Benita Chacko

Here’s why advertisers are opening their wallets for the Women’s T20 World Cup

Disney+ Hotstar and Star Sports has on-boarded six and seven sponsors respectively for the cricket tournament that starts today.

For the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, which starts today, Disney+ Hotstar has on-boarded six sponsors - Tata AIA Life Insurance, Accenture, HUL (Boost), Bumble, Jindal Steel and Power, and IDBI Bank. 

Meanwhile, its television counterpart Star Sports has on-boarded seven brands - Thums Up, Amway, Jindal Panther Steel, Google, HDFC Life Insurance, Kajaria, and Policybazaar.

Until a few years back, this tournament had little to no advertiser interest. The broadcaster would package it with the Men’s T20 World Cup, and sell it for no additional cost. 

While women’s cricket has come a long way since then, India’s victory in the Under-19 T20 World Cup in January, seems to have boosted advertiser interest in this tournament as well. 

Aman Kochhar
Aman Kochhar

“The U-19 victory has definitely impacted advertiser interest. Women’s cricket needs to get as much publicity as possible. Even before the U-19 World Cup, there were some good matches with Grade A teams last year. The Indian team’s good performance then, led to a fair share of headlines and increased audience interest levels,” says Aman Kochhar, chief growth officer, Motivator India, a media agency from the GroupM network.

Ajit Varghese
Ajit Varghese

Ajit Varghese, head of network - ad sales at Disney Star, stated in a press release, “India’s recent win at the U-19 Women’s T20 World Cup has grabbed the nation’s attention. All eyes are now on the upcoming T20 World Cup. We hope that team India will continue its winning streak and make this World Cup memorable for audiences and advertisers alike.”

Last year was an exciting one for women’s cricket. In October, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the launch of Women’s Indian Premier League (IPL). Later in the same month, it announced equal pay for men and women cricketers. 

In December, Indian women played against Australia in Mumbai to packed stadiums. The tickets were sold out, a rare case for women’s cricket in India. 

Yash Lahoti
Yash Lahoti

“Mastercard was the sole sponsor for the series. There was a good response, and that’s where the actual interest started growing. The U-19 victory is the latest shot in the arm,” mentions Yash Lahoti, founder & CEO, Women’s CricZone.

Ramakrishnan R, director and co-founder, Baseline Ventures, also attributes it to the success of Indian women athletes at Rio Olympics in 2016.

Ramakrishnan R
Ramakrishnan R

"We are very star-focussed instead of sports-focussed. However, the inflection point was when India reached the finals in T20 World Cup 2017. People started giving credit to women's cricket. The next logical transition had to be broadcasters giving women's cricket an individual window," he says. 

The first edition of ICC Women's T20 World Cup was held in 2009. However, until 2016, the ad spots would be packaged with the Men's T20 event. It was India's entry into the semi-finals in 2017 that brought paid advertisers for the first time.

Lahoti says that the ad rates this year are considerably higher than the previous years due to favourable broadcast timings. 

"The advertiser interest wasn't very high in last year's 50-over World Cup. The matches were in New Zealand, so it would be broadcast in India at 6.30 am. On the other hand, the T20 World Cup is in South Africa and the India matches will be broadcast at 6 pm. This is an apt time for advertisers as well," he says. 

Media buyers say that the ad rates are competitive for the Women’s T20 World Cup. However, it is still a fraction of men’s T20 matches. According to media reports, the ad rates for last year's Men's T20's semi-final matches (India had qualified after a long time) were Rs 15-18 lakh per 10 seconds for television and Rs 850 CPM (cost per mille/thousand impressions) for Disney+ Hotstar.

Navin Lalchandani, SVP, Starcom India, says that the ad rates are one-fifth of those for the Men’s World Cup.

“It has become attractive, but not as much as men’s cricket. It is still new for people. The Men’s World Cup has been going on for years and has massive viewership. Since it’s a global series, I’m not sure how much traction it will gain. When India is not playing, few people will watch it. The World Cup has its fans, but not to the extent that advertisers will put their buck from an investment perspective," he adds.

This also makes it an attractive property for small advertisers as sponsorship opportunities are available for all budgets. How can brands make the most of this opportunity then?

Lalchandani says brands need to associate differently with Women's cricket. "They need to communicate and build a relationship with the team rather than mere advertising. Its a time when you associate with the teams and go beyond just vanilla spot buys on TV or digital. Brands can connect with the players and their social media to get the right mileage and right association with the tournament." 

"The best way to leverage this opportunity is to have a share of both, on ground as well as on air properties,” shares Kochhar, of Motivator India. 

Ramakrishnan suggests that brands should forge meaningful partnership by creating content or stories around these cricketers. "So that there are young budding athletes following their footsteps. Brands will have to consciously come forward to support women's sports," he says. 

In the context of Shubman Gill's recent association with Tinder, Bumble could turn out to be an interesting brand association for this World Cup. It is a women-first dating & social networking app.

Samarpita Samaddar, India communications director, Bumble, says, “This is an exciting opportunity to help us bring alive our mission - spotlight and champion gender equality and equity in sports in India. Our India team has been on a winning streak and we wish them all the very best at the upcoming World Cup!”

Currently the male-female viewership pattern for Women's cricket is the same as Men's Cricket at 70:30. However, it is expected to gradually have its own set of female followers making it a great opportunity for brands targeting women. Kochhar says, "We are seeing a lot of opportunity for women's brands who were earlier shy of picking up IPL or women's cricket."

Unlike the Men's matches, women's cricket is not an impact property yet. What will it take for more brands to get excited about Women's Cricket?

Lahoti pegs the viewership for women's matches to be only around 15-40% of the men's tournaments. He believes Women's cricket needs an event that will shock the world. Like it happened with the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. 

"The advertiser interest was low initially. Then New Zealand cricketer Brendon McCullum, playing for Kolkata Knight Riders, hit a century and then everyone wanted to see it. Advertisers followed soon. Something like that needs to happen with Women's cricket. But it to be long term, more people need to come and consume women's cricket. For now only the second tier of brands will back the tournaments. Once the viewership becomes 50% of Men's cricket it will automatically draw more brands," he explains.

Women's CricZone has onboarded Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund (ABSLMF), ElistaWorld, Mutual Funds Sahi Hai and Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale for the T20 World Cup.

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