Star Sports gets Dhoni to endorse football

08 Aug,2013

By Ratna Bhushan


Guess who is the biggest star signing in this season’s Barclays Premier League? Mahendra Singh Dhoni! Broadcaster Star Sports has roped in the Indian cricket captain as brand ambassador to endorse the English club football championship, the world’s biggest sports league, in India in the 2013-14 season.


“The aim to associate with M S Dhoni is to introduce, invite and excite sports fans who consume a lot of cricket to sample soccer properties like Barclays Premier League and expanding their fan base,” Vijay Rajput, COO at ESPN Software India, said. Star Sports will kick off its campaign featuring Dhoni on August 11, one week before the start of 2013-14 season, in a bid to boost the appeal of soccer in a cricket-crazy country.


“We believe there is a huge potential for growth in soccer viewership in India,” Mr Rajput said, adding that the premier league is one of the most watched sports events worldwide. He did not share the commercial terms of the deal.


M S Dhoni, who endorses about 15 brands including beverage and snacks maker PepsiCo, sportswear firm Reebok and telecom services provider Aircel, charges close to Rs 10 crore per deal annually, industry insiders told ET.


The campaign will show Dhoni glued to the TV set watching premier league matches every weekend while his family and friends look for him.


The Indian captain is a known football enthusiast and a Manchester United follower who dreamed of becoming a renowned soccer goalkeeper in his schooldays at Jawahar Vidya Mandir in Ranchi where he was a goalkeeper.


Arun Pandey, promoter of Rhiti Sports, the sports management firm that represents Dhoni, said, “Dhoni’s association with soccer can influence the sport in a big way in the country.”


Besides getting Dhoni to urge viewers to watch soccer, Star Sports will also offer the option of Hindi commentary for more than a hundred select premier league matches to woo Indian viewers. “We believe that if you want people to consume lot of content, you should offer it to them in their language of comfort,” Mr Rajput said.


ESPN Software hopes the move will help expand the sport’s viewership, which will help it increase advertising rates.


While ad revenues from soccer continue to be far lower than cricket, experts say the beautiful game’s viewership is on the rise in India.


“Though ratings of soccer are small on an all-India basis, in SEC-A and B markets and among the youth, soccer is consistently gaining in popularity,” Shashi Sinha, CEO of media buying firm IPG Media Brands, said.


Besides the Barclays Premier League, ESPN-Star Sports network holds broadcast rights for multiple soccer tournaments including Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, the English FA Cup and England’s international matches.


ESPN officials say advertiser interest has already picked up on the league, with 85% of the available inventory sold. “Tata Motors, Pernod Ricard, Adidas, Gujarat Co-operation Milk Marketing Federation (Amul) and Nokia India have come on board as associate sponsors on air for live telecast of the Barclays Premier League,” Mr Rajput said.


Contested by 20 clubs, the Premier League season runs from August to May.


In June last year, broadcast giant major Star Group’s 16-year-old equal joint venture with sports broadcaster ESPN was dissolved, with Star buying out ESPN’s stake in the JV. Post acquisition, Rupert Murdoch-owned Star became the owner of ESPN’s business.


Source:The Economic Times

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