ESS ropes in Karthikeyan as F1 brand ambassador

MUMBAI: After having acquired the live and exclusive rights of FIA Formula One (F1) World Championships in India; ESPN Star Sports has sign Narain Karthikeyan as the ambassador for building the F1 sport in the country.



ESS has signed an unprecedented five-year agreement with F1 organisers and will broadcast live and exclusive coverage of all 19 Championship races of F1 from 2006 till 2010 season.



Karthikeyan will be an integral part of ESS' plan to promote motor sports in the country. The channel will build a special on-air campaign around Karthikeyan to promote motor sports. He will also participate in various on-ground promotional events – screenings, road shows to be organised in selected cities across India to promote F1.



Announcing the F1 acquisition, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd managing director R C Venkateish said, "We have been on a spree of acquiring new sports properties for our viewers in India. In the recent past we have acquired the Confederation Cup and the World Cup soccer 2006, TNA wrestling, Hockey rights and now the Formula One for full five years. These acquisitions place us uniquely as a wholesome sports broadcaster with the longest list of properties across every single discipline."

"The new F1 deal represents the continuation of a successful partnership between ESPN STAR Sports and F1. ESPN STAR Sports through its sustained marketing efforts has grown the F1 viewership at the rate of an impressive 27 per cent on a year on year basis. We are also delighted to sign Narain Karthikeyan as an ambassador for building the F1 sport in India. We will use his presence in the F1 circuit to further grow the sport’s popularity in India." he said.

"Narain’s presence will help in making Indian consumers relate to motor sports, subsequently leading into viewership for the sport. We will kick start our promotional campaign with Narian in an on-ground event in Narian’s home town, Coimbatore, in the first half of August 2005," added Venkateish.

Formula One Management CEO Bernie Eccelstone said, "We are delighted to be able to renew our long standing relationship with ESPN STAR Sports and together we hope to be able to continue to grow the popularity of the F1 in Asia."

Karthikeyan said, "It is a privilege to be associated with ESPN STAR Sports as the sports network has actually heralded the growth of F1 in India. Even though the fan following has shown a distinct uptrend, there is still a lot of room for growth. One of the main reasons why many Indians are not hooked to F1 is because they do not understand the game very well. My endeavour, through this association, will be to propagate the finer details of F1 so that comprehension of the game grows across the country. Hopefully, more and more Indians will take to F1 not only as a sport but also a potential profession and represent India at the premier championships."

ESS has been working on a planned strategy to increase sampling of F1 in India. There are regular screenings held across the country for viewers. At the same time there has been an attempt to add local flavour in programming especially for markets where F1 is already popular like Tamil Nadu. F1 telecast with Tamil commentary started with the ‘Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix’ on 3 April, 2005. Radhakrishnan Srinivasan, experienced presenter and anchor for Sportsline & SportsCenter, commentates in Tamil for the benefit of Tamil understanding viewers in India.

Marketing efforts to boost the popularity of F1 have ensured an increase in viewership. F1’s net reach was 31.4 million thereby implying that 31.4 million individuals sampled the product in 2004. This is a huge 27 per cent increase over 2003. In 2005 season, more than 15 million have sampled F1 by just the eighth out of 19 races of the season.

In addition to the live telecast of all races, ESS has created a range of support programming to provide motor racing fans with the most comprehensive package of news and analysis. Preview show RaceDay starts off Star Sports’ coverage with a look at the race ahead, predictions, scenarios and past performances and how those are likely to develop in the day’s race. This will be followed by the live broadcast of the race before Chequered Flag delivers a recap including highlights, analysis, rankings and results, the post-race press conference and the awarding ceremony.

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