Not long back television was the only source of audio visual entertainment, and for Indians the biggest entertainment was the Cricket World Cup. After the 1983 World Cup victory of Kapil Dev led India in Lords finale, cricket became bigger than a sport; it established itself as a religion. A religion that follows no narrow fragmentation or communal barriers. A six from the bat of Indian batsman was cheered by all, close moments saw prayers to respective God’s in different ways but for one unified reason. Victory got smile, defeat resulted in agony.
Cricket World Cup is indeed a festival of unity in India celebrated throughout the country. With development and growth in the number of television sets in the country, it became a key medium to connect with the mass and World Cup emerged as the biggest event in the second largest populous country of the world. India is one the largest market and the conversion ratio of advertisements to sale is also maximum in this country and hence during Cricket World Cup creative and captivating advertisements are launched by big brands to enhance their reach. Subsequently the broadcaster charges huge amount for a 10 second slot. Reportedly during 2011 Cricket World Cup ad rates reached new heights, India’s tryst with Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup final set new record for rates of television ad spots. Official broadcaster ESPN Star Sports (ESS) charged Rs 23-24 lakh for a 10-second slot from last-minute advertisers whereas during league matches it was Rs 3.5 – 4 lakh. The Indo – Pak semi finals cost advertisers Rs 18 lakh for a 10 second slot. The biggest cricketing extravaganza is knocking at the door and ad inventory is filling fast, but there are a lot of issues to be debated before investing for the event. Cricket in India has reached an abysmal low with Supreme Court intervening to restore the integrity of the sport. Several players’ name also came under scrutiny and no clear verdict was sentenced, so the honesty of players is also a matter of concern for the fans. World Cup 2015 will be played in Australia and New Zealand and would be extremely difficult for Indian viewers to restrict themselves to television due to odd timings. Moreover heartthrob of billion Indians and the God of cricket - Sachin Tendulkar - will not be playing this edition of the World Cup. Investors can play safe by investing on IPL, which will start days after World Cup and hence the commercial value of the tournament is ought to be questioned. Commenting about the commercial interest of the World Cup, Madison Media COO Karthik Lakshminarayan says, “Various factors like current performance of team India, odd timings, upcoming IPL and the fact that it is the end of a financial year the commercial preparation of the event may take a back step. But World Cup still is an important event and if India performs well things may change dramatically.” Maxus head of the north and east regions Navin Khemka is of a different opinion. “All I can say is that despite all the challenges World Cup is the marquee event in cricket. This World Cup is also seeing the emergence of new advertisers who are traditionally not big, but are emerging on cricket. Earlier we would have a sense of key categories who will dominate the game. That is changing; it shows the aspirations of a new India taking shape to be a part of the biggest sporting event,” he says. Announcing the initiatives, Star India COO Sanjay Gupta had earlier said, “The World Cup is the biggest event for Indian consumers. The last edition was watched by 90 per cent of TV viewers in the country, making it the largest aggregation of consumers possible. With India as the defending champions, the whole country is set to follow the team’s defence of its title in Australia and New Zealand and we, at Star, plan to make this World Cup, a ‘Cup for All’. We will introduce many firsts and innovations in sports broadcasting to take the great game of cricket to the next level and provide an unprecedented viewing experience to the millions of cricket fans in India.” The broadcaster has already announced Amitabh Bachchan’s entry as a commentator. Moreover this edition of the tournament will be telecast in regional languages, which opens the door for regional advertisers to air their commercials. First time brands like Nestle, Marico,Yepme.com, Paytm, Raymonds, Pidilite, Lloyd have joined the usual cricket partners. As per sources, Star is selling a 10 second ad slot for more than Rs 4 lakh and the ad inventory consists of over 40 sponsors from various fields. Ad rates during such marquee event floats with progress, as cricket is a game of uncertainty. And if India starts performing well the ad rates will also reach new heights. It remains to be seen if the tournament manages to retain its charisma and develops as a big thing in cricket crazy nation.