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STAR’s Indian cricket team sponsorship: What prompted the move?

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STAR’s Indian cricket team sponsorship: What prompted the move?

Star Sports had earlier officially bought the broadcasting rights of all BCCI matches till 2018. The total cost of the rights was Rs 3851 crore. Now STAR India has also become the official sponsor of the Indian cricket team. The rights have been purchased till 2017.
A release sent out by BCCI said, “The team sponsorship would be covering BCCI events, ICC events and ACC events for the period January 2014 to March 2017. BCCI had reduced the base price for sponsorship by 40 per cent. STAR India will now shell out Rs 1.92 crore per match of the BCCI.”

So the question that arises is, ‘Why did STAR India, which already has the broadcasting rights for the matches, invest in sponsoring the team?’

We asked various marketers and media agencies this question and the following prime reasons were concluded:

Extend the brand equity of STAR India beyond GECs
STAR is a global brand. But in India, STAR as a broadcaster is known primarily as Star Plus. Analysts believe that STAR wants to stand out in all genres. In broadcasting, after entertainment, sports is watched hugely. Cricket among sports is the biggest bet. Therefore, the network wants to be associated not only with sport as a broadcaster, but also as a stakeholder in the cricket content.

With the pulse and intensity the game of cricket commands in India, STAR would capitalise the sentiment in a similar way as Sahara did. “By becoming the official sponsor of the cricket team, STAR plans to become a household name. The intensity would amplify at the time of World Cup and other high intensity series. This would expand the brand equity of the channel exponentially,” said a senior media planner.

Edge over competition
Marketers feel that when the base price of sponsorship had been reduced by BCCI, the competitors of STAR considering the veracity of the situation should have been more aggressive in bagging the rights. “By becoming the official sponsor of the team, the visibility of the brand would increase. For example, in certain events such as the ongoing India –SA series, which is being broadcasted on Ten Sports, STAR will have visibility,” said Arshad Nizam, Director, Alliance Advertising. Star Plus also used a similar strategy during IPL, when it sponsored an award during presentation ceremony in every match. The strategy will ensure visibility of STAR India with cricket, irrespective of the channel on which it is being aired. So even if STAR is not able to derive benefits out of matches of boards whose rights are with other broadcasters like Ten, it would have a viable presence in every match of India.

Stakeholder in the game of cricket
STAR India becoming the official sponsor of Team India also highlights the robust equation it shares with the BCCI. Recently STAR India also became the title sponsor of the India – West Indies series. Reportedly, STAR India rescued the cricket board as the economic scenario, the credibility crisis fostered by match fixing allegations, the Srinivasan controversy, did not attract any advertisers.

“The base price of the official sponsorship was also brought down like before. STAR India again bagged the right as before. Therefore, effort was from both the stakeholders. I won’t say that base prices were deliberately reduced, but the cricket board has a soft corner towards the broadcaster. STAR India bagged the sponsorships at discounted prices. Now they can negotiate and also have a say in the official programmes. STAR would ensure that it derives maximum benefits out of the sponsorship through on- and off-field negotiations,” said a senior broadcaster, on condition of anonymity.

Expand the ‘male’ viewership base
“STAR India does not want to be recognised as a women’s brand. As a marketer, I rate the step as amazing. It would expand its male viewership, which perceives STAR to be a drama-oriented network,” said Chandroo Kalroo, COO, TTK Prestige.

STAR India would attract more male (urban and rural) viewership in times to come. By becoming the official sponsor, Star has unofficially become a stakeholder in the game. It wants to be recognised as a brand synonymous with cricket in India. Experts also believe that STAR would continue investing in cricket where India plays in whatsoever form: IPL or ICC.

Whether the gamble played by STAR pays off will be best decided by time, but as of now, the broadcaster is aggressively capitalising every opportunity being created in the sports category, even beyond cricket.

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