Benita Chacko & Yash Bhatia

India wins the ICC T20 World Cup, but did advertisers score?

The almost month-long tournament had several challenges for advertisers and media planners.

In a nail-biting thriller India clinched its second ICC Men’s T20 World Cup title, triumphing over South Africa by seven runs in Barbados on Saturday. As captain Rohit Sharma and his boys wiped tears of joy, Indians across the globe were similarly overwhelmed. This win was an answer to a billion prayers and years of waiting. But did the tournament bring the same joy to the advertisers who had pegged their spends on it?

The almost month-long tournament had several challenges for advertisers and media planners. From inconvenient timings to low-scoring matches, and multiple advertising opportunities to a mandatory self-declaration certificate (SDC), there were numerous spoilsports. 

Disney Star has invested $3 billion in acquiring the ICC media rights (both television and digital) from 2024 to 2027. The network had licensed its TV broadcasting rights to Zee Entertainment. However, due to the collapse of the merger agreement with Sony Pictures Networks India, Zee withdrew from the deal. 

The tournament was expected to have good viewership, and brands had allocated huge ad spends. Firstly, this series was seen as an opportunity for redemption after India lost the final in the ICC Men's ODI World Cup in November 2023. Additionally, it was expected to be Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli’s last T20 international tournament. India’s spectacular performance and its entry into the final gave advertiser interest further impetus.

Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and co-founder of the digital agency TheSmallBigIdea, says owing to all the above factors the advertising rates were likely increased by about 20-30%. The broadcaster Disney Star generated about Rs 1,800 crore of advertising revenue from the tournament.

A senior media planner, on the condition of anonymity, says, compared to the 2022 T20 World Cup, there was a drop in viewership for both India and non-India matches. "The viewership for non-India matches dropped by at least 40-45%. This can be attributed to the drop in overall time spent on TV and the match timings,” she says.

Played in the US and West Indies, the non-India matches were scheduled at 6 am IST—an inconvenient time for Indian viewers. However, the India matches were scheduled at 8 pm.

“Non-India matches did not do that well and the timings have had an impact on viewership,” says the senior media planner.

...this series did not always deliver that excitement; a semi-final that didn’t even cross a three-digit score is a testament to that.
Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea

Dabur had advertised its Dabur Red toothpaste in the matches.

Binit Kumar, category head of Oral Care, Dabur, says slotting the matches during office hours or in non-prime time impacts viewership. “However, with the late-night snacking generation and the always-on-mobile screen generation, from in-meeting to in-bathroom, interesting games would have got their fair share of viewership.”

Kumar says that being part of the extravaganza is a necessary evil.

“Cricket is one great occasion where every brand wants to participate for the simple reason of reaching a new audience and creating an impact. Due to this high demand, costs are much higher compared to any other GEC or prime event,” he says.

Birla Opus, a new paint brand housed under Aditya Birla Group’s Grasim Industries, were the streaming co-powered sponsors for this edition of ICC T20 Men’s Cricket World Cup. The brand was advertising in all the matches of the World Cup. 

Inderpreet Singh, head of marketing, Birla Opus, says that while strategising, the brand was aware of the off-timings of the non-India matches. “We assessed the amount of reach we will get. According to reports it’s far better than we expected in the non-India matches as well. Even the 6 am matches garnered a good amount of viewership.”

According to the senior media planner, the tournament has still delivered decent ratings, especially for high-interest matches like India-Pakistan. The India matches have an average rating of approximately 5 TVRs, with India vs. Pakistan rating 7.5 TVRs. This is in the Male 15+ ABC TG. On the digital front, Disney+ Hotstar claimed a peak concurrency of 5.3 crore during the finals, the highest this season. This is slightly less than the peak concurrency of 5.9 crore witnessed during the finals of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 in November 2023.

Additionally, unfit pitch conditions led to low-scoring matches that ended earlier than expected. Even former Indian cricketers Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sanjay Manjrekar criticised the International Cricket Council (ICC) during the semi-final match between Afghanistan and South Africa, where the former scored a meagre 56 runs.

Pillai says the unfit pitch has definitely been a dampener; however, it did not significantly impacted advertising spends. “The T20 format is all about big runs and high scores. However, this series did not always deliver that excitement; a semi-final that didn’t even cross a three-digit score is a testament to that,” he says.

The senior media planner says scoring and pitches have limited impact on planning as investments are decided earlier. “This is part and parcel of any cricket buy. The advertisers who bought into the tournament stayed on. We also had some brands reach out only for the final, hence interest was maintained,” she adds.

Advertisers were also spoilt for choice between multiple events that attract a high number of eyeballs. The T20 World Cup that kicked off on June 2 came immediately after the Lok Sabha elections which concluded with counting taking place on June 4 and the two-month long IPL which ended on May 26. Not just that, the Paris Olympics is set to begin in three weeks (July 26). With multiple cricket tournaments being conducted throughout the year, some say that ‘cricket fatigue’ could have also played a role.

“Compared to the previous edition of the T20 World Cup, this one has definitely been handled better. While one could argue that there might be cricket fatigue, this World Cup is special for many reasons, especially on an emotional level,” Pillai says.

Adding to the challenges, midway through the tournament, the mandate for a self-declaration certificate further discouraged many advertisers from launching new advertisements.

If we do not compare cost and viewership, from a format point of view, TV always delivers a better experience of brand storytelling than digital...
Binit Kumar, category head of Oral Care, Dabur

According to the initial numbers, the advertising revenue for both broadcast and digital are close. 

“Digital platforms have managed to capture an equally compelling share, thanks to their low entry barriers, measurability, and targeting options. Brands are using television and digital in an interesting manner, splitting product types, creative approaches, and objectives between both platforms and trying to use each effectively,” Pillai adds.

The reduction in spending by startups has increased the dependency on traditional brands. These traditional brands and those who could continue to spend, have managed to maintain a higher presence. 

For Dabur's Kumar television delivers results better. “If we do not compare cost and viewership, from a screen size point of view, TV always delivers a better experience of brand storytelling than digital or small mobile devices due to better brand control on creative delivery and attention of consumers.”

A senior marketer, on the condition of anonymity, says advertisers need to consider if it is worth spending such a huge amount of money. “If a brand is bought every month then is it really relevant to burn all the money in just one week? Does it make more sense to divide the money over the 52 weeks of the year and remain in the viewers’ mind in an uncluttered environment?”

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