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Taking guard, tentatively

Shamni Pande     November 27, 2007

By the time this magazine hits the stands, Subhash Chandra’s Indian Cricket League would have showcased its debut Twenty20 match in Panchkula (Chandigarh), with Chandigarh Lions squaring off against Delhi Jets.

More than the young and relatively-unknown cricketers in ICL, probably Chandra and his executives should have a case of nerves.

Kapil Dev with Zee Sports' Himanshu Modi
Kapil Dev with Himanshu Modi
Although Chandra has ambitiously taken on the Big Daddy of world cricket, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), and its already popular Indian Premier League (also a Twenty20 format), advertisers are beginning to ask some tough questions. “The fact is that IPL promises all the eyeballs with all the legacy behind it,” says Tarun Nigam, Head (North, West & Pakistan), Starcom, a media buyer. “Advertisers will try to beat down ICL’s rates.”

He isn’t the only hard-nosed media buyer. The Big Bull on cricket, Sundar Raman, Managing Director, MindShare, the media buying arm of giant WPP, is sceptical as well. “Most marketers are a little concerned about ICL’s ability to sustain the value proposition at various levels. There might be brands interested in taking time in broadcast terms, but the interest seems to be limited and not many are keen on ground-level participation. This could happen in a small way, at the right price,” he says.

What may be the right price? According to reports, it was pegged at a fantastic Rs 3.75 crore per sponsor for ground sponsorships, and Rs 2.60 crore per sponsor for city-wise team sponsorships. But there’s a googly to this. “We have never gone around floating any such rates. We are not interested in the commercial aspect of this game at this point,” says Ashish Kaul, Executive Vice President, Essel Group (part of Chandra’s empire). He adds that rates will be finalised only by the end of November. “We first want to host the game and show people what we can offer. Let them understand and get back to us,” says Kaul.

When Raman of MindShare talks of value proposition, he’s really asking whether ICL will have the same pull as IPL, whose Twenty20 matches feature the top stars of Indian cricket. ICL, in contrast, is having to make do with not-so-hot players such as Vikram Solanki, Abdul Razzaq, and Azhar Mahmood. Will viewers be excited enough by such a bunch? Zee thinks so, but advertisers and sponsors would rather wait and watch.

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