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Sporting magnets

In a year overflowing with sporting events — from the Indian Premier League to the football World Cup and the Commonwealth Games — there's more than ever before for Indian viewers. And for advertisers

business Updated: Jul 19, 2010 00:27 IST
Anita Sharan & Rachit Vats
Anita Sharan & Rachit Vats
Hindustan Times

In a year full of sporting events, Indian and international, cricket and non-cricket, how many are Indian television viewers watching and advertisers advertising on? The Hockey World Cup, Indian Premier League 3, T20 Cricket World Cup, Cricket Asia Cup, FIFA World Cup 2010, Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the Cricket World Cup… potentially a huge draw for TV audiences in India. The Big 5 and How They Fared

Ajit Gurnani, principal partner - client partnership, Mindshare, a media agency, said: "There has been active debate on the popularity of sports, and non-cricket sports in particular, as an advertising and communication vehicle. In terms of reach, delivery and impact, cricket remains the largest and most impactful vehicle, especially with the arrival of the IPL and T20 formats. But other sports such as Formula 1, international football and tennis have caught up in viewership."

A study released by TAM Sports last year showed that over five years since 2005, Indian TV viewership of football has gone up by 60 per cent among SEC A and B, predominantly male viewers. The top five viewed sports events in India, the study found, had cricket leading with 122 million viewers, followed by wrestling with 96 million, football with 83 million, tennis with 70 million and golf with 65 million viewers.

Of the tournaments played this year, the FIFA World Cup 2010’s average TV audience reach across the six main metros was 32.6 million, against IPL 3’s 55.4 million, Asia Cup 2010’s 31.1 million, Hockey World Cup 2010’s 20.7 million and Wimbledon 2010’s 9.2 million. Reach is the number of viewers watching a programme for over a minute.

With eight dedicated sports channels offering 70,000-plus hours of varied sporting content, Indian viewers are getting ready access to a lot more of sports now. Proactive access of sports-related content across media shows that sports viewing is gaining traction. "People in India have an enormous appetite for sports, which is apparent in the growing access of sports-related information through television, newspapers, magazines or the internet,"said Nitin Mathur, senior director – marketing, Yahoo! India.

He added that in the recently-concluded FIFA World Cup, "we saw great traction on our World Cup coverage site. In the IPL cricket season this year too, Yahoo! Cricket reached more than four million unique visitors in a month.”

But television is the most pursued medium for advertisers who are responding to the growing interest in sports. IPL 3 manifested this clearly when most of the advertisers from its earlier two seasons came back on board again with Multi Screen Media (which owns SET Max that broadcast the series) in spite of steep hikes in ad rates.

According to published reports and industry sources, MSN sold 10-second ad spots at Rs 4.5 lakh initially for IPL 3 (IPL 1’s initial ad rate was Rs 1.5 lakh, IPL 2’s was Rs 2.5 lakh), hiked it to Rs 5.25 lakh subsequently and reportedly sold the last 10 per cent of its ad space for close to Rs 10 lakh per 10 seconds. Vodafone and Videocon paid Rs 50 crore each for the presenting sponsorship rights for IPL 3 (it was Rs 30 crore for IPL 2). Market sources say that while MSN was expecting to earn Rs 700 crore from IPL 3 in ad revenues, its revenues crossed Rs 800 crore. Revenues for IPL 2 reportedly touched Rs 450 crore.

In comparison, FIFA World Cup 2010 was expected to deliver around Rs 150 crore in ad revenues. Not bad for a tournament where India did not have its own team. Other sports too are beginning to draw ads.

Aruna Sharma, director general, Doordarshan, said, "India is still obsessed with cricket. Viewership for football too is good in some sections of the country and growing. Doordarshan has been focusing on non-cricket games. A badminton tournament in late 2009 generated Rs 50 lakh ad revenues — a high figure for such a sport.”

Gurnani said: "I have personally seen a lot of interest in non-cricket sports from advertisers, and given a few successes like Saina Nehwal, there is sudden desire to support these sports."

A look at the top 10 advertising categories, according to TAM’s AdEx data, across IPL 3, FIFA WC 2010, Asia Cup 2010 and Wimbledon 2010 shows that cellular phones and cellular phone services led the ad fusillade across the tournaments. While the cars and jeeps category scored across three of the tournaments (not Wimbledon), two-wheelers put their money into all except the Asia Cup. DTH service providers and TV set brands preferred IPL 3 and FIFA WC. But insurance hit top 10 with only IPL 3. Aerated and non-aerated drinks advertised prominently across all except Asia Cup.

Doordarshan expects a huge viewership for the Commonwealth Games. "We expect 60 per cent viewership of our terrestrial network coverage of 91.2 per cent of the population,"Sharma said.

Ad expenditure on both cricket and non-cricket sports has been going up since 2000, according to TAM Sports. In 2006, the ad volumes for both were the same at 1,287 ads. Subsequently, volumes for cricket have grown faster than for non-cricket sports, although the latter have also grown mostly. In 2009, cricket ad volumes touched 2,573, while non-cricket sports’ ad volumes were 1,271.

Mahesh Ranka, GM India, Relay Worldwide, the sports practice arm of StarcomMediaVest Group, said: "Advertisers have certainly started to look beyond cricket though the quantum of money is still not significant. Some brands are looking for options and are ready to take risks. With more sports-related awareness, the spends will go up.”

First Published: Jul 19, 2010 00:10 IST