It was an interesting week in India with millions of them sacrificing sleeps to cheer for their teams at 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It was also fascinating note that Indians also watched and supported categories of sports such as golf and gymnastics. It was the same case in 2010 with India hosting Commonwealth Games with large crowds cheering for the home country. It only points out that Indians root for sports and players are keen to give their best to the country. It was also a shift in momentum with Indians showing interest and supporting sports other than cricket. It also witnessed private sector supporting athletes in the country.
The Indian Olympic Association sent the largest ever delegation, 117 athletes competing in 15 sports in 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The success of Indian delegation was two medals, P. V. Sindhu winning silver in women’s singles Badminton and Sakshi Malik grabbing bronze in women’s freestyle 58 kilograms wrestling. A leading newspaper on August 23, 2016 reported that, “Indian government spent over INR 30 crore from a budget of about INR 40-45 crore for the Rio Games preparations under the Target Olympic Podium scheme over the last two years. While shooters got the bulk of the amount, badminton and boxing were next in line”. There are always arguments for and against on whether the spending was sufficient or not for the number of medals India won. The article doesn’t criticize or pin point at any individual or institution for the collective failure.
The Schedule VII of the Act under item number vii states that, “Training to promote rural sports, nationally recognized sports, paralympic sports and Olympic”. There are three ways of strengthening, supporting and sponsoring sports in India under the Corporate Social Responsibility Act 2013. These three approaches are Encouragement, Employability and Endorsement.
The simplest act of encouragement is appreciation. The Harvard Business Review, in one of the articles, Why Appreciation Matters So Much, published in 2011, states, “Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. It’s also energizing”. The forms of encouragement could be inviting the sports personalities to the workplace, organize avenues to hear them and provide platforms to showcase their talent. The token of appreciation in the form of encouragement boosts their passion and gives them a purpose to participate more. It also builds sports persons’ self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image. It gives them energy and motivation to do more. Moreover, it also encourages other people to appreciate and encourage sports and athletes.
The other act of supporting sports personalities is providing them with employment opportunities. A secured job with constant source of income would help sports persons long for better performance in the sports arena. It also helps them focus primarily on the sports rather than scouting for odd and menial jobs. It is a good opportunity for corporates to hire and train sport persons for corporate jobs. Given their personalities with focus on serious fitness, many sports persons could fill in important roles in fitness trainers, corporate security, or employee engagement business units. It is a good practice to hire them on honorary roles so that they could act as brand ambassadors of the company.
The third aspect of strengthening sports in India is endorsement of active sports-persons to participate in bigger sports leagues. These include supporting initiatives for talent hunt, training and travel. It is an irony that many sports-persons in India do not train at the best possible sports facilities or compete at international avenues owing to shortage of funds. Corporates can seize and make use of such opportunities to sponsor players’ training and travel costs. It would be ideal to set up sports excellence centres and provide them with top class training facilities. These platforms also help corporates engage their employees on health and fitness.
Given the benefits are galore, supporting and funding sports and sports personalities is one of the significant ways of demonstrating corporate giving. Podium finish is always pride and corporates in India have golden chance to the grab the opportunity. It is also a step closer in making India a healthy and competitive nation.
Nirbhay Lumde is a Corporate Social Responsibility professional and writes on current social, economic and environmental trends. He is an alumnus of IIT Bombay.