ITW Consulting Pvt. Ltd – The Global Sports Management Partner

ITW Consulting
Bhairav Shanth, Co Founder, ITW Consulting Pvt. Ltd

Change is best when it brings positive transformation. And at the turn of the millennium, western professional commercialisation brought that positive change in Indian sports and the Indian sports management arena. Today, all the new national, international, and cross-border tournaments have ushered in a new era of sports promotion among youngsters, bringing in new opportunities, audiences, money, avenues, and a new business model for the market. For such tournaments, professional sports management is a must. And one name that stands out in this aspect is ITW Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

With 8 offices and 1738 clients across 4 countries and professional sports management experience of over a decade, ITW has worked with all the biggies in the game. Managing tournaments from IPL to WorldT20, and brands from OPPO to CRED, it has also bagged numerous awards for its humongous contribution to South Asia’s professional sports management work.

Let us know more about it from its co-founder, and M.D., Bhairav Shanth, in an exclusive interview with Insights Success.    

Sir, will you please describe more about ITW in detail.

We are a consulting and management firm, and last year were named amongst the top 6 Asian Sports Marketing companies. Since we have a global presence and an in-depth understanding of the International Sports and Media market, we can help our clients to build stronger brand visibility, media buying, awareness and recall a wider target audience.

Having been associated with a diverse range of brands, our expertise in sponsorship activation, sponsorship and event management, has earned us an esteemed reputation in this field. Our vision is to challenge the status quo and execute novel ideas that would disrupt the convention. It drives us to holistic solutions for a sporting event and guarantees the highest quality. We have been a part of some of the biggest sports campaigns in the country and have bagged 30 National and International awards in the past year for our successful campaigns for clients like OPPO, Uber, Haier, and Royal Stag. For the IPL, we orchestrated 12 deals, including two official partners for IPL 2020 – Unacademy and CRED.   

What kind of offerings/services do you provide? 

We personalize our offerings by considering the distinct requirement of client’s brands across multiple spectrums under one roof.

The services offered are:

  • Rights and acquisition sales
  • Media Planning and Buying
  • Talent Solutions and Management
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Celebrity Endorsement and Brand Ambassador Collaborations
  • Digital Media Sales
  • Franchise and league development
  • Sports investment consulting
  • On ground and in stadia branding and activations
  • Television rights and broadcast sales
  • Sports production 

How much ITW was affected in these pandemic times and what were the steps taken by you to curb the damages all the while helping your clients and maintaining the safety of your employees?  

We were always ahead of the curve. In the past one-and-a-half year, in particular, we completely reinvented ourselves and our business model and emerged from the pandemic not only unscathed but actually stronger.

We launched our ITW 360 IO division, to accelerate our digitalization and to offer a bouquet of digital services. Our major sales pitches were a result of our detailed discussion with clients, based on our long-term relationship rather than the current disruptive scenario.

We expanded at the height of the pandemic when a lot of sport was suspended. We tailored for multiple seasons rather than a one-off event. By moving towards consulting-based selling solutions to clients, we linked them to the best properties, sporting or otherwise.

During the pandemic, we put employees’ safety first. We were among the few companies, to announce WFH 10 days before the country went into its first lockdown. All our employees were safe from the pandemic, by not commuting at all, right from the beginning.

Despite having tough months business-wise, during the lockdown, the silver lining was, we added more employees to our team, by hiring the best talents, and keeping the company afloat, by safeguarding our current employees.

What is the current industrial scenario of sports management space?

Sports is a vast industry. Currently, it is at $95 billion and is expected to reach $150 billion by 2024. The current growth rate is 5.9%, compared to 2020, where it was 4.3%. Having said that, sports management as such has been revolutionized in India.

The last decade had been fruitful for the industry, thanks to the number of leagues (Including Cricket, Kabaddi, Hockey and Football) that have evolved in the country. The opportunities of working with professional national and international athletes attracts a great pool of job seekers. As this kind of an eco-system requires finance, marketing and operational support, it opens an array of requirements and skills that shape up and becomes the driving force of this industry. 

What kind of challenges have you faced while entering the sports management space?
The core principles of differentiation and disruption drive us. When we entered the market, we found an industry scape that was fragmented and ad hoc. Back in 2010, for example, a lot of the cricket associations were known for ad hoc spending and inconsistent exposures, driven by personal love for the game, rather than aligning it with marketing strategy or planning for efficient spending of sponsorship budgets. Inefficient, ad hoc allocation of marketing budget, and inconsistent alignment of strategy and properties, were the key challenges we faced and set about changing the perception and the process. 

Where do you envision ITW Consulting to be in the long run and what are your future goals?

On-ground sponsorship is one of our main businesses, but it is also the platform from where we are launching ourselves, up the value chain, for the future. We are looking at opportunities in other media spaces – OTT, digital and the like – as well as crossing over to the entertainment and tech space, where we take our experience in crafting branding solutions on-ground and are able to transfer that on to other arenas – both offline and virtual. We work with cross-disciplinary teams, by creating the possibility of offering truly integrated solutions to clients is our biggest strength.

What made you venture into the sports management space? 

At the turn of the millennium, one of the biggest demographic shifts that India saw was in its consumption of sports, not just cricket, but a host of other events as well, including European football and the World Cup. The coming of the IPL supercharged that environment and created a lot of opportunities for brands to exploit what was essentially a far-reaching and blank canvas. But how the whole process was organized left a lot of gaps, with most brands associating with sporting events and properties on an ad hoc, unplanned basis. That’s where we spotted an opportunity and felt that it was time to bring in the best practices from around the world, to how the sport is marketed in India, and how marketers in India leverage sport.

As part of an experience, being an events company, we had a brush with a cricket tournament, where we witnessed some of the gaps firsthand and realized that we have the talent and wherewithal to go about changing this whole paradigm. That’s how ITW was born. Incidentally, the initials of the company were inspired by the book Into-The-Wild, because that’s the leap we were taking, into unchartered territory.  

What would you like to advise the young generation who want to make their career in the sports management space?

If sports commerce is your forte, then sports management is the space to be in. But what does it mean to have an inclination for sports commerce? It means that you are someone who is passionate about sport; it could be any sport, but being interested in it, following teams’ fortunes both on and off the field, being curious about the brands you see around them, all of this helps.

With a lot of leagues that have evolved over the years in India and globally, every sport has its own need to bring out a successful tournament. Expansion of the leagues leads to expansion of business, which means the manpower increases and so does the demand to create opportunities in the sports industry.

The core philosophy that you need when you enter this kind of industry is, if you have the skill and the interest, then you will be the leader. And this is something ITW has also followed as a philosophy over the years, that we are in this field and we encourage the youngsters to do so.

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