Today more than 200 countries play professional soccer with 265 million or nearly 4% of the world population (including 5 million officials) actively involved in the game. Within that, the FIFA World Cup is the most watched televised sports in history.
According to industry estimates, almost 3.2 billion people were estimated to have tuned into the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Compared to this, Euro Cup 2012, the other most watched global sports event, generated an average viewership of 150 million for each match. The English Premier League (EPL) meanwhile, is broadcast in 212 territories to an audience of 4.7 billion.
Back home, industry experts say that football is the single fastest growing sport in the country. Today, most children in major cities across India follow an EPL club or a Spanish club. Global events such as the Champions League of the World Cup have a significant and burgeoning audience. Football is seen as aspirational and a cool sport by the youth today. Players such as Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have created a huge impact. The quality of production of international football being beamed into Indian households has also helped in an increased TV audience, says Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, KWAN and former vice-president sports, Globosports, a sports and celebrity management firm.
Advertisers follow eyeballs and no surprises, therefore, that a lot of marketers have begun betting their ad dollars on the game, too. Rohit Gupta, president at MSM, says football is gradually but clearly establishing itself as the second sport option in India amongst advertisers. In 2013, the total viewership reach of cricket for the full year was about 213 million. Football, meanwhile, is touching close to 155 million without a FIFA World Cup. Compare the reach of the last FIFA World Cup in 2010 to that of the IPL that year and the numbers stand at 63 million versus 135 million, indicating that FIFA was already at the 50% level of the IPL, he says.
It is the promise embedded in these numbers that saw Sony Six this January acquire the exclusive telecast rights for the football World Cup 2014 and 2018. The channel has paid around R530-540 crore ($90 million) for the rights to the game over the next five years. Now, while the numbers may seem minuscule when compared to the investments made by the network in the IPLaround R8200 crore for 10 yearsit is surely not insignificant. The reach of football has been growing at 30-35% year on year. Consequently, this year we expect the reach of FIFA to be over 100 million, which is 50% of the IPLs reach of about 200 million, he adds.
Industry estimates suggest that 26% of the Indian population in the 16-69 age group watches football. Says Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice president, marketing and sales, Hyundai Motor India: Cricket is a very popular game in India and enjoys a fan base like no other sport. However, the Indian audience has wide exposure to global sports wherein football may be at a nascent stage of integrating its Indian fan base but is definitely developing as a loved sport in India.
Today its only the T20 cricket format that stands as competition to football in this country. But there are similarities that canny broadcasters such as MSM have realized. Today the ratings (viewership) and the revenues are coming out of the T20 format. It is only three hours and is fast paced. Similar is the case with football - a 90-minute game that is very fast and adrenaline pumping. Thats what the youth wants. And so we are investing into football, says Gupta.
To build on what is already promising to be a mass attraction among Indian sports lovers, Sony Six has lined up interesting initiatives. This year, for instance, it plans to air 24 out of the total 64 matches during the prime time. The idea is to air as many live matches as possible instead of a deferred telecast. The telecast will begin at 8pm with a studio show, leading up to the matches kicking off at 9.30pm. Quite like the IPL in-studio format, popular anchors and guests will provide interesting and unique insights about the players and the tournament before and after the matches.
Says Blah, This is the biggest sporting event in the world. Being a football fan, my expectations from MSM would be to provide football fans high quality production without too many entertainment gimmicks. However, to build a larger audience base and capture the non-core fans, I do expect some of the IPL experience rubbing off on the telecast of the world cup, too. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to a channel is the ratings. And in India, we have seen sporting-entertainment work.
But not everybody is so gung-ho about MSMs strategy. Says a skeptical top media executive of a media agency who did not want to be named, While the popularity of the game has grown substantially over the last four years, over 50% of the South Africa 2010 World Cup series was pro-India timing. This time, however, it is much less. So, we will have to wait and see how much of that popularity translates into numbers.
Prasana Krishnan, business head, Sony Six, however says that the channel has kept these drawbacks in mind while finalising the programming strategy. Our biggest learning from the IPL is that sports need to be more inclusive and not just stick to the core viewers. During the IPL, we had the wrap around show Extra Innings that brought the cricketers and
stars in a different and softer light, through music and dance. What such a wrap-up did was that it brought in viewers who do not breathe cricket day-in and day out but actually joined in for the overall experience of the IPL, he says.
Therefore, Sony Sixs programming in and around the World Cup is also going to be very similar. It is going to have a studio show quite like the IPL where FIFA brand ambassador for India John Abraham will be joining the other anchors and hosts inside the studio. We will be getting other international football sports stars as well. The idea is not to copy paste IPL into it but to find a flavour in football which is more inclusive and appeals to a larger audience set, he adds.
But thats not all. In its bid to cater to the football lovers in West Bengal, Sony AATH, the Bangla entertainment channel from the MSM stable, will broadcast live the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Bengali commentary. The channel will telecast 56 FIFA matches in Bengali wherein as a strategic move, Sony AATH aims to expand its reach through this custom offering to the vast Bengali speaking audience of the country.
Bengal is the most passionate place in India when it comes to football and therefore, has tremendous potential as far as viewership is concerned. When we got the rights for FIFA, the first thing that struck us was that we also had a Bengali channel in our regional portfolio and it would be perfect for us to carry FIFA on Sony Aath so as to broadbase the audience viewership of the game. Four years back when FIFA was telecast in India, the peak rating of the game in Bengal was a 16 TVR, informs Tushar Shah, senior vice president, Multi- Screen Media. Commenting on the move, R S Suriyanarayan, associate vice-president, Initiative says, This is a very good move. Whenever any local football match is shown on any of the channels in Bengal, it generates heavy numbers. So, the World Cup football commentary in Bengal is sure to add substantial viewership numbers.
But Sony Six will not just beam the sport in India. It will also make the tourney available in the rest of
the Indian sub-continent across Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives, for which it has the rights. There are quite a few similarities between the profile of the viewers in these regions and that of India. So, as a focus area we are trying to become a broadcaster for this region because these markets are long term potential. We are effectively launching in many of these markets with the FIFA World Cup, Krishnan says.
To build the buzz around the event, Sony Six lined up interesting initiatives. For instance, it launched the Live the Magic campaign to promote FIFA 2014 in May this year. The campaign sees John Abraham as a fan encouraging viewers to join in the party to catch the footballing extravaganza on Six. The campaign is shot with the idea of replicating the carnival atmosphere surrounding Brazil, the host to the tournament this year. According to sources, the network is investing close to R12 crore in marketing the 2014 World Cup.
Apart from the MSM bouquet of channelsa total of 28 channels across genres of news, movies, music, infotainment and regional will air the 2014 FIFA World Cup marketing campaign for 15 days. To exponentially expand and increase the 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 pockets. On June 12, the day the event took off, the channel came out with print ads in 15 leading publications across India. In the OOH sector, the channel is featuring advertisements across 10 cities in India including key metros including Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Pune, Bhopal, Indore, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata for a total of 15 days.
Meanwhile, a unique FIFA trivia based maze has been set up in key malls across major cities India. Also, there are special match screening tie-ups with Hard Rock Caf (HRC) across key cities in India wherein HRC will have a dedicated SIX lounge setup for screening of select 9:30 pm matches on match-days. Key markets would include Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune and Kolkata. The entire SIX lounge zone will have a Brazilian look and feel. Fun consumer engagement activities will be conducted in the FIFA Zone. Flash mob with Samba dancers will be held in the Sports Bar.
Additionally, to reap the benefits of the digital ecosystem, MSM has launched a digital sports entertainment destination www.LIVSports.in. The digital destination will play the role of the official mobile and internet broadcaster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. LIV Sports will show both live and video-on-demand match content with informative statistics and analysis.
MSM is targeting revenues close to R150 crore from advertising this FIFA season. The sponsors that have come on board include Hero MotoCorp as the presenting sponsor while Xolo Mobile and Microsoft are the associate sponsors. Players like Nokia, Nike and Samsung have joined as spot buyers. The network is looking at a total of 6-8 sponsors. Inventory in FIFA is about 600-900 seconds as against 2400 seconds for an ODI. Therefore, the revenues will primarily be sponsorship driven, says Gupta. For the record, MSM is charging R18-20 crore for presenting sponsorships while it is R12-15 crore for associate sponsorships. Meanwhile, there are also two spot buy packages that are available - one for R4 crore and the other for R 8 crore. Regular 10 second ad spots, meanwhile, are being sold at R 2.5 lakhs.
Our argument with the advertisers is that we have the FIFA World Cup till 2018 and we also have the 2016 Euro Cup. So, we are asking them to invest into football on a long term basis, says Gupta. Brands which came into the IPL in season 1 and 2 have stayed on with us. And thats what we expect to happen in FIFA also, he adds.
Says Arshad Nizam Director-Alliance Advertising, the media buying agency of Xolo, 2014 FIFA World Cup is the most anticipated event this year and associating with an event of such magnitude gives Xolo a great opportunity to reach out to the key target audience who will be glued to Sony SIX to catch the best footballing action. Considering majority of the matches are slotted for 9:30pm, which is prime time television viewing, it gives advertisers a great platform to connect and engage with their audience.
Frankly, today the biggest opportunity for any advertiser is to be a part of the biggest sporting event in the world; and through it, access the urban Indian youth. As mentioned earlier, international football today is extremely aspirational. And therefore, if a brand is targeting the youth in metropolitan India, there perhaps is no better platform than the beautiful game.