Storyboard18 X Just Sports | How Usha International promotes sports culture in India
In the early 1980s, former president of Usha International, Late Siddharth Shriram, who was an avid golfer, was thinking of ways to incorporate fitness into the lifestyle of city dwellers. With Shriram’s goal in mind and with his leadership and drive, the company launched one of the first marathons in the country. This was long before running and marathons attracted thousands of people from all walks of life in India.
Few people remember or are aware of this activity because Shriram never saw it as a marketing opportunity, says Komal Mehra, head of sports initiatives and associations at Usha International. “He wanted to create platforms for sports where there is not too much clutter. As a brand, we have no authority over any particular sport. We have always been facilitators and focused on building partnerships to enhance sports experiences,” adds Mehra.
Professional golf programs were officially introduced by Shriram, especially to encourage female golfers. Today, Usha International supports the DGC Ladies Open Amateur Golf Championship and Army Ladies Amateur Golf Championship. “Sport has no barriers. That’s why there’s a wealth of opportunity for brands to nurture sports culture,” Mehra told Storyboard18. According to her, for Usha International, marketing came much later in the brand narrative.
Associations like no other
Usha International is the first brand in India to promote Ultimate, originally known as Ultimate Frisbee, a non-contact team game played with a flying disc. Over the years, the company has supported the Ultimate Players Association of India (UPAI) Ultimate Championships across the country as the title sponsor. The company, with the help of non-profit organizations across the country, has set up a pilot coaching program in Delhi.
As part of this, Ultimate was introduced to primary and secondary school children. The brand has also supported various institutions such as St. Stephens and Ashoka University, among others, with discs of international standards – the Discraft discs. The sport has also been introduced to low income communities with the help of different NGOs.
Mehra, who is also an Ultimate player, explains why Usha International got interested in the sport. “It’s not a popular game, but it’s one of a kind. Anyone can play this game. All you need is a Frisbee which we source from the USA and an open field. Investments are minimal. It is one of the few sports in the world where men and women play together. This brings gender equity, sportsmanship and physical fitness.
Ultimate is also an unrefereeed sport that, at different levels, teaches player integrity. Usha International along with Ultimate Players Association of India has popularized the sport in the deepest pockets of India.
For example, the brand is bringing Ultimate to rural India through Usha Silai Schools, a brand-created community that empowers village women to become entrepreneurs through tailoring and the establishment of tailoring schools. The company, in partnership with local NGOs, is setting up Silai schools in some of the most remote and rural corners of the country. Currently, there are approximately 29,450 Silai schools.
Usha International is also involved in indigenous sports. The region-specific indigenous sports that the company supports include Mallakhamb in Tamil Nadu, Siat Khnam (archery) in the North Eastern States, Kalaripayattu (a form of ancient martial arts) in Kerala, and a few others. are in preparation. Mehra says supporting Indigenous sports is like being part of celebrating and making people happy. “Most of the time it’s not about competition. It’s the participation that counts. »
The pandemic interrupted several on-field plans for Usha International. Mehra admits that at first it was difficult and even disappointing. However, the brand went online to build communities. Through the Usha Play digital platform, the brand showcased sports personalities, coaches and their journeys through documentaries, podcasts, reels, infographics and contests. Some of the guests were Brian Lara, Mumbai India players Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan and Keiron Pollard among many others.
“Playing sports also rejuvenates our brand. In this way, we will know the pulse of young people up close. That said, she also observes that sport should not be seen solely as a source of glamor and entertainment: “Sport has empowering powers. It changes people’s lifestyles and outlook on life. These are the areas where brands need to create conversations. »
(Edited by : Priyanka Deshpande)
First post: STI