Are advertisers looking to splurge in a sports-packed 2021?

Experts say advertisers are keen on picking up sporting properties. T20 World Cup, which is three months away, already has five big partners on board

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Jul 8, 2021 3:49 PM

The ICC World Test Championship Final (WTC), played between India and New Zealand from June 18-June 22, 2021, was viewed by 99 million viewers, making it the most viewed test match since 2018. Such numbers are expected in a nation obsessed with cricket.

But when BARC India data showed that more than 25 million tuned in for the first 20 matches of Euro 2020, it was clear that viewers are hungry for sports content, whether it's cricket or otherwise, especially after missing out on major events last year due to Covid. 

Even though the second wave and lockdown period of two months (April-May) pushed the rest of the matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) season 14 to September 2021, the sports genre has again picked up with back-to-back events from mid-June, including Euro 2020, India- Sri Lanka series, Tokyo Olympics 2020, The Wimbledon Championships, NBA Playoffs 2021, Copa America 2021, IPL and ICC World Cup T20. 

The second wave may have slowed down the business but experts feel that the market sentiments have started improving as the number of cases is declining and vaccination is picking up. However, most advertisers are still cautious about their budgets. 

Mansi Datta, Chief Client Officer and Head- North & South, Wavemaker India, said most advertisers have come out of the lockdown and are looking at the opening of markets. "But one must remember that for many companies, the key summer season got washed out due to the second wave of Covid and subsequent lockdown, and hence they are staring at lesser revenues for the year," she noted.

Datta added, "While they are keenly looking at the sports calendar, decisions are being made in terms of efficiency and how they can sync these properties to their sales calendar. The festive months see two key properties of IPL and the World Cup. Advertisers who like to steer clear of festive clutter are looking at pre-festive series of Olympics, Ind-SL, Ind-Eng, or other major sports."

She added, "All in all, whether pre-festive or post-festive, there is a keenness to pick up sporting properties as advertisers understand that viewers have been hungry for sports content, and these properties will see meteoric viewerships getting clocked in.” 

As per the TAM AdEx data, the ad volumes for the sports genre on TV medium were 25% less in Apr-May'21 compared to Apr-May'20. Interestingly, it was higher by 21% in Apr-May'21 compared to Jan-Mar'21.  If we look at the June'20 versus June'21 ad volume data on TV medium, it decreased by 6% in Jun'21. 

IPL saw massive traction for multiple reasons, according to Mimi Deb, SVP, Media Planning, Zenith. She said it was the most significant event of 2020, and viewers lapped it up as the nation was coming out of the veils of lockdown, and TV viewership gains were significant because viewers were mostly indoors and preferred viewing on large screens. 

Deb said, "In 2021, we saw a dip in IPL fever, about 9.5% dip in the cumulative reach. It fell from 116 million cumulative reach per match to 105 million reach per match. On the digital platform too, the dip was evident.  This cannot be attributed to a fall in the fan following of IPL but other factors like the pandemic and its mass impact across India during the second wave. But even though there has been a drop in IPL cumulative viewership, IPL ratings were at the top in the Hindi belt; hence we expect the game to gain viewers from the rest of the genres in IPL phase 2."

She added that sentiments are picking up all across. The industry expects an overall buoyancy in the market, with the world seeming to get back to normalcy. As per recent reports, Euro Cup 2020 saw a 3x growth vs. Euro Cup 2016. For India, this is a big jump despite it being much lesser than any cricket event's. 

Deb mentioned, "The obsession continues with cricket– IPL is pretty much sold out. The T20 tournament, which is more than months away, already has five big partners on board. We will have a full-up cricketing calendar starting with IPL, and advertisers are betting big as it all coincides with the festive months. The expectation will be to recover lost ground as much as possible."

As earlier reported by exchange4media, Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN) has signed over 15 advertisers for the India-Sri Lanka series, and Star Sports has roped in eight sponsors for Wimbledon. 

In an interview with exchange4media, Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head – Sports Business, SPSN India, said he is hopeful that the overall sports pie will be much bigger than the last year.

"The response we got from advertisers for EURO has been excellent. As we charge a premium for these events, advertisers are thrilled to spend big money on these impact properties. And we don't see any problem whatsoever," he shared.

 Kaul added that the network hopes to earn Rs 200 crore revenue from Euro 2020. They have also lined up the India-Srilanka series (starting from July 13) and the Olympics (July 23). 

As per the TAM data, over 145 advertisers advertised on TV during April-May'21 compared to over 45 advertisers in April-May'20. Over 140 advertisers were on TV during the Jan-March'21 period.   

Karan Taurani, Senior VP, Elara Capital said, "Globally and for India, sports is going to big this year in terms of ad spends and viewership because the events that were cancelled last year are scheduled in 2021. There are different sets of advertisers for different sports. Its' not going to cannibalize the share of other genres. Even if it does, its impact will be minute."

He further added that sports are the only source of entertainment for viewers now as outdoor events have been called off and people are confined to their homes. "We can expect a significant surge in viewership this year as well as next year, over 30% growth is expected as compared to CY19. In terms of revenue, it is likely to grow 20-25%.

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