How digital media gained from the ICC world cup fever

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital
Last updated : April 27, 2011
A mega event like the World Cup witnessed several advertisers allocating dedicated budgets to this medium and considering that most of the matches were played during office hours digital couldn't be ignored.

The audience follows desirable programming and advertising money follows the audience. This has been particularly true of the advertising during the recent ICC World Cup 2011 where ad revenue was pegged at '700 crore. According to Audience Measurement and Analytics, the India-Sri Lanka final witnessed advertising worth roughly five hours or 1,800 10-second ad slots across ESPN Star Sports, ESPN Star Cricket and DD National.

With advertising in the digital media space fast catching up, a mega event like the World Cup witnessed several advertisers allocating dedicated budgets to this medium. Says Sudha Natrajan, President and COO, Lintas Media Group, "Considering that most of the matches were played during office hours digital becomes an important medium."

Interactive media is the emergence of a continuing desire for more control and a manifest impatience with traditional ways of consuming media. From downloadable desktop scorecards to live streaming, digital media offers a lot of advertising options, which eventually boils down to the marketing objective one is chasing according to Natrajan.

It is also true that media planner are now allocating 15-20 per cent of the advertising budget to focus on digital advertising. Says Ruchira Jaitly, Vice President, Marketing, PepsiCo, "Promotions and activations are the high points of the medium. With digital media you can reach out to more people through social networking with the right call to action."

While digital advertising represents a small portion of total advertising spends there is an obvious recognition that it is an essential part of a multi-channel, multi-platform media campaign. Says Prathap Suthan, Chief Creative Officer, iYogi, "Digital media is far from fuelling sports marketing in India. I am yet to come across a digital campaign that has made me buy a pair of shoes or isotonic salts. Amplify this across categories and you know how limited we have been."

There, however have been exceptions as well, where the digital campaigns have not only worked, they have achieved the desired results. Castrol, with its digital media partnership with Yahoo! has achieved the high brand recall that it desired from the medium.

Sports advertising

According to an Edelweiss report, the World Cup and IPL advertising revenues will account for 10-12 per cent of the total TV ad revenues in 2011. Sports-related advertising constitutes a significant advertising pie and the share of digital media is rising.

Says Nitin Mathur, Senior Director, Marketing, Yahoo! India, "Cricket gets the largest share of the money spent on sports marketing in India. It's critical to have the right product connect with cricket than merely forcing your brand logo into the campaign." Considering the rise in IPL advertising revenue from '500 crore, this year is likely to contribute '800 crore, a 15 per cent rise - digital will constitute a significant 6-7 per cent of this spend or about '50 crore.

Though it is too early for the Internet to adversely impact advertising spends on TV and other traditional media, tweaking the way the digital format can be customised to engage with the end-consumer is what makes the effectiveness of the media so powerful. "In fact I think, at times, television advertising deprives people of some really engaging moments during a match, and that can really work against the communication," comments Suthan. Advertising and promotion on digital media tends to be very subtle and non-intrusive which is a very difficult task in traditional media. Says Giriraj Bagri, Vice President, Marketing, India and South Asia, Castrol, "Digital media should be used more as a consumer engagement tool and very rarely as an advertising channel."

Brands and digital media

With budget limitations, many brands with products relevant to the digital media are focusing on using the medium for better realisation and effectiveness. The online medium has turned to be a lucrative advertising platform for many brands like Happydent, Samsung, HUL, Spicejet and KFC amongst others. For instance, KFC, the official restaurant partner for the World Cup, used in-store promotions like specially designed World Cup buckets at KFC and social media to engage as well as get higher footfalls during the tournament.

"We recently launched Maruti Suzuki SX4 Diesel simultaneously on traditional and digital media during the World Cup which contributed to increased visibility and recall," says Natrajan. Likewise, convergence device Samsung Galaxy Tab used the Internet during the World Cup to promote the capabilities of this product. Most brands use the digital medium as a place to gather consumer sentiments. "As an Internet leader, we realise the value of digital media and focus strongly on this medium for our campaigns," says Mathur.

"For Lay's World Cup flavour campaign, we got over 5.3 crore SMS in less than six weeks and the Facebook page has over 100,000 fans. The digital media helped us scale it up," feels Jaitly. Such high engagement is innovatively used by marketers to convert satisfied customers into brand ambassadors, who can advocate the product and brand more effectively. For brands it is pertinent today to enter into a dialogue with its users.

For Yahoo!, the association with the World Cup helped it achieve scale with off-line media, especially through on-ground branding activities, indicating the importance and relevance of traditional media. For Vodafone, the medium offered the opportunity to showcase its 3G features and service efficiency to woo consumers. That Vodafone offered live streaming on handhelds only made its case stronger in a space where demonstrating product and brand capabilities is very important.

"Cricket as of now rules the digital space from a content perspective. Smart placement on popular sites with relevant content and traffic is where we need to look to maximise the impact," adds Natrajan.

Integrated media campaign

Digital media scores on technology to activate engagement and cricket, which builds up the passion, making way for an exciting combination having a multiplier effect for advertisers. But to get the best return on investment (ROI) a single media-focused strategy is not enough. While there is scope for integrating media and medium to get effective communications campaign, one is yet to come across successful initiatives in this front.


Sachin Tendulkar earns about Rs 1.5 crore a day, which works to about Rs 175 every second!

There is nothing else in this country that sells as much as cricket. With an average 5,100 seconds sold for every match on Star Sports, Star Cricket and DD National, the advertising inventory on television leads other media by a long way. Ten-second ad slot prices reached stratospheric levels as India moved into the World Cup final. That was primarily because many advertisers were cagey about booking early.

ESPN Star Sports held back nearly 10 per cent of the inventory for the knock-out stage increasing advertiser interest riding on the Indian performance which also pushed the ad rates. The ad-rate frenzy went up to Rs 35 lakh for 10 seconds if advertiser wanted to get in both semi-finals and the final matches, whereas on semi-final slots were priced at Rs 20 lakh. Compared to the early stage matches where the same spot cost Rs 3-6 lakhs.

Given the sheer opportunity, brands that need to make an impact, went the whole hog with these rates. While some question such high ad rates, others are convinced that the return on investment is commensurate with the visibility they got. After all, being associated with Team India during the finals is something that many would cash on for the next few months also witnessing the IPL4.

When the Indian team plays well, the sun shines and everyone makes hay. It is this that matters and advertisers - whatever be the cost want to make their brand presence felt with the Indian team's cause. While viewership rises at the time of events such as the FIFA Soccer World Cup or Wimbledon, it takes a different meaning against the religion called cricket in India.

According to Natrajan, "Integration should be done with one media forming the core of the campaign and other supporting it. In fact, digital is highly recommended because its interactive nature assists in getting real time reactions." Even globally, barring Nike or Google, there are very few successful integrated media advertising and promotion stories.

Brands such as Adidas, feel that the digital medium helps in reinforcing the communication in a highly interactive and engaging manner, which leads to a better recall. The actual impact of purchase and experience is a long way to go, which is also to do with the limited infrastructural support on the Net, one still may not be able to buy online despite being interested in a product due to various security issues.

For brands, a greater ROI will depend on a combination of factors like overall media visibility, likeability of the commercials, and the advertising proposition among other factors. Past IPL experience indicates that co-presenting sponsorship or an associate sponsorship does not necessarily mean greater visibility than a spot buy or an action replay package.

"Integrated promotions are being tried, but in India it is still limited to a few brands that will spend money on driving an integrated thought through," says Suthan. Integrated campaigns engaging audiences through relevant context are definitely more effective, but one thing is certain that live sporting action on TV with its massive reach is still a potent force. TV and Internet have a strong role to play in their respective areas, however lines will start blurring fast with a lot of cricket action coming to Internet.

With consumers already moving online in large numbers, progressive brands have started to expand their presence on digital media with sporting events. Also, there is scope for specialist advertisers to emerge that will have a significant role to play in the digital medium. "We are going to see an increasing number of clients coming on to the digital platform as more and more people have started to realize the power of audience engagement on Internet but, I doubt if a new set of advertisers will emerge," feels Suthan.

With marketers striving to provide new and innovative solutions to the youth today, a mixed media usage is the way out. However, advertisers find focusing differently across medium equally paying. The association with a high decibel event guarantees high visibility and the chance to scale up campaigns towards brand building among the next set of customers. India's entry into the final and its victory only added to some high cost advertising towards the end.

First Published : April 27, 2011

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