Be-Sahara BCCI | Mahesh Ranka: Why this cricket-veri… ?

06 Feb,2012

By Mahesh Ranka


Indian cricket doesn’t need a plan to stay in the news – it always does. Let’s look at the last few years… in no particular order India wins 2007 T20 world Cup, ICL starts, BCCI bans ICL, IPL launched… amongst the biggest sports property in the world (valuation), rules changed at will, IPL moves to RSA, comes back, SET Max-IPL deal off.. on again (sweetened with more greenbacks) Lalit Modi ousted… and away… Sahara renews large team sponsor deal… Nike extends deal, record auction for two new teams of IPL, Shashi Tharoor force drops ministerial post, Kochi’s new owners, IPL 4 changed from 94 games to 74, Kochi sacked, Nimbus sacked as BCCI broadcast rights holder… Sahara walks out of IPL and Indian Team sponsorship.


Media loves cricket and BCCI

If there ever was a need to find news, BCCI-IPL-Cricket was always feeding the hungry.

So, what happens each time BCCI-IPL-Indian Cricket gets dragged into a controversy? The fans get upset…. Team performance is blamed on off field activities… marketers (who are mostly fans as well) translate emotion (masked as rationale) to talk about How Cricket Is Losing Its Sheen… and foreign cricket boards take the opportunity to take a dig at BCCI or Indian cricket in general.


The trigger for this article

The 4th of February 2012 at about 10 am, a massive explosion took place in Bangalore … that of Sahara leaving the IPL auction room and announcing walking out of IPL as well as withdrawal of the Indian team sponsorship deal. I got a call from a journalist friend to talk about it… and I was blissfully unaware of it… till one of the news channels enlightened me.


My mind and heart was full of questions, doubts, worries etc, like most cricket fans and many sports marketers.

What will happen to BCCI-Indian Cricket-Sahara, will IPL be laced with litigation, What happens to the Pune warriors sponsors… etc.


I have a few points to make:


1. What happens to the Indian Team playing currently- will they change their jerseys overnight?

2. What happens to IPL – will it be back to the ‘8 teams 60 matches’ format?

3. Will IPL get into litigation?

4. What happens to the image of cricket in India?

5. How will this affect Indian cricket and the commerce involved?

6. What is the long-term impact?


For the last few months, we haven’t heard good news in Indian cricket: with two consecutive overseas whitewashes and lowering TVRs: everyone is questioning the viability of cricket at current prices. Add to that the Nimbus contract’s abrupt termination and now Sahara.


Will Indian cricket commerce grow or de-grow from here?

Sahara’s Rs 1700 crore-odd IPL deal and Rs 3.34 Cr per match deal (approx Rs 500 cr in 4 years) are clearly things no other corporate will look at investing: meaning loss of revenue for BCCI. This from a rational point of view… and emotional reason sure can take the stakes high… but no one on the horizon seems to be ready with that kind of moolah.


Looking at the current business and economic environment, it looks extremely difficult to get someone to fill slot vacated. This may be the beginning, then, of rationalizing prices by BCCI, as there are brands and businesses ready to participate but are aware of the value-benefit equation. BCCI on its part has taken the brickbats, but not done enough to put forth a point of view that is acceptable: forget whether agreeable or not.


Nimbus’s contract didn’t allow them to make enough money – as reported – meaning they were in loss, how can another channel / rights company think of making it work?


The whole cricket controversy is a good reason for many marketers to negotiate harder “Not too many people (consumers / marketers) are interested in cricket”… “I don’t get the required ROI” – even as there’s no measurement metric envisaged for ROI.


We have seen rates falling in TV broadcast of cricket, except IPL of course, but is it foolish to think that with controversy after controversy and issue after issue, IPL will be overlooked? It’s quite possible in fact that public opinion changes and then it might be too late. BCCI-IPL has to take concrete steps to ensure these fiascos don’t occur… at least not in full view of the public; these things can be clearly sorted in the boardrooms before the media and public get to know it.


BCCI needs to look at a better way to manage a crisis than they are currently, else all of the above will lead to less greenbacks in the BCCI bags and maybe an opportunity for other sports to get a share of the money.


Opportunity for other sports?

Sahara India has made public its plans to support other sports and provide basic necessities to the underprivileged Indian population. This possibly is not a thought only with Sahara (especially the other sports). Many other corporate thinkers will look at options to invest and associate with sports that have been neglected for far too long – not that corporate support was the only missing factor. Last year has seen the advent of and importance given to other sports / sportspersons; this current cricket controversy may help the same to grow, even as BCCI spoke about “talking to Sahara” and Sahara stating that they are not “rigid” about the decision.


For now, one thing is for sure, that the BCCI-IPL has a lot to do in terms of positive image-building, something that happened naturally for them all these years.


What’s the likely long-term impact?

It’s quite likely that the current young generation and generations to come, that are exposed to global sports and are making their choices, may be driven away from cricket. If this happens, we may be in for a different scenario a decade or so down the line. Fewer followers = less popularity = fewer eyeballs = less TVR = less greenbacks will lead to more effort and investment to attract followers, which in turn can put great pressure on the BCCI coffers : leading to less money in the sport itself.


Re-invention is the key – not only of the sport, but also of the sports administration and development.

What transpires in the next few days is anybody’s guess, but looking at the long term, cricket and its administration needs to become and behave like a consumer marketing company; they can no longer afford to have controversies and negative news float continuously.


Mahesh Ranka is CEO, Indus Sports and Sponsorship. An expert in sports marketing, he was with Starcom Worldwide until last year and headed Relay Worldwide.


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One response to “Be-Sahara BCCI | Mahesh Ranka: Why this cricket-veri… ?”

  1. Raj Halve says:

    My view is that the TVR’s are more related to the Indian team’s performance than any other metric. Let the team start winning a few matches, thrashing teams on Indian soil, and the bucks will start heading towards cricket again.