Goal Play: Betting on the Beautiful Game

The heat is on! As 9 June inches closer, the decibel levels around the Fifa World Cup are definitely on the rise.

In India, it is thanks largely to the kind of drumming ESPN Star Sports, adidas and Coca Cola are doing.

There‘s no denying, however, that fascination for football in India is still only for the international game and hence the moolah that is being spent here is like a drop in the $1+ billion global marketing ocean of Fifa.

Brands that have associated with the World Cup as official partners are Coca Cola, Philips, Toshiba, Gillette, Emirates, Hyundai, Mastercard, Avaya, Budweiser, Yahoo!, Fujifilm, adidas, McDonalds and Continental Inns. In India, the most activity has been seen by Coca Cola, adidas and of course ESPN Star Sports, which is the official broadcaster. It‘s no rocket science that brands will get their ground activation rolling in soccer crazy states like West Bengal, Goa and Kerala as the World Cup nears.

The numbers that tried to get around the spends brands have allotted for the globe‘s most widely watched and highest revenue generating sporting event are varied but on one issue there is no argument. That when it comes to comparisons with India‘s national obsession cricket, it is a no contest.

"If you look at football as a TV game, it‘s not so friendly for advertising with its limited break time. So as far as advertising opportunities are concerned there‘s limited supply, let‘s say 25-30 spots to be sold in a match. In that kind of scenario, the sponsors or brands who are interested in the game are looking for association-value with such a big international game, and the hype around it, rather than actual exposure and GRPs," says Madison Media Infinity COO Ajit Varghese.


According to industry sources, four to five brands (not necessarily all Fifa partners) are pumping in Rs 100 million only on ground level activation around the World Cup. "Some brands are also planning corporate soccer tournaments in select cities to build on the excitement," one of them aver.

Varghese feels that brands that are interested in being associated with a big international game like Fifa will set aside anywhere between 5 - 15 per cent of their budgets for the month-long event.

Says Mahesh Ranka, general manager of Starcom‘s sports marketing division Relay Worldwide, "adidas has rolled out its +10 campaign. I would assume that they are not spending more than Rs 10 - 15 million on the ground activation in India."

Lodestar national media director Nandini Dias remains conservative on the kind of spends that brands will be shelling out for the World Cup. "I think at best the spends will compare to a single One Day International (ODI)," she says.

While globally, the Fifa World Cup is more than a Rs 450 billion ($1 billion) marketing phenomenon, the India estimates range between Rs 225 - 450 million.

According to Group M business director sports Sandeep Goel, total spends that Fifa can generate in India across different media would be in the region of $ 10 million (Rs 450 million). The money would come from TV, merchandise, ground activation, promotions etc. "Out if this, 80 per cent of the revenue will come from below the line and non traditional," says Goel.

Dias, on the other hand says she would be surprised if TV + press + radio gets more than Rs 400 million.

Avers Varghese, "It looks like the projections this time are much higher than any of the previous World Cups, thanks to the interest and viewership it generated last time. Even TV penetration has substantially gone up since the last World Cup. My guesstimate would be somewhere between $5-7 million (Rs 225 - 315 million) from advertising," he says.

The general consensus is that most brands will associate with the World Cup to ride on the viewership that it will garner. While four years back, Ten Sports, which had just launched at that time, managed good ratings for Fifa; this time round the expectations are much higher.

"Only ground sponsors will be able to leverage this event to the maximum viable limit. Others are using this as a major event to ride on the viewership. Fifa is always a big event for any marketing company targeting sports loving audiences," says Goel.

Initiative president and Lintas Media Group associate director Kartik Iyer says, "Depending upon the global position of various brands, investment requirements in certain regions and seasonality; a few brands have taken on positions on football. For instance, Coke India has been reported to have committed Rs 60 million to the World Cup campaign in India (inclusive of the event sponsorships). Apart from this Airtel and adidas are planning big too. Hyundai Motors is the official automobile sponsor and has branding space on the referees and officials. They have provided about 1,250 Hyundai cars for the world‘s biggest football gala."

However, as Varghese says, "The fact remains that the organised game, support, competition, star worship and last but not the least, money is just not there in India. Also football in India is seen as a game which attracts larger sections of lower SECs and lower town class profiles."

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