Football has been making inroads in a country that worships cricket. As evidenced by the frenzy over the month-long FIFA World Cup, Indians remained glued to their TV screens late into the night following the action on the field and off the field, too, thanks to a certain octopus called Paul. With favourites like Germany, Brazil, Argentina and France falling by the way, it was an open field.
While football has been keenly followed in certain pockets of the country like West Bengal, the North East, Kerala, and Goa, the sport is picking up in rest of India as well.
With FIFA fever fresh on their minds, media professionals share their views on the game and what sort of numbers they predict for the World Cup finals.
Talking about the increasing popularity of the sport, Nikhil Rangnekar, Executive Director, India West, Starcom Worldwide, noted, “Club football has grown in the last few years and it is only natural that the popularity of an event like the World Cup should also grow.”
Sharing some more details on this, Shailesh Velandy, Vice President, Mudra Max, said, “There is a surge in viewership of European football as a whole. The highest TRP of 3.0 TVR (C&S 4+, All India) has been notched up by the Germany-Argentina quarter final match, followed by the Brazil-Netherlands QF match (2.8 TVR). It goes beyond doubt that football is slowly carving out a niche among the Indian populace.”
He projects a 10 per cent increase in viewership in the finals.
Sanjoy Chakrabarty, CEO, Last Minute Inventory, said that it would be difficult to put a number to the expected TRPs for the final match, but he would consider ratings above 2 TRP to be good ratings. He further said that there was a lot of press coverage given to FIFA and a fraction of the viewership could be attributed to that.
Though Starcom’s Rangnekar felt that the ratings for the finals would be higher than the earlier matches, he predicted that in markets like Kolkata, which contributed a huge chunk of the viewership, might see a fall in ratings since neither Argentina nor Brazil had reached the finals. These two teams had been drawing the highest audiences in those markets.
It is not surprising then that the brands have increased their spends around football. Categories such as mobile phones (both handset manufacturers and service providers), soft drinks and automobiles have been carrying out various initiatives around football to have greater connect and visibility with especially the youth TG.
Apart from following the matches on TV screens at home, the trend of watching the action on huge screens at pubs and restaurants with friends and beer was catching up fast, pointed out Velandy of Mudra Max. He also pointed out that young female viewership for football was on the rise too.
However, the planners agreed that football was not going to upstage cricket anytime in the near future. Lack of a strong football team, lack of stars and a poor winning track record have come in the way of generating mass following for the sport in India. There is need for more Bhaichung Bhutias to pull in the masses for Indian football.