Big Bout is feasible in the current economic environment

Interview/ Ajay Singh, president, Boxing Federation of India

Q/ How do you see the sponsorship scene of various Olympic sports being affected in India?

A/ In unprecedented times like these, uncertainty is the only certainty. As one of the new entrants in Indian sports leagues, we have implemented some of the learnings (from others) and, as a result, Big Bout was a cost-effective model right from its inception. We have been playing in a single venue and the squad sizes have been designed considering the cost implications. So, the model is feasible in the current environment and we can still work and make it more meaningful, despite the challenges. We will be working for a more optimised format if need be, and will create more innovative avenues for sponsorship on digital and TV.

Q/ How do you see the Big Bout Indian Boxing League getting affected financially in the coming season?

A/ The boxers will continue to benefit from the league. The league has been a major source of financial stability for our boxers as well as the entire ecosystem of technical officials, coaches and referees. And the first-year numbers show how commercially attractive the league can be. We have huge untapped potential.

The league matches delivered seven times higher ratings than live Pro Kabaddi matches in the Hindi-speaking markets. This gives the boxers a much stronger playing field, and in the second season, apart from TV, we would explore a more aggressive digital and OTT plan.

Q/ How will the postponement of the Olympics affect the medal prospects of Indian boxers?

A/ As a national sports federation, we were the first to initiate online training for all our elite boxers, right from [physical] training, nutrition and mental guidance. Under the supervision of our coaches and high-performance director, and led by Boxing Federation of India officials, we have successfully involved boxers of all age groups so that they have every possible means to train at home in the best and effective manner. We are working with Sports Authority of India very closely to create an SOP that will facilitate safe passage for our boxers to resume training once the lockdown is over. The health and safety of our players are of prime concern.

Q/ Post-lockdown, do you see financial viability for all stakeholders? Do you think there will be high demand for live sporting action on broadcast and OTT platforms?

A/ A lot is still unexplored, and the changing dynamics of fan engagement can and surely will be explored. Close to three crore people had watched Big Bout live on Star Sports; about 1.6 crore saw kabaddi and 67 lakh saw the badminton league. These numbers confirm the passion for the sport and we will look for innovations in the digital platforms in a big way. Big Bout is the most viewed league after IPL (Indian Premier League), giving us the assurance that we are headed in the right direction.