?Cricket in India will end its poor run at least briefly this festive season as advertisers are putting big money on the sport once again by buying up ad spots for the India-Australia series starting on Thursday. Broadcaster ESPN Star claims it has already sold out airtime for the series of seven one-day internationals and oneTwenty20 match.
Micromax and Hero Motocorp are joint presenting sponsors for the series, Vijay Rajput, chief operating officer at ESPN Software India, said. Associate sponsors include Pernod Ricard, Bharti Airtel, Microsoft, Sony, Maruti Suzuki, Exide, Tata Motors and We-Chat, he said, adding the broadcaster has roped in close to 30 advertisers.Cricket, the most popular sport in the country, has been going through a bad patch due to factors including an IPL spot-fixing scam and a slowing economy that made advertisers tighten their purse strings and some people turn off their television sets. The India-Australia series — the first in a festive season — is set to change it, at least for a brief while. "The timing is perfect for us. We have a few new launches in this festive period," Shubhodip Pal, chief marketing officer at Micromax, said. "Cricket fatigue or not, two top teams playing will always rake in eyeballs," he said. What will also help is that all the seven games are day-night games and four of them are over the weekend, Pal said.
Star Sports, in its ad campaign, has called the series the 'Fight for No 1' as it will decide the world's top-ranked ODI team. The broadcaster is hoping to mop up Rs 200 crore from the series. Media buyers said ESPN is cashing in on the festive season and the fact that the series is being played in India, by charging ad rates at par with IPL matches — Rs 4 lakh per 10 seconds for the ODIs and Rs 7 lakh for 10 seconds for the T20 match.
Media buying firm Zenith Optimedia, which represents Micromax, expects above-average television viewership ratings for the matches, its managing partner Navin Khemka said. "It falls in the midst of the festive season quarter and two of the best teams in the world are playing," he said. Khemka said some of his firm's other clients, including Toshiba and Jabong.com, could be buying ad spots on the series. "While there have not been too many ground sponsors, the series is a big draw for on-air advertising," he said. The series marks a shift in consumer brands' approach to cricket, at least temporarily, as companies have been reluctant to invest in the sport in recent months.Last week, Star India bought title sponsorship rights for all international cricket matches to be held in India till March 2014 at a price of Rs 2 crore per match, which is about 40% lower than what Bharti Airtel had paid for a similar sponsorship last year.The telecom services provider had decided not to renew its sponsorship. "After several months of slump, we are seeing revival of advertiser interest in cricket," Anamika Mehta, COO at Lodestar UM, said. Lodestar UM's client Microsoft is among the firms that have signed up as assocate sponsors for the series.