Indo-Bangladesh cricket series is looking like a tournament of minnows. After the World Cup debacle and other controversies surrounding the game, things have changed both on and off the field. For starters, so-called top players aren't in the playing eleven.
Off the field, the story isn't much different. The big boys of advertising, like their counterparts on the field, aren't playing either. Big guns like LG, Hyundai, Pepsi, ITC, Hero Honda and Hutch are not participating in the ongoing series.
Is the WC ghost still haunting advertisers?
Neo Sports was the channel that broadcast India's last two series before the World Cup, against West Indies and Sri Lanka.
When quizzed about the difference in the revenue generated by the two series (the one before the WC and the one after it), Kalathil says, "The two series are not comparable. The one prior to the WC was a home series against two giant teams and this one is an away series against a not so big team. So, there ought to be a difference in revenues."
However, so many big names missing from a cricket series surely raises a few eyebrows, especially after a disastrous World Cup.
Some experts feel the absence of big brands in a small series has nothing to do with poor form or bad history. "May-July usually isn't a very exciting period for advertisers. Most big brands go into hibernation during this period," says Mona Jain, executive vice-president, Zenith Optimedia.
LG, which is one of the most active and biggest sponsors of cricket in the country, hasn't renewed its seven year contract with the ICC, which expired after the World Cup.
"We draw our sponsorship calendar in the beginning of the season. So, our not being present in the current series has nothing to with India's bad or good performance. Cricket is an expensive property and we can't be present everywhere. We participated in the biggest event of the year and we are probably done for the year," says Sandeep Tiwari, head, marketing, LG.
Pepsi shares a similar view, calling it a lull phase and saying it would be back with a bang with the India-England series, which follows the current series.
"We don't have any campaign on air right now. Once we launch a new campaign we will be back with cricket as well," says Vipul Prakash, EVP, marketing, Pepsi.
Are advertisers preserving their money for big tournaments like the India-England series, which is expected to draw a much bigger crowd than the India-Bangladesh series?
"One can't say that interest levels are down. Marketers are a smart lot. They may be saving their money for a bigger stage," explains Jain. She adds that if India performed well in the Bangla series, surely interest levels would skyrocket for the England series.
Neo Sports expects television advertising revenue of Rs 40-50 crore from the ongoing series. "The ad rates are 40 per cent down since the World Cup. But a few good performances will pull the rates up again," Jain adds.
The rates for the India-Bangladesh matches are about Rs 80,000-1,00,000, compared to Rs 1,50,000-2,00,000 for the big WC matches.
Market buyers and advertisers are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping for a good Indian performance in the Bangla tour. A successful Bangla tour won't just keep advertisers happy, it will also ensure big moolah for ESPN-Star, which will telecast the India-England series.
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