By Abhishek Tripathy*
The Odisha World Cup Hockey 2018 has begun with a bang. A sustained marketing blitzkrieg culminated in a spectacular opening ceremony. Athletes, actors, artistes, musicians, dancers, Bollywood and importantly, the sport itself, all came together to unleash a never-before experience in Hockey for India, in India.
When was the last time one had heard of our humble National Game create a buzz? The Odisha Tourism promoted the state, with Hockey as a calling card. Social media outreach by the state government was aggressive, and created a build to the event.
A bold campaign of sorts, ‘Odisha by the day, Hockey by night’ was unleashed across major cities the world over. Major tourist attractions were highlighted, in the same breath as promoting the event. And it struck an instant chord.
However, a marketing strategy without a solid product to back, can backfire. The product here is two-fold. Firstly, the World Cup Hockey event itself. And secondly, Odisha as a tourist destination, including for the sports enthusiast.
Here was the challenge. The positioning of Brand Odisha was no longer limited to its clichéd tourist avenues. It was about merging those celebrated destinations with the idea of sports. The strategy was to appeal to a sports lover, who may not necessarily want to travel to a place, if not for the sporting event. And certainly, at a first glance, Odisha, prior to this event, would not have clicked as a sports destination in the minds of most.
To set the tone right, adequate sports infrastructure was created. The Kalinga Stadium was refurbished to ably host the teams, and matches. Seating capacity was substantially increased, and newer facilities were added.
Tourism was given special focus. A city that has a long and much appreciated tradition of wall murals, adapted to the Hockey theme very well. To ensure that it was not all gloss and paint, public infrastructure got a boost. The most notable of the lot, seems to be public transport. ‘Mo Bus’ and ‘Mo Cycle’ have been launched, and hopefully, they deliver what they promise to the citizens of the city, and the visitors.
To make for a vibrant host city, a series of events have been planned around the World Cup. And it is interesting to note that these all converge with the existing tourist draws, such as the Konark Festival, International Sand Art Festival, among others.
Also, the media pitching was perfect. There was a constant buzz around the World Cup, while abundantly focusing on the surrounding events, which were of immense significance as well. The ‘Make in Odisha’ conclave was just about ending when the World Cup fever gripped the city. And around this time, the Bhubaneswar Fest, Patha Utsav, and the grand old Konark Festival have brilliantly ensured that the festive spirit just doesn’t die. If anything, the build has been stellar, palpable and anything but subtle.
In fact, newer events such as the Bhubaneswar Fest and the Bhubaneswar Art Trail (BAT) have added a beautiful layer to the city’s burgeoning artscene. The way the Old Town area has been included in the imagination of the events, is praiseworthy. The musical fountain on the Bindusagar lake, the BAT, supplement other existing efforts, such as the Ekamra Walks.
This fine dovetailing of tourism, sports, and urban infrastructure is indeed notable, and instructive. The most important takeaway from this event is the way Hockey itself holds the centre-stage, literally wielding the stick!
At the end, the narrative is no longer about Bhubaneswar or Odisha hosting the event. The big picture is about the sport gaining prominence and India redeeming the ghosts of its past. This World Cup shall go down as a precedent. Though the fiasco of the Commonwealth Games 2010 shall forever remind us how ‘not’ to host an event, the Odisha Hockey World Cup 2018 promises a brand new start to holding such events with finesse.
*The author is an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer. Views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Odisha Sun Times.