Coca-Cola IPTL And The Pursuit of Happiness

As yet another sports league – the Coca-Cola IPTL rolls into town, Sports Rediscovered takes a wide angle look at the happy nexus between brands and sporting events, which ensures world class action for sports fans.


Bollywood meets tennis legends: Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan with tennis legends (from left) Roger Federer, Pat Rafter, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker (Credit: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)

Sports events and Leagues the world over are prime marketing ground for brands and their advertisers. After all the audience that avidly follows their sport, fits well with the target demographic and which brand would not want to associate with the thrills and spills that can only be associated with live sporting action.

However for any brand partnership with a sports event, there has to be a real synergy between the two. A few example here along with the usual hits and misses

Sports Sponsorship and Cricket

For long time cricket fans in India, followed cricketing tournaments named after brands even though we were too young to realize the surrogate advertising that was taking place. Ever since India’s victory at the 1983 World Cup, there has been a rush of brands that were eager to cash in on the popularity of the sport.

One could argue that the brands needed cricket much more in this case and hence the sport attracted a strong line up of products across categories as wide and varied as real estate, finance groups , mobile phones, banks and even invertors !

Tennis has followed suit

In the early days, tennis was not far behind with multinational firms strongly associated with the sport. The Grand Slams and Davis Cup on the other hand have been a different kettle of fish. They have a loyal set of brands that are now unmistakably associated with these events. You think of Wimbledon and a mental image of Roger Federer in white , executing his strokes with the precision of ahem, a fashionable watch ! Well with some sponsors that have been around for over 100 years , Wimbledon has proven to be one for tradition  even in the brand and marketing stakes !

The Golfing Network

The four golf Majors too have  a strong and long lasting brand association. Golf with its potential for high powered networking, is also able to cater to an elite set of brands.  Banks and Consulting Firms typically target Golf tournaments for their marketing and brand promotions and till recent times, Tiger Woods was the marketing face of of a major consulting firm.

The Happy Association

In what is proving to be a happy association for the Indian tennis fan, Mahesh Bhupathi has been able to bring world class tennis to India , through the Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).

Partner with Pedigree

Coca-Cola’s association with the Olympic Games dates back to 1928 and it is a core sponsor of key events like the NBA, NASCAR and the FIFA World Cup.  The brand combines sponsorship of key events like the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a long-running channels of fan communication through innovations like the “World’s Cup” campaign.

They have also been involved with events like the Copa Coca-Cola (an international youth tournament aimed at improving the quality of grassroots football). So coca-Cola has a long history of supporting and sponsoring sports events and thereby providing a source of happiness to the spectators

The Stars Shine Down

The coca-Cola IPTL also seems to be well aligned to the brand’s message of spreading happiness.

The fact that the world’s biggest tennis stars have come together in India and other Asian regions has brought immeasurable joy to the fans. Federer got an incredible reception in New Delhi when he first stepped on the court, while Maria Sharapova too, raised the roof in Manila too.

The quality of play itself has been a distinct source of happiness for the fans. Legends like Goran Ivanisevic and Fabrice Santoro have proven that they have hardly lost a step through the years, and have regaled the spectators with some superb serving and shot-making. The doubles sets have been entertaining as usual, and Indian fans were particularly enthralled when Sania Mirza teamed up with Roger Federer for the Indian Aces.

And, of course, the Federer vs Djokovic match, the final battle of the Indian leg, surpassed all expectations. The spectators could barely hold their breath as the two greats produced one spectacular shot after another. The ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s kept resonating through the stadium all through the set, and ultimately, Federer the crowd favourite narrowly edged out the World No. 1, bringing even more joy to the audience that was clearly supporting the Swiss star.

Brand Presence within the Event

Of course, brands don’t just confine themselves to being title sponsors of sports events; they go much beyond that.  The idea is to associate with the excitement of the event and in most cases to create a link with the events of the sporting encounter.

Similarly, in the IPTL, the company has spread the spirit of ‘happiness’  that they want to bring to the event. The tournament itself is dubbed as the ‘Happiness Open’, and the experience of the players and spectators confirms the appropriateness of that title.

Then there are things like the ‘Happiness Power Point’, where the player receiving serve gets two points on winning one. That brings in a touch of unpredictability to the proceedings, and also ensures that the player receiving serve and the spectators watching the match get a unique thrill. This was clearly evident when Federer won a Happiness Power Point while trailing 2-3 against Djokovic in the shoot-out, to immediately bring the score to 4-3 in the Swiss’ favor. The Federer fans sure loved the two points for one come back !

The Happy Sports Fan

The Coca-Cola IPTL will count as a win-win event for everyone involved as well as an example of how a brand can effectively leverage the integration of sports and the happiness it can bring to sports fans.

And while the marketing men can count and balance their demographics and their numbers, as a sports fan give me an evenly fought sporting encounter between Roger and Novak any day, or for that matter Sania and Rohan versus Soares and Hantuchova.

After all ,

“Happiness to a sports fan is an evenly fought sporting encounter that is fought fair and square” .

I guess the marketing men did get it right when they christened this as the Happiness Open!

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