New Delhi: Last month, India’s largest car maker, Maruti Udyog Ltd, signed a $1-million (Rs4.5 crore) deal with the just-launched www.cricketworldcup.com, the official site of the ICC World Cup, and the result of an alliance between cricket’s governing body and Indya.com, a website owned by Star India Ltd.
The deal is being touted as the most valuable advertising and sponsorship deal in India’s Internet space.
According to Sanchit Sanga, director, Group M Interaction, an Internet advertising specialist, around Rs10 crore will be spent by companies online during the World Cup. That’s four times the amount spent during the 2003 tournament, he adds.
One reason for the increased interest being shown by companies is the timing of matches. This World Cup is being held in the West Indies (warm-up matches began on Monday), and most matches will be aired between 7pm and 3am. Media planners and advertisers are hoping that everyone but the most rabid cricket fans will miss match results and match post-mortems and log on to cricket-related websites when they wake up in the morning (most newspapers will miss the results too).
“Viewership after about 11:30 pm will fall, and in the morning, the papers won’t carry in-depth coverage. Websites will be the only source for office traffic,” says Ajay Vidyasagar, executive vice-president, Star India.
Another reason is that much of the online advertising coming out of India is anyway targeted at non-resident Indians and people of Indian origin in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada (the time difference works to the advantage of the last two). A media buyer with a large agency, who does not wish to be named, claims that advertising targeting these audiences will show an increase of 50-55% during the World Cup.
The list of companies advertising online includes banks, financial institutions and large advertisers such as ICICI and Lufthansa, as well as some first-time cricket advertisers. “We were not advertising in cricket (sites) before,” says Nikhil Rungta, the head of marketing for online travel company Yaatra.com.
Indya.com ventured into the world of cricket when it partnered with ICC to launch the official website for the Champions Trophy. The site received 1.1 billion hits and 230 million page views and earned a profit of around Rs3 crore, according to a source at the company who did not wish to be identified. The World Cup site, the source added, could see profit touching Rs6 crore.
Not wanting to be left out of the action, Zee Telefilms launched www.zeecric.com on 1 March. “Cricket is the single-biggest passion of Indians across the world, and as a company with interests in news and information, zee cric.com is a logical fit,” says Harish Doraiswamy, CEO, Zee News. The site will try and attract advertisers from the finance, banking, travel, tourism, and auto sectors, he adds.
The growing interest of big advertisers in cricket sites has left the smaller companies unhappy. After signing the deal with Maruti, Indya hiked its sponsorship rate to Rs1.5 crore. “I think the rate is very high, specially for online advertising where measurability is uncertain,” said Sandeep Murthy, CEO, Cleartrip, who was initially leaning towards Indya, but changed his mind after the site increased its rate.