Benita Chacko
The Planner’s Special

As more women tune in to watch cricket, FMCG advertising on the sport will rise: Zenith India's Jai Lala

An interview with Jai Lala, CEO, Zenith India. This article is part of a series that looks to capture the goings on in the world of media planning and buying.

With five major back-to-back cricket tournaments being conducted in the last five months, the sport has kept people glued to their screens and attracted major ad spends. The cricketing season began with the World Test Championship Final (July), followed by India’s Tour of England (July-August), Indian Premier League 2021 (September-October), Men’s T20 World Cup (October-November) and finally New Zealand’s tour of India (November-December). The coinciding of the tournaments with the ebbing of the Covid19 cases, the rise in vaccinations and the festive season in India is just an added bonus.

In the first interview of our series on media buying trends, we speak to Jai Lala, chief executive officer, Zenith India to understand how brands have made the most of the hectic cricketing calendar this year.

Starting from July, we have seen a series of five back-to-back cricket tournaments over the last five months. How has the ad spend been on these properties as compared to the previous years?

It'll be a little difficult to compare because these cricket series are dependent on teams that India plays with. So, except for IPL, which is a recurring event, the other ones will be a little difficult to compare. But there is definitely an upward movement in the range of around 10% compared to the previous years.

This cricketing season has coincided with the ebbing of the Covid19 cases and the Indian festive season- a really positive time to advertise. How have these factors contributed to the ad spends?

There was a lot of positivity due to the decline in cases and the festive season. But every time the cases came down there was a surge in advertising, not only during festive periods. We saw that even in the month of July-August. So yes, it was the perfect time and obviously more brands got onto the cricket bandwagon. Interestingly, a lot of brands launched their creatives and campaigns on cricket and used this window to advertise.

Were brands really competitive to grab slots in the inventory?

Brands which cater to the youth and the male TG had got into a very competitive spree to advertise. But the other brands, which are targeted towards the female TG, were not in that competitive zone. They also advertised, but largely it was brands targeting male and youth.

A few years back we would see categories like automobiles leading the spends. But now we see more new-age digital categories. Which are the categories more keen on investing in cricket? Are they different for television and OTT and what are the factors driving these decisions?

Earlier the largest spenders on cricket were the likes of Pepsi, Coke and all and then it were the telecom and mobile phones brands, etc. Now we are seeing the new age brands from categories like FinTech and EduTech getting onto this whole bandwagon of cricket. Essentially, it all boils down to the target audience. So if the target audience is male and youth, then it becomes very attractive for these brands. The edutech and and the FinTech brands have been highly skewed towards OTT when it comes to cricket. We've seen a large number of brands from this category advertising, but the skew is largely towards OTT.

What are the factors driving the skew?

It is obviously accessibility. It all depends on the kind of brand. If you're a digital-based brand, then obviously OTT makes more sense. Then it depends on whether you are targeting the bottom funnel or top funnel. If it is the top funnel, then TV makes sense because it has a much wider reach. But for the bottom funnel it’s OTT.

How have the brand's expectations from the Cricket property changed over the years?

Earlier, it used to be a combination of things, like having such a packed cricket calendar. It also used to be more about creating some sort of an impact when using cricket- like trying to own the series. For example, brands like Pepsi and Coke would dominate their advertising on that platform. But now it has become an impact window. So now you cannot say that this series is owned by a particular brand. The presence is pretty universal.

Is money moving from cricket on television to cricket on streaming platforms?

No, I wouldn't say that money is moving from TV to OTT. Rather they are coexisting together. It's not that TV has lost its pricing or there are less number of advertisers on TV. But OTT is growing at a rapid pace. So if TV is growing by 10%, OTT must be growing by 30 to 40%.

On digital platforms, some of these events are behind paywall. Does that limit the reach or instead provide brands a premium audience?

It provides a brand premium audience but when it comes to cricket, most of them are kind of a freemium model, where they also pay. And then there is something where you can watch 10 minutes of free content, so you can attract new audiences. But the pricing is not very expensive or prohibitive, so people can watch on OTT also. So the paywall doesn’t hamper the reach. The numbers show that it doesn’t affect it.

Has the profile of the audience watching the cricket properties changed over the years?

Yes. The skew towards women has increased now. It used to be largely a male-driven property. But I think the IPL has really helped and the skew towards women audience has really increased. This has also attracted brands and you will see a lot more FMCG brands are now advertising on cricket.

Any other trends that you can highlight?

Cricket continues to be the largest impact driver on the media. And it continues to get extremely light viewers. There are a lot of viewers who generally don't watch TV, or are not much on media. It is very difficult to tap these audiences. But for cricket, they all come onto the platform and it gets a lot easier to reach them. That's why cricket continues to be attractive. It's a very high reach medium.

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