Champions League T20: Finding it tough

By Anindita Sarkar , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | September 12, 2011
So far, it has been a rough patch for the Champions Trophy. Airtel, the title sponsor abandoned the tournament after second year on grounds of low viewership. However, it's some sort of relief for the tourney as it has managed to replace Airtel with Nokia though at a quarter of the fee. Airtel had signed a Rs 170 crore deal for five years, while Nokia is ready to pay only 8-9 crore for a year.

Champion League T20 -- the cricketing tournament between international clubs -- has always been on a rough pitch. In its first year itself, the tournament was postponed due to several reasons, and was finally played in October 2009. Next, its title sponsor Airtel backed out after two years. The telecom player had signed a Rs 170 crore deal for five years, but there was an exit clause in the agreement which allowed the telecom player to break free.

In the third year, 2011, the cricket tournament was forced to find a replacement for Airtel, which it found in another telecom brand Nokia, though at a much lower price. As per industry estimates, Nokia is paying around Rs 8-9 crore for this year, and will extend the contract only if it's satisfied with the viewership numbers it garners.

In fact, the reason for Airtel pulling itself out of the deal was because of poor viewership numbers. In its first year, the league averaged at 1.06 TVR. The ratings, however, improved in 2010. It averaged at 1.45, with 77.7 million Indian viewers having watched the 16-day event. In comparison, IPL garnered an average TVR of 4.1 for the 2009 IPL. In 2010, IPL averaged at 5.51 TVR.

The picture is much brighter for the tournament now. Aloke Malik, managing director, ESPN Software India, says, "We are well on our way to achieve our commercial objectives from the event. Nokia, Toshiba, Coca-Cola, Ambuja Cements, Next Retail and Digiworld have already joined us as on-air sponsors, while Nokia, Toshiba and Coca-Cola have signed up as on-ground sponsors, as well. Over the next few days we will announce further names as we get them on board."

The rest of the sponsorship slots are priced at an estimated Rs 3-6 crore, while a 10-second slot on the channel is being sold at about Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh. Just to compare, MSM began selling the ad spots for the new IPL season at Rs 5.5 lakh and with time, it upped the rates to Rs 6.5 lakh per 10-second spot. Later, it reached the peak rate of Rs 7-10 lakh per 10 seconds. Meanwhile, the sponsorship rates were anywhere between Rs 25-30 crore.

Industry observers, too, seem to be quite positive on the outcome of the tournament this year.

Top media executives believe that the launch date for the tourney -- September 23-October 9 -- will work in favour of the league. "Champion's League should do better than last year, because it is well-timed, and will provide a cricket platform to various smaller brands at a fractional price when compared to the IPL," says Navin Khemka, managing partner, ZenithOptimedia.

M Suku, executive vice-president, Aidem Ventures, notes that the festive season timing creates demand for time that is extremely elastic. "And since, GECs do not have enough inventories during the festive season to accommodate all brands, the league could gain a lot in terms of revenues because of its timing," he says.

Meanwhile, the viewership of the game will depend on how interesting the matches get. While the league will not have much impact on the GEC ratings, say many, the effect could be marginal on days when the India matches are being telecast.

ESS will broadcast the Nokia Champions Twenty20 League across 174 territories worldwide. In India, all the 29 matches will be broadcast live and exclusive on STAR Cricket and STAR Cricket HD, while ESPN will carry all the 23 matches of the main tournament with Hindi commentary.

Additionally, apart from Hindi, the game will also be customised in 17 different languages including Norwegian and Portuguese (for the very first time), English, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Swedish and Turkish.

To promote its association with the tournament, therefore, Nokia has launched the 'Nokia Ke Asli Champions' campaign. As part of this consumer initiative, Nokia is running a series of consumer competitions to identify 'Asli Champions' across various categories such as the Air Cricket Champions, Commentary Champions and Cheer Champions, across select cities in India. Select winners will get an opportunity to be part of Priyanka Chopra's 'Champion team', and watch the final match live with her, besides winning other exciting prizes. The contest will be running across the following cities -- Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, between 15 September and 5 October, 2011.

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