Sports Consulting – Media, Sponsorships & Asking “Why”


Sports Consulting – Media, Sponsorships & Asking “Why” by Pushkar Sunyal

We love hearing from our members about their careers and what motivates them to work in sports. Check out a recent blog by Pushkar Sunyal, Group Head of Sports Consulting at GroupM in Mumbai, India. 

I am a consultant working in sports and an introduction is usually followed up with a probing question as to what exactly I do. The word “consultant” is such – vague to the tee and usually reserved for experienced folks with in-depth knowledge about a specific knowledge area or someone well versed in theoretical models which may or may not have an application in the real world. Yet, I have realized, that more than anything else, a consultant is primary a story-teller – someone good at building narratives. Along with the plethora of other skills which are required, a consultant working in sport now faces a tremendous challenge – creating value to an industry which is small, fragmented and full of experts. Luckily for me, I started my career working in consulting with a large global conglomerate which mitigated a lot of these challenges – GroupM.

Back in 2014, I took a conscious decision to build a pathway to a career in sports.  Although I spent a useful few years working for a software solution practice at a tech firm, I always envisioned myself working in sport – an interest area which took up way too much of my private time. After spending some time off, I took up an internship at Total Sports Asia (sports marketing agency), a big name in south-east Asia and worked on projects involving niche sports – obstacle course Racing, motor sports, cycling, etc. In the midst, I got a prestigious offer to study at the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst as part of the exclusive MBA/MS Sport Management Dual class of 2017. During my time here, I worked on numerous consulting projects with businesses of different kinds – licensed sports apparel manufacturer, regional grocery store and a sports arena. Combined with exposure to the North American traditions of sport, I realized, for the first time, how impactful at a global macro-level, sports can be. Fuelled by a thirst for a better understanding in my home country, I took up an internship with The Football Players’ Association of India (national soccer players’ union) to understand the challenges of soccer professionals. I also took up freelance work with Leverage Agency (sport marketing and consulting agency) and delivered support to their portfolio of projects in various sports.

Currently, I lead the sports consulting vertical of MConsult (a specialized brand consulting unit) at GroupM India and primarily work with brands who have investments in the lucrative Indian Premier League. I manage a product called “Sports Watch” which has tracked the three major sporting leagues in India since their inception. Some of the insights and reports we generate include ROI for brands, impact of tournament on brand saliency, and a range of reports for franchisees and owners. With Star India (owned by 21st century fox) buying the broadcast rights for the next 5 years at a colossal premium, the broadcast and media industry is poised for a shift. Cricket has always been more than a sport but the recent unprecedented growth in value has put the league amongst the elite.

Sport business is at a juncture where the lines are blurring – technology, lifestyle, marketing and social media are well part of the sports landscape now. Rights holders and administrators are adapting but there are still large pockets of the world which lag considerably to mature markets like North America. Commercialization is essential, but so is localization, I believe. The NFL is quintessentially American. The Bundesliga is very German. There are anomalies such as the NBA and The premier league, but they are rather the exception. That is one trait which the IPL has adopted – localization, and it’s reaping the benefits as a mass marketed property in India.

If asked to pinpoint one approach to building a successful career in sport, or any industry for that matter, I would suggest the habit of asking “Why”. This helps breaking down the problem and analysing potential fits. As someone who has envisioned being an entrepreneur, this is a useful habit as the sports industry now has many fragmented verticals.  Therefore, to find one’s niche, one has to look at finding solutions to problems which perhaps are not recognized as problems as yet. This is where, asking “Why” comes into the picture. It’s a small but under-rated mental note. Of course, you don’t want to annoy your boss with why’s when he’s asking you to do some menial work J

You can get in touch with Pushkar via Social Media:

Twitter – @pushkar_sanyal

LinkedIn – pushkarsanyal