Mumbai/New Delhi: Sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports may see advertising revenue rise as ad rates double for the India-Pakistan cricket series beginning 24 December, with sponsors and advertisers queuing up to be part of a contest between the arch-rivals playing each other in a bilateral series after a gap of five years.
The neighbours have fought four wars with each other, the last in 1999, and last played a bilateral series in 2007. The 2009 series was called off after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai the previous year.
The series, comprising three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and two Twenty20 matches, is expected to fetch the broadcaster more than Rs.100 crore, according to at least four media-buying executives. ESPN Star Sports declined comment for the story.
Advertising spots are being sold for nearly Rs.7-7.5 lakh for a 10-second one for the ODIs and Rs.9 lakh for the Twenty20 matches. In the ongoing India-England series, spots were sold for around Rs.3.5 lakh per 10 seconds for the ODIs and Rs.4.25-4.5 lakh for the Twenty20 matches.
The India-Pakistan ICC World Cup match in 2011 saw ad rates surge, with a 10-second spot going for a record Rs.13.5 lakh.
“The Indo-Pak series is the hottest platform for advertisers on television this year,” said Habeeb Nizamuddin, chief growth officer at Lodestar UM. “Maximum eyeballs, maximum emotions, maximum impact.”
Basabdutta Chowdhury, chief executive of Platinum Media, a division of Madison Media, concurred.
“The sentiments around Indo-Pak series are always high. Viewers are passionate...and higher viewership has always been a driving force for advertisers to be willing to shell out much more than what they pay for the other series,” she said.
According to people close to the development, the broadcaster has signed on three co-presenting sponsors—Havells India Ltd, Hyderabad-based mobile phone maker Celikon and Hero MotoCorp Ltd. The associate sponsors are said to be adhesive brand Fevicol, confectionery brand Cadbury, Vodafone India Ltd, Coca-Cola and Micromax. Mint couldn’t independently verify the identity of the associate brand sponsors.
Y. Guru, managing director of Celikon Impex Pvt. Ltd, which sells mobile phones under the Celkon brand name, said the company expects to increase its brand presence across India though the sponsorship.
“India-Pakistan matches have a huge visibility. A lot of people watch it on television. The sponsorship coincides with our penetration into newer markets across the country,” he said.
Celikon currently sells its phones in nine states. This is the first time the company is sponsoring a cricket tournament. Guru said the company would spend nearly Rs.50 crore in the next two months to promote its brand, including on television. He refused to disclose the sponsorship rate for the India-Pakistan series.
Anil Dua, senior vice-president (marketing and sales) at Hero MotoCorp, confirmed that the company was a co-presenter of the series. “Any cricket series between these two teams always creates excitement among cricket fans. We would leverage our association with the series by launching a new campaign during the live telecast of the matches,” he said.
And a Havells executive said the company, too, has high expectations from the event.
“We expect very high viewership numbers and assured return. It won’t be a surprise if the TRPs (television rating points) exceed 8,” said Vijay Narayanan, vice-president at Havells India. TV ratings are currently not being issued because some cities are migrating to digital cable from analog, but earlier ratings indicate the India-England series didn’t clock more than 2.5 on average.
“The three presenting sponsors and five associate sponsorships have blocked almost 75-80% of the broadcaster’s ad inventory for the series,” said Mona Jain, chief executive officer of media-buying agency VivaKi Exchange.
ESPN Star Sports will telecast the Indo-Pak series across its channels Star Cricket (in English), Star Sports (in Hindi) and on Star Cricket HD (in English). ESPN Star Sports is also selling ad inventory on behalf of Doordarshan (DD), albeit at lower rates. According to media buyers, a 10-second spot on DD is being sold for around Rs.1 lakh for ODIs and around Rs.1.25 lakh for the Twenty20 matches.
In April, Star India Pvt. Ltd, a part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., won the broadcast, Internet and mobile rights for all international cricket to be played in India from the Board of Control for Cricket in India for Rs.3,851 crore for a period of six years starting August. It picked up the telecast rights for the India-Pakistan series separately, however, as this was a later addition to the calendar.
In June this year, News Corp. bought out ESPN Inc.’s 50% stake in its Asia joint venture ESPN Star Sports with Walt Disney Co.
Yogendra Kalavalapalli in Hyderabad contributed to this story.