As India prepares for almost four months of top-level cricket, the broadcasters of the two marquee events – the ICC Cricket World Cup and the Indian Premier League (IPL) – have different views on the value of their respective products.
Star India is broadcasting the World Cup and has said it "will leave no stone unturned to make this the biggest sporting spectacle in the country", while MSM is broadcasting the IPL and has jacked up ad rates by 10% to 15% while downplaying the impact of the World Cup.
Rohit Gupta, MSM president, justified the increased rates on the basis of positive advertiser sentiment. He added that the IPL was a stable commodity while arguing that time differences would reduce interest in the World Cup, last played in India but this time taking place in Australia and New Zealand.
Star India, however, is banking on increasing interest in the World Cup by offering feeds in four regional languages – Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam and Kannada – in addition to Hindi and English.
As well as attracting more viewers, this strategy is also expected to attract more advertisers, whether national brands promoting a regional campaign or regional brands with smaller budgets targeting their own markets.
"This is a pioneering move in sports sponsorship and we are seeing great response from advertisers in regional markets," declared Sanjay Gupta, Star's chief operating officer.
Srinivasan KA, co-founder of geo-targeting advertising firm Amagi, explained the language problems that brands had faced. "If a particular brand had to run a Hindi ad campaign, most of South India would not comprehend it completely," he said.
He noted that Sony Six had successfully pursued a similar strategy during last summer's FIFA World Cup, when a Bengali feed had pushed up viewing figures.
The auto and consumer durables sectors traditionally increase their spending during such sporting tournaments, but ecommerce is also expected to make a splash this year.
The biggest variable may be the performance of the India team, holders of the trophy but third in a recently concluded tri-series with England and Australia.