Sahara retains Indian cricket team sponsorship with Rs 3 billion+ bid

NEW DELHI: Happy days are here again. As far as big money in India cricket goes that is. The first piece of the Indian cricket board's lucrative sponsorship inventory has gone to the Sahara Group (or retained it to be more specific).

Air Sahara has won the India team sponsor rights for the next four years. It beat back other suitors like Reliance Infocomm, mobile service providers AirTel and Idea!, and public sector petroleum major Indian Oil Corporation with a monster punt of Rs 3.13 billion in what finally turned out to be quite a bidding frenzy.

Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) vice-president Lalit Modi,

addressing press persons after the bidding process today, said, "This time the figure is almost three times more than the previous sponsorship deal. We are very happy at the enthusiastic response."



The bidding process, held almost in front of the media and to be formally ratified by the BCCI board tomorrow, offers the winning sponsor exclusive branding on the chest and leading arm of the cricketers' shirts/T-shirts.

At the moment, the Indian cricket board has finalized 44 Tests and 110 one-dayers for which the Sahara group has bid Rs 3.13 billion. However, as 50 more days of cricket are to be added to this list, which also includes ICC tournaments like Champions Trophy, Modi said Sahara's final bid will further "go up on a pro rata basis."

"Sahara is aware of the additional 50 days of cricket that will come its way and accordingly has agreed to increase the sponsorship money," Modi said. However, he ruled out chances of any another company besting Sahara when additional cricket days are added with a bigger quote.

On the same upbeat note, he said that the BCCI expects the telecast rights deals too to fetch a high amount. "We don't see any problem in sharing of the matches with Doordarshan by private satellite broadcasters."

Considering the upswing in fortunes the Indian cricket team has been

witnessing in the recent past, it was not surprising that there would be heightened interest in bidding for the rights, the winner for which would expect significant mileage for promoting its brand. Still, there are many in the business who remained skeptical over the team sponsorship bids reaching the heights it finally did.



Auto major Hero Honda, which had been shortlisted in the last six, did not put in a sponsorship bid for which the reserve price is believed to have been pegged at Rs 1.3 billion.

According to Modi, in a like to like comparison for 44 Tests and 110 ODIs, Sahara's previous sponsorship deal worked out to Rs 781 million. The present contract will be valid from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2009.

The others who pitched in slightly ahead of the 4 pm deadline included Idea! with a bid of Rs 2.86 billion; Anil Ambani's Reliance Infocomm offered Rs 2.57 billion; Indian Oil Corp bid Rs 2.559 billion, while telecom major Bharti, which operates its services under the brand name AirTel, pitched in with a bid of Rs 2.51 billion.

Asked what is likely to happen if the cash strapped Air Sahara is bought out by some other company, Modi said that the Sahara Group has given an undertaking to carry on the sponsorship deal.

As per the tendering guidelines, the winning bidder will have to pay 30 per cent of the first year's money in advance and the remaining in irrevocable bank guarantees.

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