Sumita Vaid

Football is not the sport of the masses in India: McCann PULSE

A recent study by McCann PULSE shows while football has some fan following in India, the World Cup 2002 hasn’t been able to enthuse the advertiser

Football is not the sport of the masses in India. Cricket is the God of all sports.

That's one of the findings of McCann PULSE - the proprietary consumer immersion programme undertaken by McCann-Erickson offices around the world - which released a report recently on the reactions of Asian countries to the World Cup 2002. The pre-tournament special report reveals how individual countries associate with the World Cup and how the sport has come to assume a different meaning in the lives of different people. The findings specific to India have some interesting insights for advertisers.

"Our research in India was based on explorations such as will Soccer become another Cricket in India? Could Soccer ever be a "religion" in India? What "kind of a connect" do Indians have with Soccer? Can a Beckham attain an Iconic stature in the land of Tendulkar and Ganguly," says Kunal Sinha, director of consumer insights, McCann-Erickson, India. The survey was done through editorial coverage of World Cup-centered promotions and offers and by engaging in dialogues with specific sets of targets.

Most interestingly, the fact that India did not make it to the World Cup has not reduced the enthusiasm of the football fan. Yet, it seems, the interest is mostly limited in pockets - like in West Bengal, Goa and Kerala - where fans could rattle off the names of teams like Brazil, without much effort.

But, it seems the event hasn't been able to arouse major advertiser interest in India. Mainly because "...footballers are not much of celebrities in India. Their marketability is not something to be banked upon. Football has the arduous task of holding its own in a cricket crazy nation like India," explains McCann-Erickson's Sinha. As a corollary, marketers have restricted their efforts in regions where passion for the sport is high.

That apart, recession may have been another factor behind the lackadaisical response to the Word Cup. As Gopinath Menon, vice-president, TBWA/Anthem, points out, "This time, fewer marketers have advertised compared to the last World Cup football. One of the reasons is recession. The market has been badly hit by it." While promotions have been low key, marketers of certain categories of products have tried hard to leverage the World Cup to push brand recall.

While the build-up began about a month ago, out of the 15 official sponsors of the World Cup 2002, only a handful launched advertising activities targeting the Indian market. These include Gillette, MasterCard, McDonalds, JVC and Philips. Others who have tried to cash in on the World Cup fever with sundry offers include Bata, Onida, Sony, Standard Chartered, Akai etc.

To know more about what the World Cup means to different Asian countries McCann PULSE would be speaking to ‘Identity Builders' (late teens), ‘Career Builders' (twenty-something office workers) and ‘Family Builders' (mothers of families with teens at home) on a weekly basis in 14 countries. These include Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. In India, for the pre- tournament special, only Identity Builders and Career Builders were interviewed.

To understand the attitudes of people to the World Cup, the agency focused on key issues such has overall feelings and associations with the World Cup, awareness, knowledge and enthusiasm, what role nationalism plays, its relationship to the World Cup sponsorship issue etc. The respondents believed that popular TV companies, sports apparel brands, sports channels and magazines, soft drinks and health drinks would benefit most from an association with the World Cup.

Excitement around the event too varied across nations. For example, one respondent in Bangladesh considered it a great honour that the World Cup Trophy Tour stopped at his country. "It was a mark of approval". For the Chinese, the admission into the tournament is a recognition it they can compete with the ‘modern' nations of the West.

Indonesia, perceived the World Cup as being more exclusive than the Olympics. For host countries Korea and Japan, the honour of playing host to the tournament and to the top footballing teams from around the world was something to be proud of. As a participant, China has an interest level in the World Cup finals that rivals that of the host countries. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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