Muthoot Fincorp Ltd., the flagship company of Muthoot Pappachan Group, is one of the largest NBFCs in India and also the title sponsor of the Kerala Blasters and Tamil Thalaivas franchises, both of which are owned by the Sachin Tendulkar consortium in the Indian Super League and the Pro Kabaddi League, respectively.
Through these sponsorships, the brand engages with it’s potential customers. But there is much more than just marketing plans, a strong vision behind these initiatives of sponsorships. The focus is on “the development of a sports culture.”
For Muthoot Pappachan Group, “sport sponsorship no longer means simply attaching a corporate name to a stadium. Rather it has become a triangle of association between the team, the sponsor and the passionate fan.”
Thomas Muthoot, Executive Director, Muthoot Pappachan Group in an exclusive interview with InsideSport.co discusses about the company’s sporting initiatives, ventures and how the group is planning to develop a sport culture in India. Here are the excerpts:
InsideSport: Muthoot Pappachan Group is one of the oldest and renowned groups in India, especially in South. What makes it invest into sports?
Thomas Muthoot: Of course as cliché it may sound the top three reasons for any corporate to invest in sports are to enhance corporate reputation, engage current and potential customers and motivate staff. The state of Kerala has always been a sporting state. Our journey though in the field of sports began with individual sponsorships to mainly players in Badminton. These sponsorships were mostly out of marketing funds. Since three years we are also the title sponsors for the ISL team Kerala blasters and now Tamil Thalaivas in PKL. Over a period of time we realized that besides talent and training, what is urgently required to boost the sports culture is the provision of high tech Infrastructure, highly qualified coaches both Indian as well as foreign and a long term sports policy. We are investing in grassroot level projects for sports. We believe the need of the hour should be the identification and support for the next generation’s sporting ambition.
InsideSport: You run a cricket academy as well. Which altogether has a different aspect than sponsoring sports as a marketing initiative. Tell us something more about it.
Thomas Muthoot: We realized that there is no dearth of talent, only it has to be found and properly trained. The legacy of MRF pace foundation was a good example. The first and the foremost measure is to catch the young and develop in them the killer instinct by offering all possible motivation and opportunity. We put in place a structure capable of delivering long-lasting benefits. Children are encouraged to play at an early age in the western world and should they want to pursue their talent, the system is structured in a manner that automatically propels deserving talent to the top leagues at the university and national levels.
We have also now started the MPF football academy. Football academies were developed by the leading clubs in the west so that they could identify and nurture talented players from as young as eight. We are training 46 boys in the age group of 10 to 15 years with a coach from UK, providing them with boarding and education as well. The programme is unique in the sense it puts vital emphasis on high-quality education apart from professional football training, good nutrition, healthcare, life skills and also training for a career in sports.
InsideSport: What has been your philosophy around sports, considering the sponsorship associations and sports academies?
Thomas Muthoot: Rupert Murdoch made a very large bet indeed on the power of football to drive a particular business proposition and proved spectacularly successful. In motor racing, Bernie Ecclestone had the vision to understand how globalisation, the enduring appeal of fast cars and the distributive power of broadcasting could create enormous value for Formula One. They all made some big bets and took visionary views on the potential for their sports, events or talent over the long-term. The fact that the Under-17 FIFA World Cup is being held in India, and talks of India hosting the Olympics in the next couple of years are a prime indicator of the rising growth and success of the sports sector. How we can deliver towards building a sports culture is structured around the five key areas of of investment, technology, sponsorship, participation and fanbase, and legacy. We want to help create a revolution in Indian Sports that will be remembered for a long, long time to come.
InsideSport: You have been associated with Kerala Blasters FC in ISL and now Tamil Thalaivas in PKL as title sponsor. Both of these franchisees are co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar. Is this just a coincidence or any special connection with Sachin?
Thomas Muthoot: Sachin Tendulkar dominates his sport comprehensively, has seamlessly blended power and grace, efficiency and elegance in being a sporting icon. Sachin’s association with football has been a boon to the state of Kerala and also for the sport. The ISl and PKL matches have evoked tremendous enthusiasm and have certainly done good for the sport and sachins support has been a vital one. We are happy to be associated with such a legend.
InsideSport: How much of your marketing budget is allocated around sporting ventures?
Thomas Muthoot: Around 25% of our marketing budget is allocated around sporting ventures. Academies are helped through our CSR activities.
InsideSport: How has been the ROI on sporting investments? Are you satisfied with the associations and investments that you have made?
Thomas Muthoot: We believe that sports sponsorships and partnerships are conferring benefits such as deeper engagement with customers and motivation of staff, beyond the traditional avenues of brand awareness and hospitality. We want to create a sports ecosystem that can improve audience interest and breed better champions for the nation. We are also looking for ways to use technology to further engage with people. Sport sponsorship no longer means simply attaching a corporate name to a stadium. Rather it has become a triangle of association between the team, the sponsor and the passionate fan. We predict that sponsorship will not just be a marketing channel, but integrated into other channels such as digital or content, to drive more results to existing campaigns.
InsideSport: Are these investments in sports a pure marketing initiative or part of your Corporate Social Responsibility activities?
Thomas Muthoot: Although these investments have used funds from both entities, we would like to reiterate that “Our CSR is not like textbook philanthropy. Our CSR activities for sports is a programme, with a long term objective. It involves moving them from X to Y year-on-year. It’s a full-fledged athlete management programme. We see our CSR opportunity to seek positive stories, have brand stories come out, and help the nation.” Our focus is on the development of a sports culture.
InsideSport: Muthoot as corporate is showing a strong connection with sports. There are various sporting corporate opportunities emerging in the country. Can we see the group heading to have its own sporting IP?
Thomas Muthoot: We recognize that athletes and sports stars have value well beyond their performances. We are certainly trying to go beyond the usual sponsorship platforms by creating our own vision for our academies, and in the near future our sporting events. We are confident of creating and supporting the vision for better opportunities for sports in India. We surely could be heading to having our own sporting IP.