New Delhi: The FIFA under-17 World Cup, one of the biggest sporting events hosted by India, kicked off on Friday sans the high-decibel advertising that marks a cricket tournament played in the country.

“With limited budgets from the organizers and sponsors not activating marketing budgets, there is very limited buzz around the event, restricted to the football community in the country," said Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer at Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions.

Media buyers estimate that a total of 900 seconds of inventory will be on offer per match on the sports channels of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), the official broadcaster of the event. While global brand partners are expected to spend around Rs2-3 crore through the event on television advertising, the national sponsors are expected to shell out Rs4.5-5.5 crore, with Sony expected to clock around Rs50-60 crore.

These numbers are nowhere close to a money-spinning cricket property like the Indian Premier League (IPL), which churns out upwards of Rs1,000 crore in media spending.

“It is not a big property from an advertiser perspective. We have brought Hero MotoCorp and LIC (Life Insurance Corporation of India) as on-air sponsors and have got a couple of spot buys as well but it is not (a) big revenue driver for us. We have the rights to FIFA events and since this time it’s happening in India, we are promoting it," said Rohit Gupta, president, network sales and international business, SPN.

The 22-day tournament will be played in six venues across New Delhi, Navi Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Kochi and Guwahati.

To be sure, it has managed to attract 13 international and national on-ground sponsors. The six Indian partners have paid between Rs8 crore and Rs13 crore to bag the sponsorships. They include cement maker Dalmia Bharat Ltd, Bank of Baroda, learning app Byju’s, Coal India Ltd, NTPC Ltd and Hero MotoCorp Ltd.

The tournament also has seven on-ground global brand partners: Coca-Cola Co., Adidas AG, Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd, Qatar Airways Ltd, Visa Inc., Beijing-based Wanda Group and Russian energy firm Gazprom PJSC.

A variety of campaigns have been launched by these sponsors to woo fans to the stadiums. Hero MotoCorp has released a television ad, Adidas is running a digital campaign and Coca-Cola has set up booths and hydration zones in stadiums.

Sony remains upbeat that the tournament will find viewership. The channel will be telecasting the matches in three language feeds—English, Hindi and Bengali—on Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 3 and Sony ESPN channels. Viewers will also get to livestream the matches on the Sony LIV app and website.

The network has tied up with Hero MotoCorp as the ‘presenting sponsor’ for the World Cup while LIC has come on board as the on-air ‘powered by’ sponsor.

“I don’t think comparing football with cricket is fair, whether in terms of viewership or ad inventory. Unlike cricket, which has ad breaks after every over, in football there are only ‘pre’, half-time and ‘post’ slots where ads can be run. So, the size of available inventory is far less," said Jigar Rambhia, national director, sports partnerships, Maxus India, a GroupM owned media agency.

Ashish Bhasin, chairman and chief executive, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, agrees. Almost 84% of sports-related spending, including sponsorship and team sponsorship as well as media money, is spent on cricket, he said.

“Several leagues including kabaddi, football and badminton have come up in the last few years. While interest levels are increasing in these sports, unfortunately advertising money is not following. Unlike other countries, the difference between cricket and other games in India is huge and I do not see it changing anytime soon," he added.

Blah of Kwan Entertainment says that properties like IPL have more flexible regulations for sponsorships.

“The minimum ticket size to be associated with a FIFA property is way too high and therefore acts as an entry barrier. Unlike in IPL, where a brand can pay a crore and become a sponsor of a team, FIFA commands a far bigger sum of sponsorship money. Also, it only allows Indian companies to become national sponsors as well. There are many constraints when it comes to marketing and media with international events," he added.

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