With viewership numbers breaking records during the epic semi-final showdown between India and Pakistan - advertisers are scrambling to find a place in what promises to be one of the biggest television events in recent Indian history.
And rights holder ESPN Star Sports is cashing in. ESS, say sources, has hiked its ad rates once again, to a staggering Rs 20-24 lakh for a 10-second slot.
It had already hiked its advertising rates during the India-Pakistan semifinal played on March 30. A 10-second slot was priced at Rs 17- 18 lakh, up from Rs 3.5 to Rs 4 lakh earlier.
More than 67 million viewers had tuned in, and the match caused viewership for the market-leading Hindi general entertainment category to drop by over 20 per cent.
Now, with India set to take on Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday, the price for a 10-second slot is reported to have shot up another 20- 25 per cent.
Media agencies see this as the right time to make an impact on their audiences. They are urging clients to cash in on the cricket fever gripping the nation.
"The increase in price is completely justified. If the rates have gone up by five times, we also expect a viewership rise by five times. The advertisers have got the best return on investment.
We had our clients well placed from the beginning of the World Cup, and in some exceptional cases we have had to buy additional inventory," said Punitha Arumugam, chief executive officer, Madison Media Group.
"Cricket has evolved to become the largest pan- India festival. This makes cricket a brilliant piece of marketing. Corporates, including us, declaring half- a- day holiday for the semi- finals and private screening of the India matches is proof of cricket emerging as a popular national festival. Festivals are a favourite time for most marketers," said Dominic Savio, associate vicepresident ( V- P), Mudra Communications.
Some companies have even launched new brands specifically tied to the World Cup. "We have launched the ICC range of toothpastes and soaps with two variants in each category," said Devendra Chawla, head ( private brands), Future Group.
"Both are doing well." Future group made its foray into the toothpaste category under the brand 'Sach' last year. The brand of toothpastes is co-created by Sachin Tendulkar.
The biggest challenge for any brand that targets the Cricket World Cup is the huge clutter associated with it. "It's a place where even the biggest of brands could be lost in the noise and din. Innovation, consistency and frequency are the key to get noticed, that's precisely why the brand Union Bank has taken a strategic decision to place its logo, when replays are shown," added Savio.
The World Cup is not the end of the story. With the Indian Premier League (IPL) set to kick off on April 7, corporates are all set to make their presence felt in the market.
"We have seen good growth in ad revenue and all the credit goes to the World Cup, which will be followed by the IPL," said Abhishek Mehta, senior marketing manager, Eggfirst BBN India.
"For us, IPL is the main season as it coincides with our peak season, that is, April to May," said Kamal Nandi, vice president, sales and marketing, Godrej Appliances.
Godrej is also the associate sponsor for IPL. "We cannot comment about the ad spends but we will be visible during this period. We expect good growth during this season and are targeting 40 per cent growth over last year," Nandi added.
Godrej will also launch a new range of air conditioners during IPL. Corporate India spent about Rs 500- 600 crore during IPL and the T20 World Cup last year.