The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing event cancellations have drilled a large impact on sports in 2020, reducing the overall industry size by over 34 per cent to Rs 5,894 crore in 2020 as against over Rs 9,000 crore in the year-ago period.
The company's Head (Sports, E-Sports and Entertainment) for South Asia Vinit Karnik termed 2020 as an "outlier year" which cannot be compared to any previous ones.
"The running events in January/February, IPL in October and Indian Indian cricket team playing in Australia were the only events that took place," Karnik said.
In the overall industry pie, the biggest share went to media, where advertisement spends on TV, digital and print media contributed to Rs 3,657 crore or 62 per cent of the total spends, the yearly GroupM ESP Sporting Report said.
Sponsorship spends, which included on-ground sponsorships, team sponsorships and franchise fee, stood at Rs 1,673 crore, contributing 28 per cent to the industry pie, the report said.
Athlete endorsements increased by 5 per cent as compared to 2019 despite the ravages of the pandemic, the report said.
During the period of inactivity in sports, there was a significant step jump in the level of social media influencer activity among popular athletes, it said. Cricketers commanded 92 per cent of the pie here as 275 of the 377 endorsement deals involved sportspersons from the game, it added.
The year gone by (2020) also saw female athletes pulling in brands, the agency's report said.
The absence of live sports along with a sub-optimal supply of fresh OTT content led to the shift towards gaming, and April 2020 alone saw an 11 per cent increase in users per week along with a significant jump in average time spent per gamer, it said adding that there was a sudden boom in e-sports in 2020.
Staging of the IPL in UAE delighted fans, players, franchisees, sponsors and rights holders, the report said.
GroupM Chief Executive Officer for South Asia Prasanth Kumar said, "With the lockdown being enforced and subsequent stoppage of play on the field, the void was stark with no visibility on how the anti-COVID-19 efforts would pan out. And, even without any activities, our sports heroes stayed close to us." He added that they came closer by actively engaging with their followers on social media and the spontaneity of this online content flow. "And, with the open arms that we welcomed it, is the demonstration of the power of sports in our country." Karnik said many sports properties were either cancelled or postponed and even sponsorship and media spends were impacted.
There are many sporting events lined up in 2021, and fans might have to make choices between certain events in terms of what, when and how much to watch, leading to a rise in demand for subscription viewing in live sports, he added.
"The year 2020 looks like that proverbial backward step we take before a giant leap, like the one we are expected to take in 2021, as part of the making of the sporting nation," Karnik said.