Soccer reach likely to grow post World Cup

MUMBAI: While the soccer World Cup has got off to a promising start, the question is what happens once the event is over? Will the additional viewers that have come in forget about the sport or will they follow leagues? The consensus is that at least some of them will follow.

Relay Worldwide India GM Mahesh Ranka notes that the reach will grow. "A lot more sampling will happen. After that, viewership will depend on people‘s preferences in terms of teams, players.
"I expect most gains to happen from the major Metros. There will even be gains from some second tier towns. While television ratings do not capture it, I am sure that in some of those towns people are excited about the World Cup. The hard core soccer markets of Goa, Kerala and West Bengal are anyway tuning in heavily."

He adds that perception has improved for the game among the media fraternity. "There is more awareness that it is a passion-led sport, that it appeals to the upper class males. Brands buy on the basis of perception and marketers take a punt that the property will be a good fit for the values that their brand stands for. More advertisers are starting to look beyond just ratings." He, however, notes that revenues that other properties get will depend to an extent on how the World Cup fares.

It would also help if broadcasters push their soccer properties more aggresively.

Ten Sports CEO Atul Pande says that while perception of the sport is improving, it is mostly on the English Premier League (EPL) side.

He adds that soccer, especially Indian football, has been seeing double digit growth in terms of viewership year on year. He, however, also feels that advertisers should support the game more.

A top media executive, on conditions of anonymity, notes that there are advertisers who support alternate sports like soccer and who are willing to look beyond just numbers. However, while they have been growing in number, they are still few. Many are those who advertise on cricket as well, for example Vodafone.

"There are brands who understand that soccer evokes passion in certain pockets. The sports values are about working as a team and achieving goals. If a brand wants to have itself identified with those values then there will be some rub off by associating with the sport. Having said that, perception is more than what the reality is in terms of people watching soccer. Year on year some properties like the Uefa Champions League have seen around 10 per cent viewership growth. Whether it will be more this year due to the World Cup effect remains to be seen," says the media executive. 
He also adds that soccer fervour post the World Cup might last for around six months. "A league runs for several months. So viewership might not be consistent across the period like it is for the World Cup which is of a shorter duration. That is because the soccer fervour will drop off after a certain point of time." Media buyers are satisfied at the soccer World Cup‘s delivery thus far. The prediction is that the event would deliver a TVR of 1.8 -2 among upper class males for the duration of the event. Tam data shows that for males SEC A,B C&S 15+, it has delivered an average TVR of 1.9 so far.

GroupM ESP managing partner Hiren Pandit says that broadcasters should focus on building hype prior to their events kicking off. 
"What will help is the amount of coverage being devoted in the media to the soccer World Cup. The awareness about the sport is much more. Broadcasters will do things like promotions, contests where winners can get tickets."

Ranka goes further to say that some push has to come from the foreign leagues themselves if soccer is to become bigger in India. "It all depends on whether they feel that India is an important enough market for them. If it is then they would have to do some research and on the basis of that draw up an all India plan. Even the Manchester United bar that had come up here is not the initiative of that club," he says.

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