Mumbai: The first ball of the cricket World Cup is yet to be bowled, but the agency hired to protect sponsor interest has already registered at least 150 instances of copyright infringement and ambush marketing.
Copyright Integrity International, the intellectual property rights firm enlisted by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to protect sponsor interest, is seeing some fierce rivalry off the field over the tournament that will kick off on Saturday in Dhaka.
Earlier this week, Sony India and its brand ambassador M.S. Dhoni, captain of the Indian cricket team, got into trouble with ICC over charges of ambush marketing.
Fireworks on: The opening ceremony of the ICC World Cup was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Thursday. Kevin Frayer/AP
Sony India denied the charge, saying in a statement that its marketing campaigns were “compliant with ICC guidelines”.
ICC, which has issued terms governing the commercial behaviour of players during the World Cup, declined to comment on the matter.
“The whole idea is to prevent people from thinking that Sony is sponsoring the World Cup,” said Nandan Kamath, legal counsel to Copyright Integrity. “It would be easy for the average person on the street to get confused, especially when he sees an ad featuring the Indian captain wearing day-night coloured clothing, which is similar to the Indian team clothing.”
LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd is the official sponsor of the World Cup. It paid about Rs70 crore for the rights, said an LG spokesperson.
Sony India has set aside Rs100 crore for a multimedia campaign during the tournament, one of the top sporting properties this year.
It will run more than 3,000 television spots across 19 channels, a print campaign across 36 newspapers and magazines, and put up at least 100 billboards across the country.
Rival electronics brand Samsung India Electronics Pvt. Ltd has bought on–air inventory worth about Rs20 crore on ESPN channel to promote offers on its flat panel TVs.
Mobile services provider Vodafone Essar Ltd has secured broadcast sponsorship for the World Cup on the same sports channel for about Rs45 crore.
The deal made Vodafone, which also sponsors the annual Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament, one of the biggest sponsors of India’s most popular sport this season.
The deal was hotly contested by other companies, including Reliance Group, the official sponsor for the World Cup. ICC partners such as Reliance Group hold the first right of refusal to on-air sponsorships.
Firms such as Sony, TVS Motor Co. Ltd, Adidas and Aircel, which are rivals to ICC’s official sponsors LG, Hero Honda, Reebok and Reliance Group, have charted plans for extensive campaigns featuring top Indian cricketers. Some experts say such competitiveness stems from the fact that there are few media properties that can deliver the numbers for advertisers.
Ajit Varghese, managing director for Maxus, one of the media buying agencies of GroupM India Pvt. Ltd, which handles media buying for Vodafone, said there is a lack of high-impact properties.
“Ratings for reality shows are also falling,” he said. “The risk on reality shows is high while cricket is a highly efficient property. There are very few high-recall properties in the market, which is why competing brands lock sponsorships and buy inventory around cricket.”
Ambush marketing is often a spoilsport strategy by an advertiser who tries to disrupt the extensive and expensive plans of the official sponsor. The goal essentially is to convince consumers that the company springing the ambush is associated with an eagerly anticipated event, such as the World Cup or the Olympics.
A global study by market research firm Nielsen found that the brand most associated with the Fifa World Cup, held in June in South Africa, in consumers’ minds was Nike, and not the official sponsor Adidas.
Nike had apparently ambushed its way into the World Cup conversation by producing a popular soccer-themed ad that spread virally across the online community.
Official sponsors are now entering into contracts with rights holders, clearly defining how much media space their rivals can have. For instance, in contracts with broadcasters, on-air sponsors specify how much television ad time would go to a competitor.
“An on-air sponsor gets specified ad time for a certain amount. But you have situations where rivals, in spite of getting lesser ad secondages than the sponsor, run more spots (of shorter duration) and, hence, get greater frequency and recall,” said Satyajit Sen, chief executive of Zenith Optimedia Pvt. Ltd.
“To insulate themselves against such tactics, on-air sponsors have been known to specify in their contracts just how many spots the competition can run,” he said.
PTI contributed to this story.