Football entering advertising "big league" in India

The 2006 FIFA World Cup has reportedly sent "cricket-crazed Indians into a soccer frenzy". Writing in the online journal, Asia Times, Siddharth Srivastava claims that "the game has never been bigger in the country, with a legion of fans spurred into hyperdrive by the tournament in Germany". He quoted a survey across nine cities in the country that says Indoans now rate footballers over cricketers: Ronaldo over Rahul Dravid, David Beckham over Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ronaldinho over Yuvraj Singh.

The 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea catapulted football for the first time into the top league in India, with TV ratings that compared to the best-performing soap operas and one-day cricket matches. Euro 2004 continued the growth and had a cumulative audience reach of 32.3 million viewers. ESPN is looking to replicate its success telecasting the English Premier League in Hindi. EPL has a reach of 42.8 million, which means almost 50 percent of the cable-TV-wired homes across India has sampled the league. The viewership for the Spanish Premier League has also been growing steadily, reaching nearly one in three cable homes in 2004-05. ESPN is expecting the total Indian viewership for this World Cup to be in excess of 150 million, a fivefold increase over the audience for the 2002 event.

"Advertisers feel that India is fast moving from a one-sport country to interests in tennis, golf and soccer, though cricket remains by far the No 1 sport. Coca-Cola has budgeted $1.5 million for World Cup initiatives, while Adidas plans to spend 8-9 percent of net sales on total marketing efforts in India," Srivastava reported. "Expecting a surge in television sales, TV maker Onida has set aside $2 million for Cup promotions. Top car companies such as Maruti and Hyundai have devised specific schemes to make the most of the football frenzy. So have the two-wheelers Yamaha and Hero Honda ... ESPN has sold all its TV spots for all 64 World Cup matches, though the rates for the ongoing India-West Indies cricket series still go at twice the price for a 10-second spot. ESPN has gone in for bulk sales to 10 main advertisers with budgets ranging from $3 million to $4 million.

"Online and mobile-content players are prepared to re-create the magic through videos, live tickers, news reports, features, image galleries and audio commentary, with ad revenues expected to be up by 8-10 percent. Mobile2win, India's leading wireless value-added services player, has acquired the exclusive rights to distribute Cafu football content in India (Cafu is the nickname of Brazilian team captain Marcos Evangelista de Moraes) ...

"A recent report on TV ad spending showed a marginal dip of 2 percent on cricket in 2005 vis-a-vis 2004. The report also says there was a 41 percent increase in the number of brands that advertised on soccer (notably, this was despite 2005 not having any major international soccer event), while the number of brands that advertised on golf went up by 74 percent.

"These figures are, however, still puny compared with the amounts likely to be spent for the Cricket World Cup next year. Recently, the Board of Cricket Control of India claimed to have become a ''billion-dollar property'' after it awarded the global media rights for all matches to be played by India on neutral venues to Zee Telefilms Ltd for $219.15 million," Srivastava observed.