The bosswoman behind Meraki – KKR’s agency for IPL 2020

Kolkata Knight Riders became the latest Indian franchise to trust Meraki with the task of engaging their global fan base.

Namrata Parekh [R] co-founded Meraki Sport & Entertainment in 2015. They onboarded cricket franchise Kolkata Knight Riders as their newest client ahead of IPL 2020
Namrata Parekh [R] co-founded Meraki Sport & Entertainment in 2015. They onboarded cricket franchise Kolkata Knight Riders as their newest client ahead of IPL 2020

IPL 2020 is destined to become the most watched edition of the cash rich tournament. As the devastating effects of coronavirus linger on in India, we’re forced to lock ourselves up at home. If you aren’t stuck with work or online courses, chances are that you’d be tuning in to watch high octane cricket! 

Fan engagement is an important business strategy for sports franchises. Franchises have invested heavily in video to draw the attention of fans on social, website and mobile apps.

Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have continuously worked towards upping their game on digital. Over the years, marketing agencies have followed KKR’s mandate of engaging not just fans but partners on digital media.

KKR and Meraki connect in 2020

KKR onboarded Meraki Sport & Entertainment to provide holistic marketing solutions by implementing a digital-first approach, ahead of IPL 2020. The early signs are great. Meraki will be building their approach to digital community building and enhancing fan connect by riding on the team camapign – #TuFanNahiToofanHai – which commemorates the positivity that’s required to fight Covid-19. Campaigns like these are not only memorable but have also touched hearts using multiple touch points across digital media.

Co-founder and director Namrata Parekh reckons that Meraki has what it takes to drive KKR’s fan engagement. “We are excited to partner with KKR and are confident that guided by our proprietary brand alignment tools, we will be able to unlock KKR’s full potential as a sustainable brand,” she said. 

KKR’s Marketing Head, Kaustubh Jha spoke about the association,“ Meraki’s fan-centric approach to driving brand salience for teams, is in line with the fan-first values we stand for as a brand.” His wish of unlocking new storytelling avenues to enhance fan engagement is exactly what Meraki is delivering.

Interestingly, KKR is the first cricket brand that Meraki Sport & Entertainment is collaborating with in their 5 years of existence. 

Creating remixes using sharp video edits have managed to amuse the Indian audience in recent times. Check this one featuring young pace bowlers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi.

Looking beyond cricket

A glance at Meraki’s client portfolio would tell you that they aggressively pitch for clients in alternative sports.

They’re marketing and digital partners for Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United – two highly popular Indian Super League teams. Kerala Blasters has an online community of close to 5 million, which is unheard of for a non-cricket team.  

As part of managing the commercial rights for sports brands, they have also worked with Tamil Thalaivas and Patna Pirates in the Pro Kabaddi League.

As an agency that communicates with their partner’s fans, Meraki Sport & Entertainment has aced regional messages. Establishing a regional connection with fans is an imperative part of a brand’s strategy, especially in a diverse country like India. 

Meraki operates out of the belief that alternative sports can be monetized too. Over the years, the agency has strived to ensure that a wide array of sports get a chunk of revenue from marketing. 

“There is tremendous value in sport beyond cricket. We aim to help brands better leverage those sports and leave a lasting positive impact on society,” said co-founder Toshan Patil in an interview with YourStory.

The agency bridges the gap between brands – who want to become visible to their consumers and sports organizers – who yearn for sponsorships.

Organizing a marathon can become a commercial and logistical nightmare, if mismanaged. Sponsorship deals could go a long way which mutually benefits both the brand and event organizers. 

Meraki is the facilitator. Advising brands to choose relevant sports events is a crucial service. But they don’t stop there. They leverage a network of event organizers, oversee the activation and share campaign results.

Talent Management 

Meraki Sport & Entertainment has exclusive rights on some of India’s most competent sportspersons. Sandesh Jhingan, gymnast Dipa Karmakar and Grand Slam winner Rohan Bopanna are some of the popular names managed by the agency.

Offbeat sports like fencing, kayaking and sport climbing are not held in the highest regard in India. You wouldn’t find a lot of competition if you aimed to make a name for yourself in these sports. India is extremely underrepresented in alternative sports. Clearly, Meraki wants this to change.

Sabre fencer CA Bhavani Devi, Kayaker Kaustubh Khade and triathlete Harsh Pandya have found support at Meraki. The agency has thrown its weight behind athletes who remain under the radar. The ones that you and I should be aware of but are not yet.

Meraki is the first talent management agency in India that commercially represents para-athletes. Such a business mindset transcends the zest to make profits.

Manasi Joshi – a para badminton player who won Bronze at the 2018 Asian Para Games is a Meraki client.

Commercialising sport

Meraki has on boarded a set of brands who act as value partners to the sports people they represent. Sport equipment manufacturers like Speedo, Under Armour, Adidas as well as brands like Citi, Infosys and Toyota are signed up, waiting for the right athlete and integration to create a compelling endorsement.      

Kaustubh Khade – the ace Kayak and an alumnus of IIT Delhi and Hiranandani Foundation School planned to kayak the west coast of India in 2017. He wanted sponsors to support him on his adventurous journey. 

Meraki Sport gave wings to his mission. They enabled a deal which saw SF Watches document a large part of his 85 day Kayaking journey from Kutch to Kanyakumari. He wore SF watches in the 6 part web series. An episode in this series was shot from the watch maker’s perspective, reinforcing the brand again.   

“Our athlete management vertical is focused on collaborating with brands that have a value match with the athletes we represent, thereby allowing them to leverage storytelling to connect with their consumers.” Namrata Parekh restated the agency’s mission to YourStory.

Meraki Sport & Entertainment aren’t just outdoor sports event facilitators or just a digital agency. They have 6 business verticals – Advisory, Rights management, Talent solutions, LIVE Experiences, digital & content lab and their own Intellectual Properties.

Having found their niche in sports marketing, Meraki Sport & Entertainment have developed a comprehensive business model.

Wondering how you can leverage Meraki’s network? Check out their offerings:

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