Team India set to score high with sponsors

Team India set to score high with sponsors

New Delhi: The men in blue are unlikely to face any valuation blues when Sahara India Pariwar’s Rs313 crore, four-year contract with the Indian cricket team comes to an end next month and the sponsorship rights for the team go up for grabs again.

“We are looking to get a minimum bid of Rs400 crore for the next four years, though the price could go up. It’s difficult give the figure till the bids start coming in," said Niranjan Shah, board member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the apex governing body of Indian cricket.

Experts expect the winning bid to eventually exceed BCCI’s expectations. “They (BCCI) will get at least two-and-a-half to three times the amount Sahara paid for the sponsorship," said Shailendra M. Singh, joint managing director, Percept Ltd, an advertising and entertainment firm.

“BCCI will manage to get between Rs400 and Rs450 crore for the cricket team sponsorship, but I will be surprised if it goes up any more than that because there are only so many companies that can afford to devote more than Rs100 crore a year just for cricket," said a senior sports media buyer, who requested anonymity.

Sahara is in the race for the sponsorship rights again and is vying with a host of telecom, automobile and consumer durable brands for the title sponsorship of the team, said Singh, whose agency manages the Sahara India Pariwar account. The Sahara spokesperson was not available for comment. Sahara had won the sponsorship deal in 2001 as well, for five years, when it paid Rs100 crore to BCCI.

People familiar with the matter said Vodafone Group Plc., Bharti Airtel Ltd and Hero Honda Motors Ltd have expressed interest in the sponsorship opportunity. While Airtel and Vodafone declined comment, Hero Honda did not respond to calls. “The kind of money going into cricket nowadays has raised the stakes for advertisers," said Singh.

According to WPP Group Plc.’s media specialist GroupM Media India Pvt. Ltd estimates, cricket advertising will add up to Rs1,200 crore in 2009.

Indian cricket has had ups and downs—getting knocked out early in the World T20 tournament held in the UK on the one hand, and winning a one-day tri series in Sri Lanka on the other. But the team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni has often tasted success, making it an attractive advertising target.

A victory in Monday’s match against Australia in Mohali, which was being played when this story was written, will probably make India the world’s top ranking cricketing team, according to Dhiraj Malhotra, event manager at the International Cricket Council (ICC). “This is much better than where we were in 2005 when Sahara bid for team sponsorship," said Malhotra. He said although there were no official ICC rankings till 2006, India’s performance has improved significantly over the years, making the sponsorship deal much sought-after.

BCCI has issued a tender inviting interested firms to put in their bids at the BCCI office in Mumbai between 2 and 24 November, with a basic application fee of Rs5 lakh, confirmed N. Srinivasan, secretary, BCCI. Executives at BCCI said the fee is non-inclusive of the bidding amount. The deal involves sponsorship rights for Team India, including the rights for the men’s team, women’s team and under-19 team.