Vodafone gets World Cup co-sponsorship

Vodafone gets World Cup co-sponsorship

Mumbai: Telecom services provider Vodafone Essar Ltd has bought the co-sponsorship rights for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup for nearly Rs45 crore, two media buyers said.

The deal makes 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—even as rival brands face a cap on the air time they can buy.

“That would make Vodafone the single largest advertiser in that (telecom services) category (during the World Cup and IPL)," said Sejal Shah, vice-president, India Media Exchange, the central media buying unit for the Starcom MediaVest Group Inc. and ZenithOptimedia Group. “The brand has managed to elbow out competition by advertising on both the CWC (Cricket World Cup) and IPL."

This deal was hotly contested by other players including the Reliance Group (formerly the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group), which is the ground sponsor for the World Cup. The ground sponsorships include in-stadia advertising such as perimeter boards, banners, etc.

While all ICC partners such as Reliance hold the first right of refusal to on-air sponsorships, and have an exclusive time window to seal broadcast rights, it is believed that group company Reliance Communications Ltd passed up the opportunity, leaving the broadcast sponsorship open to other telecom players, including Vodafone. “We let it go at that price," said a Reliance official on the condition of anonymity. “Of course, Vodafone’s offer was higher."

“Our interest in the cricket season in 2011 is a continuation of the same belief that in a cricket-crazy country like ours, large cricketing events reach a very large section of our key demographic. We expect Indians to be glued to their TV screens during this cricket season," said Anuradha Aggarwal, vice-president of marketing at Vodafone, India’s second-largest telecom firm, in an email.

A senior official from Vodafone confirmed that while they had sealed the deal with the broadcaster, their legal team was in the process of getting all the paperwork done.

This development was also confirmed by the head of a media-buying company who said “Vodafone, Hero Honda and Sony (had come on board as) co-presenting sponsors".

ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd, the World Cup’s official broadcaster, announced their sponsors through full page advertisements in leading dailies.

The World Cup is held once every four years and pits top cricketing nations against each other in the one-day format. This year, 49 matches will be played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh between February and April. The fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which Vodafone sponsors under an estimated Rs100-110 crore five-year deal, will begin soon after.

Vodafone signed the deal with IPL in 2008.

The 2007 World Cup saw advertisers such as Hutchison Essar (which was rechristened Vodafone Essar Ltd in 2007 after the Vodafone Group Plc bought the controlling stake in the company from Hutchison Whampoa Ltd), LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd, Pepsico India Holdings Pvt. Ltd and Hero Honda Motors Ltd come on board as global partners of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Sponsorship rights to the cricket World Cup this year typically entitle on-air sponsors to 8-12 ad spots of 30 seconds each in every match. Over 49 matches, this would total 11,760-17,640 seconds through the tournament.

A 10-second advertising spot during this year’s World Cup is likely to cost Rs3.5 lakh and sponsorship could be secured for Rs30-55 crore, according to industry estimates. For IPL, a similar spot could cost Rs5.5 lakh, while sponsorship could be priced at Rs35-75crore.

Idea Cellular Ltd said it is yet to firm up advertising plans for the cricket season. A spokesperson for Tata Teleservices Ltd declined to comment on the company’s plans for the cricket season.

Mobile service providers ranked second, after toilet soap makers, among the top advertisers on television in 2010, according to TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd. Their share in the overall TV advertising pie was 3%. Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were the top three advertisers in the segment.

This year, the onset of the cricket season coincides with increasing activity in the telecom industry, with companies lining up to offer third-generation (3G) services as well as mobile number portability (MNP). While 3G services will enable users to download video and access other facilities at high speeds, MNP allows them to change their service provider while retaining their phone number.

“MNP and 3G are buzz words, and the entire consumer base is being wooed afresh by incumbent and new competitors alike. Being salient during this highly competitive time is definitely on our mind while looking at cricket properties in the media," said Aggarwal of Vodafone.

Krunal Mehta, vice-president, branding and corporate communications, at Angel Broking Ltd, also said the new services will lead to more telecom advertising around cricket.

“Especially with number portability, it would be a great challenge for the companies in the sector to attract and retain customers. Under such a shadow of uncertainty, it is of utmost importance for the brands to be seen and perceived right, and what better than getting associated with cricket," he said.

Advertising at the World Cup and IPL would total more than Rs1,500 crore, said Prasanth Kumar, managing partner, South Asia, at Group M central trading group.

“Advertiser interest in the World Cup is likely to be high. According to our estimates, it could attract anywhere between Rs650 crore to Rs700 crore in advertising, especially, because India has been playing well," said Kumar.

Rasul Bailay contributed to this story.