Bharti Airtel wins sponsorship rights for cricket ties in India

Bharti Airtel wins sponsorship rights for cricket ties in India

Mumbai: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) awarded series sponsorship rights for all international cricket matches to be played in India through 2013 to Bharti Airtel Ltd, which fought off competition from rival bidders such as Idea Cellular Ltd, Micromax Informatics Ltd and Karbonn Mobiles Ltd.

India’s biggest telecom company made the top bid of Rs3.33 crore per match, substantially higher than the Rs2 crore minimum set by the board. The deal will cover all Tests, one-day internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 international matches played on Indian soil.

During 2010-2013, India will play about 50 matches, said Ratnakar Shetty, chief administrative officer, BCCI, putting the total value of the deal at about Rs165 crore.

Apart from title sponsorship, Airtel will get to put its brand on the stumps and on in-stadia advertising spaces. A BCCI spokesperson, who didn’t want to be named, said the 2010-11 season would see “five Tests and eight ODIs at home".

The bids were opened on Friday at BCCI’s marketing committee meeting. Ten companies, including World Sports Group Pte. Ltd, the previous rights holder, had picked up the invitation to tender document for the series sponsorship. In the past, the rights have been awarded to sports agencies, which in turn sell the sponsorships on a series-by-series basis. This time, the tender was open only to corporate entities, said Shetty.

“Cricket is a game that the Indian masses and millions of sports lovers in other parts of the world are extremely passionate about," said Mohit Beotra, head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel. “We believe that cricket as a sport truly represents the zeal and vigour that today’s youth stands for, and are hence looking forward to Airtel’s long-term association with the game," he said.

“In fact, keeping in mind the affinity of India and South Asia towards cricket and Bollywood, we have identified these as key areas that Airtel as a brand will continue to associate with in the future," he said.

Airtel, also the sponsor for the Champions League, lost to the Sahara group in its bid to sponsor the Indian cricket team earlier this year.

“Telecom is a very hot category right now and it’s not surprising that most of the bidders belong to this space," said Hiren Pandit, managing partner-entertainment sports partnerships, Group M, the media buying and planning arm of the WPP group. He added that his firm had expected the rights to go at Rs3.3-3.5 crore per match.

“Also, there’s a certain amount of desperation amongst players in this space to associate themselves with cricket...that’s because cricket gets the right kind of eyeballs."

According to his estimates, this calendar year is likely to close with advertising budgets of Rs1,200-1,300 crore free commercial time going to cricket. In addition to that, sponsorships will add up to more than Rs300 crore. He adds that ad spending on cricket is growing at 10-15% year-on-year and ad inventories for most cricket series are full.

As Bharti Airtel hasn’t had much of an association with cricket so far, this deal is a sound move, said Mahesh Ranka, general manager, Relay Worldwide India.

“They can also re-sell some part of the rights (in-stadia) to other brands," he said. “This is their way of building their association with cricket. It’s difficult to say whether they’ve overpaid or not. If the economy goes the way it is now, it’s a good investment. If it’s a slump, well, tough for them."