India's cricket fever is not slowing down, and advertisers are looking

India's cricket fever is not slowing down, and advertisers are looking

As the T20 World Cup kicks off, advertisers are willing to go the extra mile, though nothing comes cheap.

Advertisers maintain it is necessary to be there on the T20 World Cup. Photo: PTI Advertisers maintain it is necessary to be there on the T20 World Cup. Photo: PTI

As the fourteenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) got done in Dubai on October 15, it saw Chennai Super Kings emerge victorious in the final. The big-ticket tournament, an annual affair, was held in the United Arab Emirates because of the pandemic and by the looks of it, a change in venue scarcely mattered. The broadcaster, Star and Disney India, managed to get in the advertising revenue at a time when the nation was willing to do anything for a bit of entertainment.

Cricket is a phenomenon in India and one remains very hard to understand. Talk of too much of the game never seems to deter the advertisers as they only seem too willing to cut the cheque. Exactly, two days after the IPL, we got started with the T20 World Cup and the money will start to flow once the moment India gets on to the field. This tournament too is being held in the UAE (Oman will also host a few matches) and India is one of the hot favourites to lift the cup. The money by way of revenue (sponsorship, advertising, and subscription) is not loose change and it is again broadcaster, Star and Disney India, who is looking to cash in.

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Advertisers and media planners told Business Today that a 10 second advertising spot (there are 2,600 seconds of commercial time for each match) will cost less than Rs 5 lakh for a match where India is not playing. The equation changes the moment India is mentioned and it will be as much as Rs 18-19 lakh for a spot and nothing comes close to the much-awaited India-Pakistan clash on 24 October (to be played at Dubai's international cricket stadium), where the asking rate is said to be Rs 23-25 lakh for a 10 second spot. And if the same two teams make it to the final, viewership will hit the roof and it is expected that a 10 second spot will be at least Rs 25 lakh. If things work to plan, the broadcaster will gross a revenue of Rs 1,200-1,300 by way of television advertising revenue and another Rs 250-300 crore through its digital platform, Hotstar. The IPL, it must be mentioned, had an advertising rate of Rs 12-13 lakh.

Advertisers maintain it is necessary to be there on the T20 World Cup. "Considering it is not an annual event, unlike the IPL, there is always a higher level of interest in the game. This year, the event promises extensive reach in India and other markets building on the celebratory mood of the festive season," says Kartikeya Bhandari, CMO, Livspace, a company in the home interior and renovation space. His company was on the IPL advertiser list as well. The interesting part is the proportion of money that will go into digital.

"[In] markets that we are present in, a significant portion of our audience favours digital and we will invest there. The decline of appointment viewing has made live sports, be it cricket, tennis, or football, one of the more prominent parts of a marketer's media mix," he explains. Given Livspace is expanding into Tier-2 markets, television is the best way to reach the right audience. "That said, we are primarily betting on digital. The compounded viewership across screens propelled by OTT platforms makes digital the go-to platform for a new-age brand like ours."

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The interesting conundrum is that while cricket is not cheap, the reach it gives is quite unbeatable. As Nida Naushad, Head of Brand, CARS24, says cricket is deeply rooted in Indian culture. "Whether it is IPL or the T20 World Cup, there is no denying that these two sporting events are a goldmine for eyeballs, especially when it comes to brands aiming to connect with a large audience base and going beyond the home country. Largely speaking, opting for one event over the other boils down to brand budgets and timelines for promotions." The changing profile of the advertiser on digital, for instance, now has a large proportion (around 40 per cent) from e-commerce, automotive, and FMCG; e-commerce is at least 25 per cent. Another 45 per cent comes from mobile handsets and online fantasy games. Harish Iyer, EVP, Interactive Avenues, a full-service digital agency explains that the audience profile during the IPL is more skewed towards cities and franchisees that do well or have created a great persona about the teams. "On the T20 World Cup, all matches (where India is playing) will have a nationwide following, to see how India is poised against other teams as they move into the semi-finals and finals of the tournament."

There is not really a great difference in advertiser skew and Iyer thinks it is quite similar to the IPL. "Today, digital sports consumption is the second largest genre after GEC (general entertainment channels) content," he says. Again, it just boils down to reach and according to Chirantan Chandran, media and advertising consultant who has held senior positions in Mindshare and Dentsu, speaks of the T20 World Cup "reaching an audience of 400 million on broadcast and 200 million on streaming." In his opinion, this will be spread out from states beyond those with an IPL franchisee. "Markets historically low on IPL viewership like Kerala, north-east, Orissa will also see a surge in viewership during the tournament," he thinks. Clearly when bat hits the ball on grass, the money starts to flow in.  

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