Will brands warm up to UEFA Euro 2020 in India?

With IPL suspension, the property will be a good value proposition for brands but it will also be limited to young male audiences from metros and the football-crazy states, opine experts

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: May 24, 2021 9:29 AM

The upcoming UEFA Euro 2020 tournament is both an opportunity and a challenge for Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), the official broadcast partner of the tournament in India. It is an opportunity because there is a dearth of top-quality live sports content with the Indian Premier League (IPL) getting suspended mid-way due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in the country. The property is a challenge for the network since it is happening at a time when the advertising market is subdued and the mood across the country is sombre.

The Euro 2020, which was postponed last year by 12 months, will be held from 11 June to 11 July. A total of 51 games will be telecast live by SPNI in four languages (English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam) across three channels Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 3, and Sony Six, which will have the Bengali and Malayalam audio feeds. Apart from the Sony Sports channels, the tournament will also be streamed live on SonyLIV.

To promote the tournament, Sony has launched multiple ad films as part of its #MeriDoosriCountry campaign to bring fans closer to their teams. The broadcaster aims to draw in the attention of both fans and fringe-viewers to root for their favorite countries with the same passion and intensity as they would support their own country.

While Sony is pulling out all the stops to ensure the success of the tournament in India, the larger question is 'will the property draw enough advertisers?' Media planners have mixed views on this topic. While none of the media planners have any doubts about the ROI of the property all of them feel that the current situation in the country might dampen Sony's ad monetisation plans.

Speaking about the UEFA Euro 2020 property, Zenith India CEO Jai Lala said, "It will be difficult for Sony to find the right set of advertisers since we are going through a tough phase. That said, it is a good property. There are passionate fans and viewers for it. There are certain brands that would want to capitalise on that. The market is soft but there aren't many sports events happening as IPL has been pulled back and there are passionate fans for such kinds of things. They are entertainment starved at this point in time. So it's a balance of both."

Lala stated that the property will be a good value proposition for brands that are trying to connect with passionate football audiences. "The viewership numbers will not be that great. It is not a reach property but it has high engagement and passion points. This will have its limited set of advertisers. IPL suspension is a point of advantage since a lot of advertisers have time-bound campaigns going on and they might look at other options," he added.

The chief of a leading media buying agency, on condition of anonymity, said that the mood in the country and the ad market is despondent. "Football has a certain level of following and that following is limited to certain states like Kerala, Goa, West Bengal besides the metros. It doesn't have a mass following. Even kabaddi has a higher mass following than football. From that perspective, there will be viewership on SonyLIV but again it will be limited to certain segments of the society particularly 15-30 Male audiences from metros and the football-crazy states."

The executive further stated that the top 4 metros and West Bengal, Kerala, and Goa will comprise the largest chunk of the viewership. Therefore, UEFA Euro 2020 is an ideal property for brands that are targeting niche audiences especially male audiences in this age group.

"It doesn't make sense for mass brands for sure so it is not an alternative for cricket surely. If you look at the current market sentiments, is there a demand for premium brands currently? In many parts of the world, the situation has changed significantly because vaccination has been achieved to a large extent. Therefore, those markets are opening up. A lot of things make sense for those markets for the UEFA tournament. In India, the circumstances are different," the executive noted.

Havas Media Group India CEO Mohit Joshi said that the UEFA Euro 2020 might provide much-needed relief to sports enthusiasts in the country. "Football finds huge traction in India, especially in the East and North-East, Goa and Kerala markets, which is evident from the FIFA World Cup tournament numbers in the last few years. The seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) garnered 3.42 billion viewing minutes compared to 3.16 billion last season, in its first week, according to BARC data. Besides live games, there would be a significant opportunity for online sports platforms to increase social media interactions and engage with brands during that period," he said.

On the kind of the brands that might look at this property, Joshi said that a lot of global and new-age brands will associate with the event since it is a niche property. "Brands that are currently associated with Euro 2020 include Alipay, Booking.com, Coca-Cola, FedEx, Heineken, Hisense, Socar, Takeaway.com, TikTok, Vivo, Qatar Airways, and Volkswagen. Having said that, I do expect some of the upper segment brands that were present in IPL to be also present in UEFA. Given the event is in June, I hope the marketing plans of most of these brands would have revived by then."

Wavemaker India  National Director - Sports Jigar Rambhia said that football's following in India doesn't necessarily reflect in the ratings. "Football is the 2nd most popular sporting property after cricket in India and is gaining momentum year on year. Also, kids and audiences in the 15-44 age group seem to be following football very keenly. This may not reflect in the ratings of football but the general sentiment among these audiences is this. Therefore, whether it’s the EPL, La Liga, UEFA, or for that matter any international football match/tournament, it will attract these audiences."

As far as advertising is concerned, Rambhia feels that categories like Finance, EComm, Auto, etc may find this property useful. "Football has its “priority” markets like WB, Kerela, Goa, North East which deliver the “nos” but I personally feel audiences across the country would like to watch a good, competitive live sporting property."

Echoing Rambhia's point about ratings being ineffective in capturing the true following of football, iProspect VP Krishna Kumar said that the awareness of the game is more than the viewership collected from a sample of 15,000-20,000 homes. "Somewhere the passion is being missed out by the people meters," he said.

He also said that the UEFA Euro 2020 is a conservative reach property that gives a large-scale and visibility on a Pan-India basis cutting across socio-economic groups. "Football has its own passion GRP audience. It has a certain amount of international appeal and is a global unifier of sorts."

Network Advertising Executive Director Harish Shriyans commented, "Football has its own dedicated fan following particularly youth. Timing is not an issue for the property but the only concern is how many advertisers are willing to participate particularly with the uncertainty that exists. As a property, it is a good option in terms of audience and delivery. Clients or advertisers who have distribution issues may think twice before putting in money. The level of presence by advertisers is another issue."

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