There are many reasons why hosting the Twenty20 World Cup amid the pandemic this year could be a fraught affair. The biggest concern is, of course the players—even if one member gets infected, a team will be knocked out as all players will have to go into quarantine. But even if played in a bio-secure environment, are there takers for the tournament? Are corporate houses in a position to buy ad spaces? These will be big factors too when the International Cricket Council (ICC) Board meets on Thursday to decide whether it can hold the event in October-November.
With the world economy in terrible shape, the biggest challenge will be to attract sponsors, feel experts. Broadcasters are clear—even if there is no on-ground ticket sale, there will be a broadcast-only series.
“Compared to any other genre, sports delivers disproportionately. Most sponsors will make a lot more active choices when it comes to sport, versus spending their money anywhere else,” Anil Jayaraj, EVP Sales, Star Sports said in a recent webinar. “If I am short of budget, I am more likely to invest in places where I am rather sure that my money will give me bang for the buck.”
Brand guru Harish Bijoor, who runs an eponymous consulting firm, though feels it will be tough to attract sponsors in the present market conditions.
“The key problem is the sponsor because the sponsors are from the real economy,” Bijoor said. “And the real economy is in very bad shape. Many companies will write-off sales value for three months, for sure. As all this happens, the year for our corporate entity is not likely to be 12 months of sales, but nine.”
Even though the world cup is an ICC event, and the venue is Australia, the main sponsors are likely to come from the Indian market.
“Cricket doesn’t get in-bound revenue from foreign companies,” Bijoor said. “Indian companies advertise on foreign cricket because of the diaspora watching it… We don’t get in-bound money, instead our money goes out—like an Indian butter brand will advertise in a Sharjah match because it also sells in Dubai.”
During last year’s World Cup, official broadcaster Star Sports had signed over 40 top advertisers, a majority of them—MRF, PhonePe, Airtel, Swiggy, Paisabazaar for example—were Indian.
According to reports, Star sold ads in bundled deals (TV and streaming platform) and left small a inventory for last-minute buys. For the final, according to estimates by media buyers, last-minute ad spots were sold for ₹15-17 lakh per 10 seconds.
For the more entertaining T20 version, ad spots are expected to sell for even more.
“Normally, you have six to eight major sponsors backing a tournament like this. Will you get that many sponsors in October or will you settle for fewer? The 20-over match rates are anyways higher than 50-over because there is less inventory, you can’t squeeze in so many advertisers. From that point of view it will be higher, said Shailesh Kapoor, CEO Omrax Media, a media consulting firm. “What will happen is probably from 100 per cent ad spots being sold, 60-70 per cent may be sold. That is because channels won’t like to bring down rates on a premium event.”
For ad guru Prahlad Kakkar, the market may be ripe if you have the heart to invest. “People are doing nothing but sitting at home. If any event is held during this period, you can be assured it will attract 25 per cent more eyeballs than the last time,” he said. “There are sectors which have done solid business during the lockdown, (like) pharma and the essentials. They are not the kind of products that are generally seen in ads during sports events.”
But for most companies, this is a time of job cuts and pay cuts—spending money for a sporting event may not be their priority.
“Even if IPL happens this year, there also Star will face the pressure—whether they can get all the advertisers who are signed up to continue because a lot of them will be facing the pressure of costs,” said Kapoor. “Everybody is waiting, nobody is hazarding a guess.”
For the world cup though, ICC has some protection—from the long term deals it has with its global partners, include carmaker Nissan, smartphone maker Oppo, MRF, Emirates, and B9 Beverages, the maker of Bira 91 beer. These are not likely to be affected by the current situation.