Corporate India loses interest in cricket with team’s loss

17 Jan,2012

By Rajiv Singh & Ratna Bhushan


It’s being marketed as the ‘Agneepath’ series and Team India’s disastrous tour of Australia will most certainly leave brand cricket with severe burns as companies turn to non-cricketer brand ambassadors, pull cricketer ads off air and negotiate a cut in advertising rates.


The Indian cricket team is staring at a humiliating second consecutive whitewash overseas after surrendering meekly in the first three Tests in Australia on the back of a debacle in England last year, and most cricket sponsors are unable to hide their disappointment as Indian TV viewers surf away from cricket.


“We were planning to rope in one of the top Indian cricketers for our forthcoming campaign, but have now decided against having cricketers,” says a top official of a mobile handset brand requesting anonymity. “Going by their present performance, it’s not worth a gamble now.”


Media experts predict that television advertisement rates will fall at least 20% after this series as cricket is fast losing mindspace after hitting a peak following India’s World Cup triumph last year.


“There’s absolutely no doubt that advertising rates will fall in the forthcoming series,” says Ms Punita Arumugam, media group chief executive officer of Madison, which buys media for Bharti Airtel, ITC and Cadbury Kraft.


A senior official of Maruti Suzuki, one of the key sponsors of the ongoing series, says the Tests have been a big disappointment for the country’s largest carmaker.


“While we will continue to invest in cricket, we feel cricket is over-priced. Considering that results of the team have not been spectacular except for the World Cup, we hope rates will be rationalised,” says Maruti Suzuki Chief General Manager – Marketing, Mr Shashank Srivastava.


While India’s tour of England had a low average television viewer rating of only 1.79, the first two Tests in Australia fared even worse, with ratings of 0.89 and 0.70, respectively, says rating agency TAM. “Several advertisers are in talks to reduce inventory or pull out from cricket,” says Madison’s Ms Arumugam, declining to mention names.


ESPN-Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the current series, however, has ruled out a drop in prices for the one-day series. Mr Sanjay Kailash, EVP & head of sales, says the company has sold out 70% of ad inventory for the ODIs.


He agrees that there has been a dip in advertising interest over 2010-11. “But that’s more to do with the general economic slowdown.”


Media buyers say the broadcaster sold advertisement slots between Rs70,000-80,000 per 10 seconds for Test matches, and Rs2.75-3.25 lakh per 10 seconds for the One-Day Internationals.


They say these rates will come down as India’s humiliating shows abroad have alienated millions of loyal TV viewers, already dealing with an overdose of cricket. “As long as you cheese off sponsors, it’s still okay. But this time the fans are feeling betrayed and extremely disappointed,” says Mr Shailendra Singh, joint MD of Percept, a sports and media entertainment firm. “No sponsor would put in money if there are no viewers.”




It looks like the warning that Indian batsman Rahul Dravid had sounded during his Bradman Oration address in December is turning prophetic. “Empty stands (during Tests) do not make for good television. Bad television can lead to a fall in ratings, fall in ratings will be felt by media planners and advertisers’ looking elsewhere,” he had said.


Maybe it’s coming true. No brand has signed an Indian cricketer as its endorser since Gulf Oil signed Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for its lubricant brand Gulf in September last.


And there are not many television commercials featuring cricketers on air, despite it being a cricket season. Brands such as McDowell’s and Revital, which had been advertising heavily with their cricketer ambassadors till recently, have become conspicuous by their absence.


Beverage maker Coca-Cola, which had planned to flood shop shelves with 6.5 million ‘Sachin’ special cans to celebrate Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international century, is still waiting for the magical moment as 10 months have passed after the master blaster scored his 99th during the World Cup. So do many other brands.


Also, there are not many potential brand endorsers as most youngsters are yet to cement their place and seniors such as Tendulkar, Dravid and VVS Laxman are set to retire. Captain Dhoni’s comment on retiring from one version of the game may impact his demand, while batting and bowling spearheads Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan may not be around for too long either.




While Lady Luck may have deserted Team India, brands such as Emami, which had roped in Dhoni in February 2010, still cheer for the team. “Ups and downs are a part of the game,” says Mr Krishna Mohan, CEO (sales, supply chain and human capital), Emami.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


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