Champions, World Cup: Sony signs on sponsors; targets Rs 5 billion+ ad revenues

MUMBAI: The countdown is on for the The ICC Champions Trophy, which kicks off on 7 October. As for telecast rights holder Sony Entertainment Television India, a major part of the advertising revenue mop-up activity has been locked in with the signing up of the two main presenting sponsors and six associate sponsors.

All the main sponsors have signed on to this event, which is being hosted in India for the first time, as well as for the cricket World Cup in the West Indies next March. The two presenting sponsors are Reliance Infocomm and Nokia, while the associate sponsors include Pepsi, Hero Honda, Maruti, Hewlett Packard, LG Electronics and ITC Foods. Set India executive vice president (ad sales & revenue management) Rohit Gupta says that 50 per cent of his total inventory has been consumed by the presenting and associate sponsors.

The other cricket properties that Gupta has sewn up include the wrap-around show Extraaa Innings (Max New York Life, Visa, Pidilite, Hyundai, Mayur Suitings and Intex Technologies), as well as the special features packages --- Action Replay (Standard Chartered), Super 4s (Monster.com) and Super 6s (Madura Garments).

Two significant absentees from the sponsorship list Gupta mentioned are Hutch and Indian Oil, which are ICC's global partners for these tournaments, along with Hero Honda and Pepsi. Queried about this, Gupta says Sony wasn't agreeable to the "best price" that Hutch was willing to put on the table. ICC's global partners have first and last rights of refusal for any deal that Sony may enter into with competing brands.

According to reliable industry sources, Sony is targeting Rs 5 billion in ad revenues from these two highpoints in the international cricketing One Day International calendar that involve a total of 72 ODIs (51 for World Cup, 21 for Champions).

Asked what were the reasons for sponsors buying both tournaments together, Gupta said all these brands will be active from November (festival season) to March (summer spending) in any case so the two tournaments offered an unbeatable high impact opportunity. Elaborating further, Gupta said the Champions Trophy being in India, with all 21 fixtures being Day/Night matches and coinciding with the Festival Season was what really helped as far as selling the proposition was concerned.

As for the World Cup, this is when the summer brands will be active, says Gupta. A major fallout of all this, according to him, is that both viewing as well as spends on all other channels could be significantly impacted.

Another value add that Sony is offering its sponsors is a dual feed, where 18 matches in all (six from Champions and 12 from World Cup) will also have a Hindi feed on sister channel Sab. Three India matches, the semi finals and final will be aired on Sab. Maninder Singh, Atul Wassan and Saba Karim are among the commentators for this feed. The aim is to reach out better to places in the North like UP.

Sony's pitch to advertisers in justifying its ad rate increases has been:

*The television viewing universe will have doubled from 35 million in the 2003 World Cup to 70 million by the time the March 2007 edition kicks off in the Caribbean. That would mean a potential viewership of 350 million. 89 per cent reach levels were achieved last time round. The same expected for this edition as well.

*70 days of prime time viewing.

*An opportunity window that comes only once every four years. Brands are born out of the World Cup.

So will Sony be able to hit the magical Rs 5 billion ad revenue target that it has set itself? There are many in the industry who remain sceptical on that score.

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