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Is on-ground cricket sponsorship facing heat from non-cricketing leagues?

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Is on-ground cricket sponsorship facing heat from non-cricketing leagues?

The GroupM ESP’s recent report on Indian sports sponsorship showed that the overall sports industry had grown by 10% from Rs.4,372.5 crore in 2013 to Rs.4,806.9 crore in 2014. However, one of the key insights from this report showed that on-ground sponsorship for cricket and cricket team sponsorship had gone down. While on-ground sponsorship for cricket reduced to Rs.464.7 crore in 2014 from Rs.508.3 crore in 2013, the Indian cricket team sponsorship declined to Rs.347.8 crore in 2014 from Rs 389.2 crore in 2013.

On the other hand, non-cricketing leagues seem to gaining momentum on growth. The Indian Super League (ISL) which had its first edition last year had 10 sponsors on-ground sponsorship with Rs.59.5 crore in 2014 from Rs.14.2 crore in 2013. Similarly, there were other non-cricket sports which have also seen a growth in on-ground such as Marathons, Tennis and others.

The reason for this dip in on-ground sponsorship of cricket according to the report is mainly due to lesser matches being held in India in 2014. Only eight matches were played in India in 2014 in comparison to 21 matches in 2013. IPL during last year also had no new central sponsor resulting in a flat year for IPL on-ground sponsorship. Similarly, the Indian Cricket team sponsorship price was reduced to Rs.2 crore per match that Star India paid, from Rs.3.33 crore per match that Airtel used to pay in 2013.

While matches not being held in India may be one of the reasons, many marketers believe that it is not the only reason for a reduction in the on-ground sponsorship of cricket. Saumya Chaudhuri, GM, IDBI Bank says that the cost factor is one of the reasons and another being the clutter in on-ground sponsorship for the sport. On the condition of anonymity one marketer said that high prices of sponsorship for on-ground is a deterrent for many marketers, while with other properties which are related to cricket which are not on-ground in nature which they attract them, while another marketer from an FMCG brand said that main deterrent for on-ground sponsorship on cricket is the high prices coupled with clutter and lower brand recall.  
Similarly, Rohit Gupta, President, MSM says that the reason for the other sports increasing revenues in terms of on-ground is due to the sponsorship values being very low and at a small base. “If you take an IPL team it is Rs.28-30 crore per sponsorship for one year, in ISL for instance you can by the whole ISL (on ground) sponsorship for around Rs.10 crore. It is not an apple to apple comparison”. He however further said, “On-ground the values had become very high over a period of time and that correction is now taking place. Obviously some money will move because these are newer sports and the values are not the same. It is not that money is coming out of cricket and going there. These new sports will grow, while in cricket there is a correction in terms of value,” he said.

India is maturing to other sports but does not feel that these sports will take away any share from cricket, say Amarjit Singh Batra, CEO, OLX. “Cricket will always stand as a number one sport in the country but I think the other sports are definitely coming up and you will see a lot of football, badminton and other great sports coming up in the country more in the future. This is because you see a lot of champions coming up there and there are great channels which will promote the sports very well. The question remains whether these sports will take a share from cricket. I personally believe that they will grow the market. It may seemingly look that cricket is losing its share but cricket will maintain what they are doing and the next (sports) market will be created,” he explained.  

Sanjay Tripathy, SVP – Marketing, Product, Digital and E-commerce, HDFC Life on the other hand says it is more to do with the availability of other sporting leagues, their rising viewership and an opportunity to have a target reach. “People always like good sports. If you look at international competitions whether it is World Cup or Tennis Grand Slam events, people are always watching them. The competitiveness of the Indian leagues was earlier not that high. But once you have the quality of that sports at a high level then people are definitely interested”. He further added, “Kabaddi gave a very interesting opportunity for marketers to reach masses because it was always popular in the hinterlands and tier 2 and 3 cities. It is more about the opportunity to invest in different places and pick and choose depending on your target market.”

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