As India opens its World Cup innings on Saturday, there will be very few cheerleaders from India Inc as corporates have decided not to send large contingents of employees and dealers on incentive trips this time round.
Tour operators say that the ICC clamp down on ambush marketing, the distance to West Indies, and the steep costs involved have lead to around 50% drop in incentive trips to the Caribbean, as against the previous edition in South Africa four years ago.
Said Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai: ”The ICC has definitely been successful in clamping down on ambush marketing tactics this time round.” Industry experts point out that in such a scenario, it becomes a very expensive exercise for ambush marketers and the returns are uncertain as well.
Marketers note that ICC is becoming more proactive in protecting the interests of its sponsors. Unlike previous World Cup tournaments when sectors such as consumer durables, auto, soft drinks, pharma and insurance doled out large number of employee and dealer incentives in the form of free tickets to host countries, this time round there's little on offer.
“Travel time to West Indies is a big deterrent as there are no direct flights. We sent our people to South Africa for last World Cup but that involved only an overnight journey,” said LG Electronics VP sales Girish Rao. This despite that fact that LG is an official sponsor. Last World Cup, the company had sent about 500 employees and dealers on a cricket junket.
For most durable firms, it's also a question of selling in tight market conditions. “We are motivating dealers through consumer promotions, which is giving them a lot of additional business,” pointed out Samsung's director (sales) Pradeep Tognatta.Sops would be offered to high performers during the festive season, he added.
Haier and Whirlpool, too, have backed out citing similar reasons. Coke and Pepsi have scaled down because March-April marks the beginning of the peak season, says an industry representative. Auto biggies such as Tata and Toyota are also staying back.
As per estimates by travel trade, the numbers for incentive packages picked up by corporates are expected to be pegged around 1,500. Most corporates are sending small hand-picked contingents of 30-40 employees and dealers.
The major exceptions are Reliance ADAG, Hero Honda, and Ranbaxy who are planning to send 100-200-member groups. But again these numbers are much lower than last time and companies like Hero Honda are also official sponsors of the tourney.
However, Sotc Sport Abroad business unit head Shyam Kartikeyan expects more enthusiastic response from corporates if India enters the quarter final phase of the tournament.
“The slashing of package rates over the last two weeks by around Rs 1 lakh has also helped,” he added. Typically, a seven-night package to the Caribbean starts off from around Rs 2.5 lakh and can go up to Rs 4 lakh, depending on the duration of stay.
Cricket sure is hot on ad spends and endorsements, but when it comes to freebies and junkets, India Inc has tightened its purse strings.