Mumbai: The number of cricket fans swells year after year. So does the expenditure on advertisements for every new cricket series.
According to estimates, the number of cricket fans who watched the ICC Knock Out series was 32 per cent higher than those who watched the NatWest one-day series earlier this year.
February-March 2003 will see the biggest cricket event of all - the 44-day World Cup Cricket 2003 in which 54 matches will be played with 14 countries in the fray. An estimated global audience of 1.2 billion people will watch the 2003 World Cup, to be hosted in South Africa with direct spectators in excess of 800,000.
Global Cricket Corporation (GCC), the Newscorp company, is said to have paid $550 million to buy the rights for two World Cup tournaments and then sold them to Sony TV. About 70 per cent of the advertising revenue is expected to come from India.
And not without reason - for, cricket to India is what football is to Brazil. It is almost a religion and hence companies here look forward to the event with glee since it means assured eyeballs for nearly every match with even channel surfing down to a minimum as people fear missing even a single delivery.
A number of companies in India like Pepsi, LG, ICI India, Bharti, ICICI and Asian Paints are pumping in huge sums of money into the 2003 World Cup to court Indian customers. The money is being poured into activities like buying airtime in cricket matches, sponsorships, endorsements and purchasing TV rights.
This year Hero Honda, one of the global sponsors of the World Cup, allocated 80 per cent of its annual marketing, which runs into Rs 120 crore on cricket sponsorship. Besides sending 300 people to watch the games it plans to launch a campaign called Win-the-Cup India in January 2003.
Pepsico is spending around $50 million for ads at the next two World Cup tournaments. The beverage giant already spends about 60 per cent of its advertisement and promotion budget on cricket and that may move up to 70 per cent in the coming months.
The consumer electronics major LG, also one of the sponsors of mega event, will spend Rs 40 crore on its World Cup-related marketing activity over the next four months. This includes an ambitious television campaign, for which it has roped in 14 captains of the cricket teams participating in the World Cup.
With Always Cricket First as the theme, LG will launch a series of promotions with attractive offers, including free tickets to the World Cup in South Africa. The LG Cricket First campaign, unveiled by Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly, comprises 22 TV commercials that cover each of the 14 captains.
The campaign started airing from 1 December across all the major TV channels. Cricket commentator and former Indian captain Ravi Shastri, signed on by LG earlier this year as its brand ambassador, is also part of the campaign. The campaign, which has 'At LG it is always cricket first' as its punchline, has Shastri interacting with the captains in a series of different situations.
LG is the official global partner of all ICC tournaments till 2007, which include the World Cups in 2003 and 2007. This is the second cricket-related campaign being flagged off by LG.
Samsung, LG's Korean rival, is putting in Rs 35 crore in advertising for airtime till the World Cup, against a small amount spent last year. The Bharti group will spend over 40 per cent of its ad and promotion budget this year on cricket - up from 25 per cent last year.
Company officials at the Bharti group say the buying airtime on cricket is the most cost-effective way to reach to audiences due to the tremendous viewership factor. Apart from the multinationals and big companies there are a number of mid-sized companies that are spending big sums to buy airtime.
The plot thickens
Dr Morepen is putting in about 15 per cent of its advertising budget into buying airtime on cricket programmes. It was one of the key advertisers on Doordarshan (DD) for the ICC Knock Out series. And Mirc Electronics, the maker of Onida brand of TVs, is planning an aggressive marketing and promotional campaign backed by an ad budget of Rs 12 crore.
Philips India is also planning a number of initiatives, covering products, pricing and promotions during the first quarter of 2003, to coincide with the World Cup. It is investing Rs 15 crore in marketing and advertising and is giving away prizes worth Rs 11 crore for the first quarter of 2003. Sources say the company is also toying with the idea of signing on a cricketer for endorsing its products during the event.
Air Sahara, which forked Rs 1 billion for three years to become the Indian team's sponsor, has launched a blockbuster Rs 200-million campaign, which will run till the World Cup and features the entire Indian cricket team.
Britannia Industries' ad-spend for its current promotion Britannia Khao World Cup jao is close to Rs 10 to 12 crore. This year's Britannia Khao promotion features a number of prizes worth more Rs 1 crore. This includes 100 World Cup tickets to watch the India-Pakistan match in South Africa to cameras, wristwatches, Luxur Crayfun and Britannia Book of Cricket.
There is a red herring, though. All campaigns cashing in on the World Cup fever and promising free tickets for a ringside view to matches being played in South Africa may be in for a jolt if the International Cricket Council (ICC) has its own way.
In a move supporting only the official sponsors of the cup ICC looks like it may spoil the party and allow only ticket-holders from the official sponsors to watch the cricket matches. The rest of the ticket-holders may be slapped with hefty fines or even put in jail.
The companies offering free tickets to South Africa include Philips India (with its campaign Philips ghar lao South Africa jao), Britannia (Britannia Khao World Cup jao) and a number of others like ABN Amro credit card.
Channels to take the biscuit
For television channels it's a gala time. During Cricket World Cup 1999, the channels telecasting the matches picked up ad revenues worth around Rs 3 billion. Now DD is actually depending on the Cricket World Cup 2003 to meet its revenue target for fiscal 2002-03.
The company has set a revenue target of Rs 625 crore for 2002-03, but at the end of 30 November 2002 it had attained only around Rs 266.64 crore - against Rs 377 crore earned in the same period last year (April-November 2001-02).
It hopes the World Cup 2003 will help it tide over the shortfall for the year. DD's estimates are that it will earn at least Rs 20 crore through minimum guarantees from the telecast of the World Cup on its national channel.
Prasar Bharati this time did not join the bidding for terrestrial telecast rights for the World Cup but chose to offer its platform to the rights-holder WSG Nimbus to telecast the matches, with a revenue-sharing deal in place.
Thus, over and above the minimum guarantee, DD will also earn through the revenue-sharing deal with WSG Nimbus, which is marketing the event. As per the agreement between the two, over and above the minimum guarantee the revenue from the sale of advertising revenue generated during the two-month long tournament will be divided between Nimbus and Prasar Bharati in the ratio of 80:20.
There is a battle in the offing between television channels. Sony TV has also grabbed the Indian television rights for two World Cup tournaments for a huge $255 million against the $16-million Star-ESPN and DD forked out during the last World Cup.
And it is quite possible that Sony may not be able to recover the costs, as it does not have the exclusive telecast rights, and DD will also air the matches. Sony officials, however, promise that the channel's programmes on the World Cup will get viewers for their sheer slickness.
Sony possibly might just rake in the cash as it has hiked its ad rates for the World Cup. It charged $5,000-$5,500 for a 30-second spot for the ICC Knock Out series. Rumours doing the rounds say Sony has hiked its airtime charges by three times for the World Cup. The channel might also hike cable operator fees during the tournament.
Radio to benefit too
After TV channels can radio be left far behind? No. So Prasar Bharti will pay $50,000 to the Global Cricket Corporation for the radio broadcasting rights of the World Cup matches. All India Radio (AIR) will run live commentaries of 18 matches, including the semi-finals and the final.
AIR deputy director-general M Rugmini says: ''Apart from some key contests, we will be broadcasting the matches in which India is playing. AIR earned an advertising revenue of Rs 47-48 lakh in the 'mini' World Cup in Sri Lanka where it aired live commentaries for seven matches and paid Rs 10 lakh for the rights.''
AIR's revenues from the recently concluded India-West Indies series were higher at Rs 67 lakh. For the India-West Indies cricket series, the coverage was more comprehensive as Prasar Bharati had bagged the five-year rights for all international cricket matches played in India.
Till 30 September 2002, AIR had netted revenues Rs 61 crore and hopes that the festival season and the World Cup will enable it to add another Rs 60 crore this fiscal.
And, as somebody said, watch the match - and enjoy yourself.