BENGALURU: Leading sports brands are recruiting athletes as sales staff in India and reporting a significant uplift in sales as a result.

Adidas-Reebok, for example, currently has around 200 runners in its footwear sales team and plans to expand that number to 500 by next year. Since it began this initiative six months ago, it claims that sales have shot up 20%.

Nike and Puma are also taking this route as they seek to persuade consumers to trade up from the basic footwear they have relied on for many years.

"This is a global trend that is now picking up in India and we are trying to change the state of the market," Sanjay Gangopadhyay, managing director and general manager at Nike India, told the Economic Times.

Another factor is the technical specifications of modern sporting footwear, and while consumers know something about these, sales staff have to know more.

"This heightened awareness has made it imperative for us to scale up the levels of knowledge of the sales staff in Adidas and Reebok stores," said Dhruv Bogra, senior director of retail at Adidas Group India.

At present Adidas operates through local distributors and retailers but has plans to set up 100%-owned outlets.

A spokesman said the company would continue to partner with its franchisee network, but "It is also our desire and strategic intent to bring to the country world-class large retail formats that currently exist in our global set up", Mint reported.

That will presumably open up more retail career opportunities for athletes who are already being tracked in colleges and gyms.

Asics, the Japanese sports and leisure brand, has also recently opened its first Indian store, in Delhi, having ended a distribution partnership with Reliance Retail.

"After three or four years of expansion in major cities, we will expand to tier II and tier III cities," Rajat Khurana, general manager and director of ASICS India, told the Financial Chronicle.

Data sourced from Economic Times, Mint, Financial Chronicle; additional content by Warc staff