With just over two weeks to go for the ICC World Cup 2007, cricketer Irfan Pathan, brand ambassador for Gillette, took time off from training last week to launch a limited-edition razor, Vector Plus Winner, that the company was introducing with an eye on the event.
“I am confident of my game,” said the woefully out-of-form cricketer at the event.Indian companies also seem to be hoping for the best.
At the beginning of this year, marketers did not seem as enthusiastic about the World Cup as they had been the last time. India had fared miserably in the game in 2006; since then, however, the team has won two home series against Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
In the last week alone, a clutch of companies has announced promotional initiatives built around the event. Estimates doing the rounds of the advertising industry suggest that between Rs350 crore and Rs400 crore will be spent on these activities in the run-up to, and during, the event. “This time, the overall World Cup marketing spends are likely to go up by 60% as against the last time,” said Sunder Raman, managing director, Mindshare.
Consider mobile telephony company Hutchison Essar, which is in the process of being acquired by Vodafone. It doesn’t have any cricketers endorsing its Hutch brand, but Hutch is one of the global sponsors of the event. It is a different matter that the brand itself will likely cease to exist; after an unspecified transition period, when Vodafone will use a combination brand, Vodafone-Hutch, it will drop the Hutch name for good. Hutch is taking some of its subscribers who have won a promotional contest to the World Cup in the West Indies.
“We had a contest in which people who bought new Hutch connections or recharged their existing ones won a trip to the World Cup,” said Harit Nagpal, marketing director for Hutch. The company also plans to offer its subscribers scores and exclusive video replays at no additional cost during the big global cricket event that happens every four years.
It isn’t uncommon to have higher spends around big events. An executive at an advertising agency, who did not wish to be identified, added that companies usually upped their promotional spends by 10-20% during such events.
Adidas, for instance, has launched a range of sportswear for fans called the Authentic Fan Range.
“It is the first time that Adidas has a cricket-specific fan range. We will be promoting the range aggressively through a multimedia campaign, which includes in-store advertising and a host of on-ground activities across various cities,” said Adidas India managing director Andreas Gellner.
“We expect to see increased participation from smaller companies, which will basically piggyback on the cricket theme for a better connect with consumers,” added Raman. That, the companies hope, will help increase sales.
LG Electronics, one of the sponsors of the event, expects a 60% increase over the Rs233 crore it earned from sales of TV sets during the lastWorld Cup.
Ravinder Zutshi, the deputy managing director of LG’s rival, Samsung, said he expected a 30-40% surge in sales. But Suresh Khanna, general secretary of Cetma, an electronics industry body, offered a note of caution.
He pointed out that March and April are final examination time for students. That, and the time difference between India and the West Indies—the matches will be at night, Indian time— could hurt sales of TV sets, he said, adding that if the Indian team performed well, sales could still see a spike from the 1.65 million sets that were sold during the last World Cup.
This World Cup will be the longest ever in terms of duration, lasting from 5 March to 28 April. A good performance by India in the initial stages could boost viewer interest and sales of TV sets and related merchandise. Marketers are counting on that: If India wins, so do they.