In 2012, when Star Sports-ESPN bought the telecasting rights from BCCI for all the domestic and international cricket matches in India for Rs 3851 crore, it sealed a deal for six years. Recently, when the broadcaster duo bought the title sponsorship rights for domestic and international matches in India for the 2013-14 season, eyebrows were raised.
BCCI did not get a single bidder. Micromax had bought the draft document but it backed off at the last moment. Experts we spoke to, on condition of anonymity, mentioned that Micromax could not find associate sponsors for a collective bid. Subsequently, BCCI asked Star Sports-ESPN, its telecast partner, to become the title sponsor. Senior industry sourced said, “It was face saviour act for BCCI. Look at the discounted price the deal has been taken at!”
The broadcaster duo has brought the title sponsorship at Rs 2 crore per match, which was the base price set by BCCI.
Has BCCI lost its credibility?
Experts we spoke to have a resounding yes as the answer.
“When one learns that the Chief of BCCI, in some form or other, is involved in a scandal, there is a decline in confidence. Spot fixing, Srinivasan issue and corruption has dented the image of the board. No brand would like to associate with an organisation which is tainted and is known for all the wrong reasons. BCCI exists only because of cricket; it is not the other way round. Brands currently might be using a carrot and stick approach towards BCCI, signalling a cleanup,” said Shreyas Bangad, Creator and Director, brandmatterz, a brand consultancy firm.
Srinivasan, apart from being BCCI Chief, is also the Managing Director of India Cements and owns Chennai Super Kings. N Srinivasan’s son-in-law and the CEO of CSK franchisee, Gurunath Meiyappan was allegedly involved in betting and fixing matches. Recently, Supreme Court allowed Srinivasan to re-assume his office after he was unanimously re-elected as BCCI Chief. But the APEX court also ordered an independent inquiry into the spot fixing case.
Srinivasan, on the other hand, has always maintained that he has not done anything illegal and that all allegations against him are baseless.
Multiple sources have reportedly confirmed that allegations of spot fixing, rampant corruption and political clout over the cricket board has brought disgrace to the cricket community.
A senior advertising official has also confirmed that a cola major is rethinking its association with the board.
Will the game of cricket be affected?
Experts believe that BCCI not getting bidders for the title sponsorship cannot be a result of decline in the credibility of the board alone. Reasons such as economic slump and saturation of cricket are other reasons.
“Cricket is like a religion in India. To a certain extent, there has been a damp in the spirits of the fans, but people watch cricket because of the players and not the board. They are not concerned with BCCI as long as the matches are exciting. If the performance of the team is good, people will tune to the TV sets. Advertisers are concerned more with the eyeballs. Cricket will not be ruled out. But if BCCI does not get into a cleansing act and continues to operate the way it has been, there could be serious crisis in the future,” said Mayank Shah, Group Product Manager, Parle Products.
He further added, “Cricket today has turned into more of entertainment than sport; so one places a cricket tournament in the same category as entertainment programmes.”
Arshad Nizam, Director, Alliance Advertising mentioned, “With the on-going controversies surrounding cricket, BCCI has suffered loss in credibility. But major factors for BCCI not getting bidders could be economic slump and too much cricket throughout the year. Having said that, cricket in India is serious business. People watch India’s matches with keen interest. Till an advertiser is getting his objectives, getting advertisers on board will not be a problem for BCCI.”
A senior media planner, on condition of anonymity, shared, “BCCI has created a strange situation for the game of cricket. Today, if a player misses a catch, misfields or is not able to score runs, people assume that the match is fixed. Though on an individual level, respect exists for some players such as Sachin, Dravid, etc. But the administrative structure of BCCI is rampantly corrupt and this cannot be repaired easily. If Team India starts performing weakly tomorrow, BCCI, with its present image, can sustain neither advertisers nor broadcasters. It is a body governed by people with vested interests in themselves and not cricket as a sport. This is a tragedy. Hence, if you ask about Brand BCCI, it does not exist. There is only cricket and till players perform, money would pour. The day that stops, everything stops.”
Other industry experts have also highlighted that since the spot fixing controversy that erupted during IPL, questions over integrity, dignity and reputation have regularly been discussed among the marketing fraternity. Post IPL fiasco, many brands were genuinely concerned over the impact of their association with the cricket tournaments in India. But the questions have been dumped because of the huge eyeballs the matches garner.
The day people start watching matches with prejudices, it would directly impact advertising associations. It is critical the board handles the crisis well, say senior industry sources.