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ESS plans marketing blitz around F1

MUMBAI: It may be a niche sport. But with Narain Kartikeyan entering the Formula One circuit this year interest among fans is sure to rise. ESPN Star Sports (ESS), which airs F1 action, is going all out to take advantage of the momentum.

 

 

The channel will air the Fosters Australian Grand Prix Melbourne live at 7:30 am on 6 March. This will be followed by a race in Malaysia later in the month. It has planned a host of on-air, hoardings, below-the-line activities, print, events. Speaking to Indiantelevision.com on the same ESS ad sales VP Sanjay Kailash says, " The popularity of F1 has been on the rise over the last few years. With Narain joining the circuit this year, the level of interest is expected to go up many folds. We expect that many first time viewers will tune in to F1 this year and our marketing efforts will be targeted at converting these first time viewers into F1 loyalists.

"Our aim is to simplify this complex sport for the viewers so that they are able to better understand and follow it. We will be running information-based promos on its networks to achieve this aim. Discussions are also on with other channels for cross promotion of F1. ESS will also be running updates and capsules on radio stations in the major metros."

Kailash added that in order to give its viewers a real feel of life at 300 kph and to give its fans an edge-of-the-seat adrenaline rush, ESS has over the past couple of years arranged for special live screenings of all the races. "Complete with Race Day, the preview show, and the review show Checkered Flag these screenings give the F1 fans a chance to live the excitement as they tank up on the Grand Prix guzzlers.

"Nationally screenings have been held 17 exclusive pubs and restaurants across the major metros in the 2003 season. Gautam Bhimani in his imitable style supported by specially appointed Pit Girls makes the race more interactive by hosting a quiz during the race breaks. The scale of our on-ground activities to drive the popularity of Formula 1 went up for the 2004 season. We had 25 exclusive tie-ups with upscale pubs and restaurants nationally in the 2004 season."

 

 

With the 2005 season it goes without saying that this effort will expand greatly. ESS is in talks with close to 100 establishments across 10 cities to organise screenings of the races. The broadcaster is looking to spread the F1 appeal by also going into class A cities like Bhopal and Ahmedabad this year in an effort to reach beyond the metros.

A special focus area for ESS will rest in the South where Kailash claims the sport has a healthy following. ESS will be using the outdoor medium in a big way in Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichi and Salem. ESS is also in talk with multiplexes / cinema halls, embassies of the countries where races are held and film production houses with synergies to develop a mutually beneficial plan to promote the sport in the country.

The Ad Sales Scene: When asked about the promotional budget kailash says, "The spends will be going up significantly on F1 this year compared to last year". On the ad sales front he says that several brands, that have a strong brand fit with the sport, have been eliciting interest in advertising on F1. "But we are not able to service/accommodate all clients as there is a constraint on the inventory per race. Nevertheless, there has been a growth on both counts. The number of clients has gone up from two in 2003 to five for 2004. This could have been higher by another three clients if not for the inventory constraint. Revenue has also been on the rise for the last few years."

Kailash says that BPCL (brand - Speed), Bridgestone and MRF are some brands that advertise specifically on F1 and are not so strongly present on other sports. This is because F1 has a phenomenal brand fit with these categories.

Advertisers on the 2004 F1 season were Samsung, BPCL (Speed), MRF, Bridgestone and Hutch. The advertisers for 2005 are a mix of the traditional F1 advertisers like BPCL (Speed), MRF, Bridgestone and new advertisers like TATA Motors, United India Insurance, Amaron Batteries, Petronas, Toyota, Exxon Mobil and UPS.

 

 

The audience profile: ESS states that its typical F1 audience primarily comes from the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Bangalore and Hyderabad also contribute significantly. These are males, 15 - 25 years of age belonging to SEC A1/A2 households. According to an IMRB research initiated by ESS their profile is:

- Delhi viewers are relatively recent (less than a year) entrants to the sport. Mumbai reflects an average profile (watching for 1-2 years) while Chennai and Bangalore have a high proportion of those watching the sport for over two years.

- A typical F1 viewer spends 50 per cent of his 'entertainment' money on eating out and on movies.

- Very high on socialising and hanging out.

- As many as a fourth have traveled on vacation in India more than five times in the last two years.

- Except for Delhi, about a tenth of F1 viewers in the other three cities have traveled abroad in the last two years.

- Their households have a high penetration of durables, electronic goods and mobile phones.

"These are the people we will continue to target for the 2005 season, as the potential is very much still there and lots more people can be brought into the F1 fan following" Kailash adds.

ESS claims that viewership for Formula 1 is on a steady rise. For the 2004 season the net reach was 31.4 Mn thereby implying that 31.4 MN individuals sampled the product in 2004. This is a huge 27 per cent increase over 2003. Kailash adds "The premium nature of the sport has ensured that 39 per cent of SEC A sampled the product in 2004. This is the highest amongst all SEC's. The fans also are watching more and more of F1, the sport is getting addictive amongst its followers. The Gross Reach for F1 in 2004 was 74.8 MN, which is 36% over 2003."

This year Kailash expects a huge increase in the sampling numbers this year due to Narain. However he concedes that F1 has some distance to cover to become a TRP driver given the niche following of the sport.

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