In the coming days, expect a sharp spike in the social media activity of the country’s elite athletes. While the Niti Aayog has instructed sportspersons to promote the post-demonetisation cashless drive on Twitter, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has requested them to ‘share pictures’ of the government facilities they use at national camps.
The Niti Aayog first approached India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra to endorse the government’s pitch for digital payments, using ‘#Ipaydigitally’ in updates. After Bindra’s tweet on November 29, Gautam Gambhir, Yogeshwar Dutt and Deepa Malik followed suit following a ‘request’ from Niti Aayog.
On the other hand, athletes training at major SAI centres such as Delhi, Patiala, Sonepat, Bangalore, Lucknow and Kolkata have been asked to post pictures on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts in a bid to spread the word about the facilities made available to them.
Sportspersons, Niti Aayog believes, can make digital payments look fashionable. Its CEO Amitabh Kant claimed there has been a ‘400 per cent’ rise in the usage of the medium since Beijing Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra first tweeted about it.
“When we started this digital payment movement, we felt the need of getting some brand ambassadors who have popular appeal. We thought nothing better than sportspersons. So we are requesting them to write on their social media handles that they make digital payments. It will create awareness about the government’s initiative,” Kant told The Indian Express. In the last few days, the government’s think tank has intensified its search for ‘ambassadors’. It has reached out to athletes either directly or via their managers, urging them to write about the digitisation campaign on social media.
Kant said the idea to make athletes the ‘face of the campaign’ was his, along with Bindra. “We are great believers that sportsmen change the destiny of the nation. Since Abhinav tweeted about the campaign, it has caught on and we are pushing for sportspersons everywhere,” Kant said. “What we are saying is that even sportsmen are doing it so it is fashionable rather than doing cash payments. The rise is about 400 per cent in terms of usage of the (digital) medium.”
While elite athletes are being approached for the digital payments drive, all other sportspersons training at SAI centres have been directed to write about their preparations and facilities on various social media platforms. SAI director general Injeti Srinivas, who is also the sports secretary, issued a directive to this effect during a meeting with the body’s regional directors and officials last week.
Athletes training at major SAI centres such as Delhi, Patiala, Sonepat, Bangalore, Lucknow and Kolkata have been asked to post pictures on social media.
“We have asked the athletes to share their experiences on various digital platforms to spread awareness of the facilities that are available to them,” Srinivas said. “Social media can play a crucial role in maximising the outreach and help create a sports culture.”
When asked if involving players to endorse government’s policies would be seen in a political light, Kant denied, saying it is ‘apolitical in nature.’ “We are seeing this purely as a branding exercise. There is nothing political about it,” he said.