Prachi Srivastava

FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins

It is kick-off time in Brazil and afaqs! looks at the marketing efforts by its official Indian broadcaster, Sony Six and the on-air sponsors it has attracted for the event.

An observer of the football fever that grips India during the football (FIFA) World Cup would be astounded to know that the only time the country qualified for the Cup was back in 1950 (when it withdrew from the tournament for non-sporting reasons). But once the tournament begins, most Indians become Brazilians, Argentinians or Spaniards with a festive fervour that has to be seen to be believed. It is probably the only time that cricket takes a back seat.

FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
Today is the big day and in order to keep these "crazy football fans" hooked and encourage more viewership, Multi Screen Media, the official broadcast partners of the FIFA World Cup 2014 in the Indian sub-continent, has gone all out to promote the championship. It is set to air the tournament on Sony Six, Sony Six HD and Sony Aath (Bengali feed).

Last month, Sony Six had launched a television promo featuring John Abraham. Conceptualised and created by Havas Worldwide, Abraham is seen encouraging viewers to join in the party to catch the "ultimate footballing extravaganza" in the campaign, titled 'Live the Magic'. Besides the main TVC, the channel has 3-4 shorter promos that are running on various channels.

Full house

Prasanna Krishnan, business head of Sony Six says that - apart from the MSM bouquet - a total of 28 channels are airing the 2014 FIFA World Cup marketing campaign for 15 days. "To exponentially expand and increase their outreach to maximum audiences across demographics, the campaign will run over a gambit of inter and intra network channels across markets including South, HSM and key football markets."

Outside the network, there are around 2100, 30-second TV spots running on channels like 9XM, Bindaas, MTV, Zoom, 9x Jalwa, Aaj Tak, Dilli Aaj Tak, India TV, Headlines Today, Zee Cinema, & Pictures, Z Premier, Z Action, Dabaang, UTV Action, Movies Now, VH1, Discovery, Animal Planet, ABP Majha, TV 9 Karnataka, Zee 24 Taas, ABP Ananda, Kolkata TV, Zee 24 Ghanta, Raj TV, Sun Music and Jaya TV.

As mentioned by Krishnan earlier in an interview with afaqs! probably 95 per cent viewers who come to watch FIFA World Cup are not regular football viewers. Viewership for the World Cup has been as high as 15-20 times the viewership for a typical league match or any other bigger league. That's why the channel is promoting the tournament on all possible platforms.

While Krishnan said it's difficult to quantify the marketing spends, sources in the industry estimate the marketing spends at about $2 million. On print, there are ads that appeared today across 15 leading publications - Daily Sakal, DNA, Hindustan Times, Ajit, Punjab Kesari, Vijay Karnataka, Prajavani, Loksatta, Malayala Manorama (Daily), Ananda Bazar Patrika, The Telegraph, Herald O, Vijay Karnataka, Malayala Manorama (Daily) and Ananda Bazar Patrika. As for radio promotions, starting June 5, the channel has reached out to 49 cities in India through Radio Mirchi, BIG FM and Suryan FM with around 5,000 spots, featuring RJ mentions and some more value ads.

The "out-of-home" push

In the OOH space, the channel has featured advertisements across 10 cities for a total of 15 days. The cities include Ahmedabad, Baroda, Pune, Bhopal, Indore, Hyderabad and the metros.

In mall activations, there is a fan zone which has a FIFA Hair Styling corner and a Fan Face Painting zone. Here adults and kids alike have the chance to don the look of famous international football players by getting personal stylised hair-cuts. At the mall, locals are also invited to a variety of games like the FIFA Maze. The Maze is an interactive FIFA-based trivia activity zone where the participants have to answer 16 simple questions related to the World Cup to win gift hampers.

Participants are also given the chance to show off their dance moves at a special Limbo Dance competition. Limbo is one of Brazil's most popular dance forms. The evening concludes with the FIFA dance that features talented Russian dancers dancing to the groovy tunes of the 2014 FIFA World Cup official sound track.

Additionally, the channel tied up with Hard Rock Café across key cities in India. The cafes will have dedicated fan zones titled 'the SIX lounge' setup for select match screenings at 9:30 pm time slot. Featuring a complete Brazilian theme to the layout, the zone will include fun-filled and entertaining activities like flash mobs from authentic Samba dancers as well as Foosball Tables set up for people to participate and play.

Digital: alternate viewing platform

MSM has launched, a website dedicated to the tournament coverage and is promoting it extensively. The website has various videos related to the event and a couple of contests to engage with the audiences.

An app has also been launched to facilitate viewers with the match footages. One can follow his team by paying Rs 60 (users can watch their favourite team's matches live) or follow the Tournament at Rs 120 (users can watch the entire tournament live). There is no charge applicable for a 5-minute delayed telecast of the match.

Paying proposition

MSM has roped in Hero Motocorp as the title sponsor for the event while Xolo Mobile and Microsoft have come on board as the 'powered by' sponsors. Other sponsors include Sony TV and Nokia.

According to Rohit Gupta, Multi Screen Media president, network sales, licensing and telephony, the presenting and powered by sponsors have shelled out Rs 16-19 crore while the associate sponsors got the deal with a Rs 13-15 crore investment. Sony Six and Sony Six HD are being sold as a package while Sony Aath is being sold separately.

The spot package for Sony Six is for Rs 4-8 crore, depending on the number of spots a brand occupies. The channel is asking for Rs 2-2.75 lakh for per 10-second spot, otherwise.

Time factor

FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
FIFA: Marketers' Ball Begins
Most of the matches are played at around 9.30 pm (IST) or post that. While the buzz amongst the fans is high, PM Balakrishna, COO, Allied Media believes that advertisers are not aggressively involved in the event.

"The timings are odd and I believe that it will mainly be the football fanatics who'll stick around to watch all the matches. While there are basic brand activations, people are refraining from spending much as the tournament demands high cost of investment and the RoI expected is not enough. The bigger brands might be associated because of the global alignment with the tournament but the local ones will stay away because of the premium and low RoI," Balakrishna adds.

Giving a different opinion on the advertisers' response for the event, Pratik Rathod, senior investment director, Maxus Mumbai says that no matter what time its aired, the event will be watched by people. "One needs to understand that people are bored of 200 days of cricket in India and want to hook up to a new sport. Football is that sport and it is growing in India. People might not watch country leagues but will watch FIFA World Cup and engage/participate in conversations related to the tournament."

Since the acquisition cost of broadcast right is very high for the event, a few media planning experts believe that the higher ad rates are justified. Also, the ad inventory in the event is lower than sports like cricket and hence it is logical to ask for higher rates. The Bengali's fascination for football could prove to be a windfall for Sony Aath. "That's the channel that advertisers should leverage, if they are targeting those markets. It's a very good opportunity," Rathod adds.

Sponsors and advertisers speak

According to Jyotsna Makkar, CMO, Microsoft India, any event that features the best in the world is followed across the world and it cuts across categories. The Oscars, Grammys, Olympics, IPL, and FIFA World Cup are examples. "The youth in our country follow these passion points and therefore it becomes good vehicle for brands to ride on."

Microsoft has picked up Sony Six for the Nokia Lumia 630 launch campaign. The intent of the company is to ride on key events like FIFA and IPL to create awareness about their first dual Sim windows phone targeted at youth. "For us it is an advertising deal that compliments Nokia's investment in sports category (KKR and FC Barcelona)," adds Makkar. Both Xolo and Nike have invested in the on-air property and are huge supporters of football as a sport.

Avinash Pant, marketing director, Nike India, "We, at Nike, are all about inspiration and innovation and we are hugely support football. This year, we launched a three-film campaign urging and inspiring the youth to play football." The campaign from Nike titled 'Risk Everything' has three films - 'Risk Everything', 'Winner Stays' and the latest one 'The Last Game'. The last named is a five-minute animated feature starring some of the world's greatest footballers on a mission to save football from the hands of a villainous mastermind, The Scientist.

Sunil Raina, business head, Xolo India, goes on to call the brand an evangeliser of football in India. "We have observed that many people in India watch football but don't play it. That's why we launched he 'Mission million' campaign wherein one million buyers of our smartphone will get a football. The timing for the campaign was kept around FIFA World Cup 2014 as we are running this campaign during the matches. FIFA World Cup 2014 for us is a strategic partnership. The event will help us reach our TG - the youth - in a better and more efficient way." Xolo has also partnered with Liverpool Football Club and the balls that it is giving out in the campaign have the branding of both Xolo and the FC.

For the record, the tournament will be held in two stages. The group stage will feature 32 nations and will be played from June 12th to 26th. The knockout stage will run from June 28th to July 13th. The final will be played on July 13.