India has an advertiser universe of around 6,000. In a market as heterogeneous as ours, with multiple genres and languages, even the best media planners struggle to get bang for their buck. That is where cricket helps—it is language neutral, region neutral, everything neutral. Everybody (almost) in India loves cricket. Naturally, it is the most expensive advertising platform. A 10-second spot during the recent India-Pakistan T20 World Cup match came at a tag of Rs 25 lakh. After all, nothing gives you cricket’s kind of reach over an unbelievably short period of time, good reason for broadcasters owning the rights to cricket (Star & Disney India and Sony Pictures Sports Network) to drive a hard bargain with advertisers.
Not much changes in this paradigm, except when India plays badly on the field, like at the T20 World Cup. As fans turned away from their screens, questions rose from advertisers on whether it is worth spending that kind of money. That, too, is normal—the same questions crop up with each poor performance, and then burn up with the firecrackers with each thumping victory. This time, though, there are some discernible shifts. One, the advertiser profile has changed. The FMCG companies, telcos and handset players have now made way for a bunch of newbies such as cryptocurrency exchanges and start-ups like CRED, Groww, Upstox and Livspace, among others. And two, of the overall base of 6,000 advertisers, barely 60-70 (1 per cent) bring in the money for the broadcaster, who has paid astronomical sums to acquire the rights.
Are the returns worth the investments? Kartik Sharma, Group CEO, Omnicom Media Group, says cricket, despite its pricing, has proven to deliver reach and quick awareness for brands. “The incremental sales due to advertising on cricket across many categories is now well-researched and documented.” But to Mayank Shah, Senior Category Head, Parle Products, any advertiser looking for RoI will not go with cricket: “On a CPRP (cost per rating point) basis, it is very expensive for the reach delivered. One would rather look at top programmes on the regional channels, where viewership does not fluctuate much.” Shah speaks for many traditional advertisers (FMCG being the most obvious) who have moved away from cricket.
This year, advertising revenue from cricket on television was around Rs 3,700 crore—IPL and the T20 World Cup accounted for Rs 3,300 crore, and India’s tours of Australia and England, Rs 400 crore—making it over 10 per cent of what the medium is estimated to make this year. The corresponding revenue for digital would be in the range of Rs 1,200-1,400 crore. How things play out in next year’s T20 World Cup to be followed by the 2023 (50-over) World Cup will be interesting to watch. Who will be willing to write the cheques?