Sports marketing and sponsorships have reached
dizzying heights in the world today. Whether it is Olympic Games,
Soccer World Cup, Golf Masters, Wimbledon or other Grand Slam Tennis
competitions it has become a multi-billion dollar industry. In cricket
as in Olympic Games the mega buck, has been rather late in starting to
roll. While Los Angeles Games became the first-truly commercialised
Olympics in the modern era, ICC too was rather late in proper
exploitation of its true potential. It fell to the lot of current IOC
Chief Ehsan Mani of Pakistan origin to change its fortunes when he was
handling its financial affairs. During his stewardship after he was
elevated to President, on rotation basis, the ICC apparently is placed
in an enviable state as never before in its long history.
In Pakistan the history of sports marketing and
sponsorship is of relatively recent origin and that too largely based
on the spectacular growth witnessed in cricket. While Pakistan in
early years notably in the golden 50's & 60's had excellent
opportunity or products in several sports their proper packaging or
marketing largely went untapped.
It is therefore the game of cricket which took the
lead to set the ball rolling in the field of organised sponsorship and
marketing of its products. In barely over two decades after the
Cricket Board ventured out the result of this effort is obvious for
all to see. Pakistan Cricket Board is today by far the richest with
its coffers full, the following of game peaking to ever higher limit,
to make it an envy of all others.
But if one was to look back it would be amazing to
see its remarkable transformation in such a short period. Pakistan
cricket which took off in 1952, in real sense, after being given
official recognition by ICC, had to struggle through its early years
for its survival. Without hardly any organisational structure or
regular income it was highly dependent on regular dole from the
government to make it function. The cricketing activities too
consisted of a thin international commitment and irregular and
ramshackle domestic competition. All foreign home & away tours and
domestic activity was carried out on annual financial grants by
government right upto the 1980s. The Board used to prepare an annual
budget, present it to the sports ministry and was given a grant which
by today's standard appears a pittance. How did this all change? It
makes an interesting study.
It all started in late 1970's when Pakistan Tobacco
Company came into sponsorship of cricket to extend assistance both in
international and domestic cricket. This partnership between cricket
board and PTC was to last for over two decades and prove to be a sheet
anchor for the game. Although the sums offered to start, which now
appear meagre, at that time, provided regular and continued sustenance
to the game whose coffers were empty. The grant from the government
was both irregular and erratic and largely dependent on the whims of
the officials concerned. The princely sum of annual grant at that time
was around Rs 3 lakh, something which currently forms the basic pay of
an individual "A" class player per month.
PCB was able to extricate itself from the syndrome
of these petty grant, and occasional subsidies in the 1980's. The
Board improved its liquidity both through enhancement of sponsorship
amount and exploring other avenues of income. This included proper
exploitation of marketing, its ground ticket sales and ground
advertisements. By 1987-88, PCB had become fairly self-sufficient and
was able to effectively use some enterprising individuals and firms to
achieve this goal. The name of Tahir Memon, Aziz Qureshi, late Abbas
Kazim, Nasim Hashim Rao and later the role of TWI comes in with
Commander Jillani at its helm in Pakistan. PCB still had no organised
or proper marketing setup of its own and was therefore outsourcing
this aspect to raise the required finance.
The state of marketing and sponsorship still in its
infancy is reflected in the fact that CBSF had to pay PTV and some
individuals connected with it to get its event covered in Sharjah. One
incident which spiralled the whole game to new heights was Javed
Miandad's sixer, on the last ball of the match, to bring the One Day
Internationals (ODI's) to popularity lever hitherto unknown in the
whole region. It also ski-rocketed the sponsorship craze to never look
back ever since.
PTC also renewed its next tenure with PCB on much
higher terms now running into a multi-million deal, which at that time
was considered big. PTC acquired rights for all international and
domestic cricket and given ground rights. Then PEPSI moved into
cricket arena to start a new and welcome trend. Pakistan in 1994
signed up a mega deal with TWI for all its TV rights for international
cricket in Pakistan. This had changed the whole scene in Pakistan and
the multi-million dollar deal brought whiff of hitherto unknown
prosperity to cricket in Pakistan. This also meant PCB was out of its
dependence on the government and official patronage for the first
A one million dollar deal with Coke followed soon
for the Pakistan team sponsorship rights. However, Coke was replaced
with PEPSI, who came with a more attractive offer to acquire the team
rights. Tahir Memon was appointed a marketing consultant in this
A lot of new sponsors including LG, PSO, Mobilink,
Paktel, Instaphone, etc. came into cricket fold. In 2003, PCB signed a
new deal with Tensports/ARY conglomerate for a five-year $40 million
deal giving a big boost to the game.
But in 2004, PCB reached a big milestone signing
$21 million dollar deal for the single series against India in
Pakistan which included TV rights. All kinds of Indian sponsors
competed with other international vendors and swept them off their
feet. These included giants like Samsung, Hero-Honda, Airtell, and
Hyundai. As if not enough, the energetic marketing team of PCB were to
explore and clinch new avenues to break fresh ground in the field of
sponsorships. These included mobile telephony & internet video
streaming which netted a handsome amount of half-a-million US dollar
of additional revenue to Pakistan Cricket.
Realising the importance of marketing and its role,
PCB has finally streamlined to create a full-fledged marketing
department at its head office in Lahore.
Its latest venture was to acquire the first ever
sponsorship of domestic cricket and launch of 20-20 competition in its
history. All sorts of modern gimmicks were used to attract a record
crowd and highest ever attendance was seen in local cricket. The
sponsorship reportedly worth over Rs 10 million with ABM-AMRO Bank
thus taken off in a spectacular fashion. The sponsors were naturally
most happy at their initiative and eager to carry on. PCB is also now
focussing on finding regional team sponsors in domestic cricket, to
make it more attractive and give it a new look. To help achieve this
PCB has crated a new website on domestic cricket separately named (NCP)
National Cricket Pakistan.
As in the words of Chairman Shaharyar Mohammad
Khan, PCB is looking at its future with greater optimism "to
ensure excellence in governance and also to avail and improve
marketing and commercial opportunities to the maximum without
compromising the basic ethos of the game".
With cricket leading the field in making it as the
richest sports body in Pakistan a look at others would be in order.
While cricket remains a highly popular spectator sport with its
coffers filled by earnings from ever rising revenues from satellite
coverage its closest rival could well be the game of hockey.
Hockey has long been considered a truly national
game of Pakistan. Its popularity and appeal has been more of national
passion. It has certainly a track record which is second to none. With
3 Olympic gold medals (Rome 1960, Mexico 1968 and Los Angeles 1984)
under its belt and 4 world cup victories starting from inaugural event
at Barcelona to Argentina (1978) and Australia (1994) it has been long
considered one of the super powers in the game.
At one time it had achieved what was a unique
"grand slam" of capturing all major hockey events in the
world, i.e. Olympic, World Champions Trophy and Asian titles to make
it almost invincible. But all this was achieved largely during the
time when the game was under the tutelage of that remarkable
personality called Air Marshal Nur Khan.
He had headed the cricket, squash and hockey with a
vision and such a leadership was rarely seen in the world of sport,
before. He brought about the much required changes to make Pakistan
reach the top, besides revolutionizing sports in the country. It was
his genius which set the ball volleying to introduce world cup, both
in hockey and cricket, besides bringing many other changes which
lifted sports from a state of stagnation to newer heights of
popularity, economic viability and excellence.
He had visualized even at that early stage the
possibility of what lay in future. In all three sports, he had helped
to bring a semblance of financial viability and laid the foundation of
It is most unfortunate that his successors were
unable to build on his initiative. Apart from the massive support
extended to both hockey and squash by PIA, the Air Marshal had been
able to make these sports self-sufficient by creating new and
innovative avenues of financial help from abroad, especially Gulf
region. That made these sports free of the heavy dependence on the
meagerly sums which were being handed out by PSB and which were
After his pulling out of sports, both hockey and
squash affairs have been in a state of uncertainty although they were
headed by top brass. Hockey has now been once again handed back to the
new PIA chief, who is from the private sector and capable of restoring
the lost luster through healthy sponsorship.
Presently in hockey, there is a number of sponsors,
major and minor like HBL, Chohan Estates, PSO, Samsung, Chimera, Malik
Sports etc. but the sum total of all this is not something which one
can write home about. It could hardly sustain the game, which needs
the mega buck and above all the satellite coverage to infuse the much
needed vitality into the game. Above all the PHF, needs a much more
organized and professional marketing effort than its present setup
which has failed to produce any worthwhile results. Let PHF look at
the professional handling of affairs by countries like Holland,
Germany and Spain to learn a lesson. As a result of their poor
organization and lack of imaginative plans they have lagged behind.
Their half-hearted attempts to advertise for local sponsors have
reportedly drawn a blank.
In the game of squash, while some of the players
like Jahangir Khan and Jansher helped themselves to become
multi-millionaires, the PSF has remained in the hands of PAF, with no
idea of how to properly market it.
While in the rest of world football has become the
largest and most prosperous sport with FIFA filling its coffers with
both hands Pakistan remains in the wilderness.
Even the emerging Emirates were riding on the crest
of Soccer success with their higher standard and rich resources. PFF
continues to remain dependent on regular dole from FIFA, which
generally helps only to fill the pockets of officials rather than
being deployed property for the uplift of the sport. PFF, remains
without a notable sponsor and a worthwhile marketing setup which is a
The same goes for POA, which for long long years
had one of the noted captains of industry at its helm. Yet it failed
to find a sponsor to market it properly over the years. It had been
largely depending on the measly grants of the government, and subsidy
from PST, which has not helped the sport to grow. Now with a new
incumbent inducted it is hoped he will be able to bring about the
necessary changes and create the marketing thrust it has long required
but was denied for some odd reasons.
Among other sports in Pakistan, tennis is now
showing signs of promise. Polo, too needs to desperately shop around
for proper sponsors. Then one comes to boxing, which is headed by
Prof. Anwar Chaudhry who has been heading AIBA, but somehow unable to
get the sport off the ground in his home country. These were some
indications that his meeting with President Musharraf and the interest
shown by him would finally end the stalemate. But this has remained
just a fond hope. So, largely the scene of proper marketing and
sponsorship remains as elusive as ever in Pakistan except for cricket.
How one hopes that we wake up to the contemporary realities and
organize our sports on more modern lines. A recent example of the new
possibilities was shown in Lahore, when "Lahore Marathon"
was organized with such outstanding results. This event can act as a
trail-blazer to revitalize the national sport and show them the way to