ICC World Cup: Let the games begin...

With barely two weeks left to the start of a high octane cricket season, all related industries are geared up to put forth their most aggressive strategies in place.

e4m by Fatema Rajkotwala
Updated: Feb 7, 2011 7:38 AM
ICC World Cup: Let the games begin...

With the Cricket World Cup returning to Asia after 14 years, there is a lot of excitement and expectations from the series. The last time the World Cup was played in Asia was in 1996, where Sri Lanka took home the Cup. The 10th World Cup, which will commence from February 19, 2011, will be jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Pakistan has been excluded from the hosting countries due to security concerns.

2011, the Game Changer
Quite a few changes have been introduced by the Indian Cricketing Council (ICC) this time to ensure a steady level of interest in the tournament. Compared to 2007, the format is shorter with the number of matches being brought down to 49 from 51, out of which 29 matches will be hosted by India, 12 by Sri Lanka and eight matches will be hosted by Bangladesh. The length of the tournament has also been shortened by a week to six weeks, with the last final match being hosted at the renovated Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on April 2, 2011. The format guarantees six India matches before the quarter final matches begin and ensures India’s presence in the tournament until March 20, 2011.

ESPN Software India is the official carrier and broadcaster for the tournament and has an eight-year term deal with the ICC, which lends the network broadcasting rights for one World Cup, one T20 series and one Championship League each year. The deal is pegged at about $1.1 billion and the network, including ESPN, STAR Sports and STAR Cricket, will telecast all 49 matches of the ICC World Cup 2011. This includes 37 matches, which will be simultaneously telecast on STAR Cricket. ESPN-STAR Sports will take this tournament to more than 181 territories around the world with day matches starting as early as 9.30 am IST and day-night matches starting at 2.30 pm.

There will be many firsts this year – ESPN will stream the matches live in 3G on mobile, cricket programming, content production and viewing in will be available in HD and the Decision Review System (DRS) will be introduced for the first time for any ICC tournament.

In terms of sponsorships, eight brands have come on board as partnering or associate sponsors with brands such as Castrol spending up to 30 per cent of their annual marketing budgets reserved for the cricket season, as per media reports. List of sponsors that have come on board include Sony India, Hero Honda and Vodafone as the joint presenting sponsors and Airtel DTH, Nokia, Maruti Suzuki, Philips and Pepsico as the associate sponsors. Also, a number of leading brands across categories have come on board as spot buyers. The World Cup will be followed by the fourth season of the Indian Premier League after a six-day gap.
Media reports estimate brand spends on both cricket events to exceed Rs 3,000 crore. ESPN-STAR Sports is expected to earn about Rs 750 crore, while earnings of SET MAX (IPL’s broadcaster) are valued at about Rs 800-850 crore as per published media reports.

Commenting on the high interest and advertising value luring marketers to associate with cricket, Vikram Sakhuja, CEO - South Asia, GroupM, said, “The reason for any sponsor to associate with the game is the high levels of interest, passion and good value propositions lent by the two marquee properties. Cricket continues to be the golden goose and as long as the premiums are justified, the price values make sense. We have to walk towards maximising the format and be careful not to kill the goose.”

Touching on some of the issues surrounding the monetisation for marketers, Sanjay Behl, Group Head, Brand and Marketing Operations, Reliance Communications, remarked, “Initially, the rates were ridiculously high. I agree that cricket is the golden goose. Let’s not be irrational. Reliance is in an eight-year deal with ICC because we have faith in the body and faith in the sport that it will stay and deliver. We got in a deal with ICC as a commercial partner before the IPL came. Our expectations as a commercial partner are that a set of forecast deliverables are honoured. As a marketer or a businessman, we could put million dollars on cricket or distribute it across other events. We need to move from partnering to deep engaging relationship building so as to maximise the execution of marketing plans in all areas.”

Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar UM India, expressed the need to leverage audiences and remarked that cricket would dominate the scene, “At the global sports front, cricket is big, but we have a long way to go. Both the World Cup and IPL are high value properties. We have seen the World Cup grow from Rs 300 crore to Rs 1,600-1,700 crore.”

Rating Records
As per data findings by TAM Media Research for C&S 4+ markets across India, cricket dominated television viewership with up to 176 million viewers in 2010 with an average time spent having slightly decreased since 2003.

World Cup viewership numbers have risen from 57 million to 105 million from 2003 and 2007, the year that saw a decline in fan support due to the early exit of the Indian team.

Advertising volumes and number of brands, too, have doubled in 2007 across channels SET MAX, SAB TV and PIX, totalling up to about 115 hours of advertising with 267 brands participating. About 50 per cent of the advertising was shared by top three sectors – auto (21 per cent), food and beverages (16 per cent) and telecom products (14 per cent).

TAM also highlights compelling statistics that prove that with certain components in place, such as India playing, key players performing well, the World Cup being played in the Subcontinent (therefore with timings suited for India), and so on, Indian viewers’ interest level in the game remains high. Such findings only indicate that the frenzy and scale of the tournament this year will hit new highs in many areas.

Fourteen teams are taking part in the 2011 World Cup, divided into two groups of seven teams each. Group A contains Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Canada, while Group B includes India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and the Netherlands. The season will begin with the opening match between India and Bangladesh at Dhaka.

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