MUMBAI: Leading brands are looking beyond cricket as India's marketing expenditure on other sports is forecast to grow at more than 20% annually over the next few years.

A new report from marketing consultancy GroupM ESP and sports news provider SportzPower said that advertising investment in sport – on ground, team sponsorship, athlete management and media spend – had almost doubled between 2008 and 2013 to reach Rs 4,109 crore.

The majority of that had been on cricket, the Economic Times reported, but the study expected that advertising spend on non-cricket sports would grow at 20-25% a year over the next three years. It highlighted football, basketball, distance running, golf, motorsports, tennis, hockey and badminton as sports that were under-leveraged and under-monetized.

"The big news of 2014 will be the inaugural edition of the IMG-Reliance-Star co-owned Indian Super League (ISL), which is set to bring all the bells and whistles associated with the IPL [cricket] to football," said Vinit Karnik, national director for sports & live events at GroupM ESP.

His comments came as the ISL's promoters invited bids from franchisees wanting to invest in one of the eight teams planned for the tournament now set to run in September and November.

"Football is big in India," Nitin Kukreja, head of the sports business at broadcaster Star India told Livemint. "It is clearly demonstrated in the following that we see for properties such as the English Premier League and FIFA World Cup, so it is certainly a sport with massive opportunity."

Karnik concurred. "We are definitely a football-following country if not a football-dominated one," he said. And Viral Oza, marketing director at telecoms business Nokia India, noted that football was particularly popular in the north east of the country where the brand's cricket sponsorships had less of an impact.

A number of factors are at work, including changing demographics and lifestyles and the impact of a globalised economy. Karnik also pointed to a generational divide: "Decision-makers of this country resonate with cricket but the youth is far more fragmented," he stated.

Major brands are starting to act on these changes. Vodafone, for example, leveraged its sponsorship of a Formula One team to reach SMEs across the country during the first ever Indian Grand Prix and has also invested in badminton and football.

Data sourced from Economic Times, Livemint; additional content by Warc staff