Mumbai: Cricket may be back in grace as an ad platform for big advertisers, but soccer is now expected to share the pitch. For one, the legendary Football Club Barcelona will reportedly be marketed in India by Ogilvy Sports, with superstars such as Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi endorsing brands such as Kingfisher. Signing up three or four Barcelona Club stars as endorsers could cost Rs1.5 crore per annum, estimate some media experts—a small sum compared to star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s endorsement fees.
Huge soccer events will also be telecast on TV in the year ahead, and Indian advertisers are queuing up. Some big events being marketed by Zee-owned Ten Sports Pvt. Ltd are the Scottish Premier League, the French League, the UEFA Champions League, Manchester United and the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Neo Sports will also be marketing some big-ticket soccer events, though no names are available yet. Broadcaster StarHub has also launched a soccer channel for 24-hour premier league programming.
Says Rukim Kizilbash, general manager, Ten Sports: “Philips India Ltd has bid Rs1 crore for a full season of football. Bharti Cellular Ltd, Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd,Pepsico India Holdings Pvt. Ltd,Hero Honda Motors Ltd,Maruti Udyog Ltdhave all committed huge amounts to annual soccer deals.” The universe for football is growing tremendously”.
As a result, ads and promos associated with Indian soccer rake in Rs15 crore per annum, say industry experts who project a 20% growth rate. FIFA 2002 recorded ad volumes of 40,700 seconds; these rose to 45,600 ad seconds in 2006, a 12% increase in volumes, state reports fromTAM AdEx India Ltd. Advertisers such as Nike India are also creating their own soccer promotions.
Soccer is an em-erging sport and also works well for brands that are young and targeting an upmarket segment. It is young, vibrant and international in ambition, says Prashant Singh, business head, Ogilvy Sports,Ogilvy & Mather India Pvt. Ltd. So, for Kingfisher, which hopes to launch in the US and Europe, the match is perfect. Some of the big tournaments that will draw huge ad spends include the Nehru Cup La Liga and the Champions League, he adds.
Soccer’s viewership is inccreasing rapidly. Satish Menon, president, Zee Sports Ltd, predicts that in the next three years, football is going to be the biggest sport in India. “Viewership for football has reached 1 TV Viewership Rating (TVR) (A TVR is half an hour of a TV programme being watched by 1% of total TAM Media people-meter homes. It is estimated that there are 6,919 people-meters installed by TAM Media Research Ltd across the country). This is close to cricket, which sees ratings of 2 and 3 TVRs. Corporates and public sector units are more open to committing huge sums to soccer tournaments—each comprising as many as 150 games. Essel Group, Tata Group, and Bharti are supporting football teams.”
The risk of India losing is zero in international soccer, and that’s a major attraction for advertisers weary of our cricket team’s erratic performance. Says Anil Khera, director-marketing, Samsung India Pvt Ltd: “Soccer is an India-neutral game. In international games, there is no chance of India losing. We will commit a huge amount to soccer, because our soccer promo during FIFA 2006 earned us huge dividends.” Their sales rose by at least 20%, say industry watchers.
The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) ran a soccer promo during FIFA 2006. Says Sandip Tarkas, media-buying head, ADAG: “It’s a clear No.2 to cricket. Monetarily, the buy makes sense, because ad rates for soccer are a fifthof what’s charged for cricket, and the game is picking up on viewership”.
Ten Sports states that most football ad time is sold as an annual deal. The remaining inventory is sold at spot-buys of Rs20,000-30,000 for a 10-second commercial. In contrast, a 30-second spot for World Cup Cricket on Sony Entertainment Television Ltd costs Rs1.25-3 lakh. Tarkas, however, admits that there’s just one commercial break during a soccer game, which means limited ad time available.
The ad rush is not limited to international leagues. The All India Football Federation (AIFF), the apex body of football in India, and Zee Sports have signed a 10-year exclusive telecast deal for domestic football. AIFF is also striving to popularize the sport and aspirational by launching new tournaments and formats, which will be open for endorsement.
Local soccer stars such as Baichung Bhutia will also be actively promoted. Says Singh: “It’s a case of apples and oranges. Sachin will continue to be used by brands that look for mass appeal. Then again, a brand targeting upper segments would be served better with football.”