baseball’s adoption in India would amplify interest in the game on a global scale, and after all, an extra million or two viewers cheering for Danesh Patel and Rinku Singh in the World Series wouldn’t be a bad thing for MLB’s franchise.