Corporates Field Pessimism With Freebies

Updated: Jan 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
A month ago, three students from Chennai Anisha, Marutham and Bhavikamooted a signature collection campaign on the theme, The World Cup Is Ours. They aimed to collect five lakh signatures from the public across the metropolis, and then send the lot to the Indian cricket team in South Africa.

The girls achieved their target and more, but they report that initially, many of the people they approached for a signature said they did not expect much of the Indian cricket team. They cited the reports of match fixing and, later, Indias disastrous performance in New Zealand as reasons for their pessimism.

M V M Velmohan, an official spokesperson of the Velammal Memorial Higher Secondary School, which ran the signature campaign, told a news agency, Initially, the response was not very encouraging as only one among three people approached signed on an average. But things became better later on, so much so that as many as 45,000 signatures were collected on Marina Beach in a single day. Though the mood of the people is not buoyant, their love for cricket is still intact. They still believe India can win the World Cup.

And that belief is changing into a force to encourage and enthuse the Indian cricket team into delivering the Cup into the nations hands.

Bollywood is playing its own part in encouraging the Indian team to break its 20-year jinx in the World Cup tournament. Filmstars such as Sohail Khan, Salman Khan, Arbaaz Khan, Diya Mirza, Mahima Chaudhary and Namrata Shirodkar have joined hands with singers Shubha Mudgal, Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan, Sagarika, Sudesh Bhosale, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shweta Shetty and industrialist Gautam Singhania, former cricketer Mohinder Amarnath and tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi to release a music video Humko hai pura yakeen, hum jaisa koi nahin. The video will be telecast on various TV channels. Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, the video shows the stars playing cricket and praying for the Indian team. Released by Virgin Music, the music has been composed by Ajay Zhangiran and it will be a part of the film, Stumped, being produced by actress Raveena Tandon.

Indian corporates are looking on the World Cup as a big business opportunity. Official sponsor PepsiCo began its World Cup promotions, featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Fardeen Khan, as early as October 2002. Today, with the tournament barely a fortnight away, the market is flooded with lucrative offers such as A Free Ticket To The World Cup and heavy spending on advertisement and other promotional activities.

Corporate India is expected to spend around Rs 2,000 crore on promotions and advertisements for this years World Cup as compared to the around Rs 1,600 crore spent in 1999.

PepsiCo has launched a contest in association with three TV channelsSET Max, Nickelodeon and MTVwhereby six young cricket fans will be selected to lead the Indian team from the pavilion to the field at the World Cup. Called Pepsi Badaa Shikari Hunt, the contest will be aired simultaneously on all three channels.

PepsiCo marketing director Satyandra Agarwal and Nickelodeon managing director Alex Kuruvilla explain, The contestants will have to write a letter to skipper Sourav Ganguly, explaining why he or she should be selected to lead the Indian team to the grounds. Six fans, selected on the basis of the entries, along with a parent or a friend, will travel to South Africa on a paid trip. The contest, which is currently on air, will close on February 19.

The campaign for this contest has been launched in 200 schools in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. The contest is being carried out in association with Hero Honda, another official sponsor of the World Cup, and Pantaloon.

Consumer electronics and home appliances major Samsung has unveiled a special consumer promotion campaign called Team Samsung India First. The company has earmarked a huge Rs 55 crore for the campaign, which will carry on from January 15 to March 15. Three new TV commercials of 20 seconds each have also been released.

Buoyed by the growth in sales of its TV sets over the last couple of months, Ravinder Zutshi, director (Sales), Samsung India, says, We plan to sell 4.5-5 lakh colour television (CTV) sets during the World Cup period (January-March). And for this, we are banking on our Team Samsung India First Offer, which entitles a sure-shot gift on the purchase of a Samsung CTV through a scratch card.

The company is also offering free Samsung products such as single VCD players, microwave ovens, CD Yepp players and Swatch watches with the purchase of its CTVs. The total value of the gifts is estimated to be about Rs 25 crore; the remaining Rs 30 crore will be spent on promotions, Mr Zutshi explains.

Samsung has signed on as associate sponsor on Sony in the home appliances category for the World Cup. Our new campaign (of TV commercials) takes off from the question that is intriguing every Indians mind, especially after our dismal performance in New Zealand, elaborates Mr Zutshi. The first commercial shows a local pub thronged by collegians. A young boy asks, India first hoga kyaand a smart girl retorts, Samsung TV kharida kya. And the whole crowd says, Team Samsung ho to India first. In a similar vein, the second commercial is set in a playing field, where a bunch of people are sitting under a tree, discussing Indias chances at the World Cup. The third commercial is located in a barbers shop.

LG Electronics, another official World Cup sponsor, has signed an associate sponsor deal with Doordarshan. The company has earmarked a whopping Rs 80 crore for spending on advertisements and promotions. Beginning January 10, the conglomerate has launched World Cup Pass Chahiye, a lucky draw contest, which offers 701 gold passes and 600 silver passes for the World Cup matches and 100 limited edition LG products. Besides, there are assured gifts on every purchase of an LG electronic or home appliance.

Another consumer electronic manufacturer, Videocon, is also running a promotional campaign offering tickets to the World Cup matches. This is, however, a scratch card scheme. The company is spending around Rs 10 crore for promotions during this period.

Travel agencies in India are also trying to make a fast buck from the World Cup. In fact, most of the bookings travel agencies have made for the World Cup in South Africa are for corporates. Says Rajiv Duggal, in-charge of Kuoni Travel (India) Pvt. Ltds recently launched Sports Abroad unit, Till date, we have got some 2,000 bookings and all of these are from corporates. Kuoni India has been appointed as the India representative along with Trust Travels and Sachinam Travels by the Emirates based World Of Events travel house, which is the official travel agent for the World Cup for Asia. Adds Mr Duggal, To my knowledge, Trust Travel and Sachinam Travels have also got the same number of bookings for the World Cup package.

Kuonis World Cup tour package is tailored around India specific matches and it costs Rs 75,000-1,25,000 for a four nights-five days trip. The variation in cost depends on whether you want to sit in a VIP gallery, stay in a luxury hotel, etc., Mr Duggal explains.

According to him, around 5,000-6,000 spectators are expected to fly to South Africa, far fewer than the 14,000 who visited England for the 1999 World Cup. The airfares are higher, and the availability of flights to South Africa from India and the number of hotels there are quite low as compared to England, says Mr Duggal by way of explanation. He adds, Only South Africa Airlines and Emirates Airline fly from India to South Africa and that too just four flights a week each.

According to Vikash Khanduri, regional manager (Outbound Tours), Cox & Kings, We have already got 200 passengers bookings for the World Cup in South Africa from north India and all these bookings are by different corporates.

Cox & Kings is retailing the World Cup tour package of Sachinam Travels. Weve only 3-4 seats left for the India-Pakistan and India-England matches and bookings for the finals are full, says Priti Duggal, who is looking after the special package tour. She adds, Seats for the semi-finals are lying vacant, but the kind of inquiries were getting, I think within a few days, those will be booked, too.

The package trip for the World Cup semi-finals costs Rs 40,000 plus US$ 950 per person; this includes accommodation, breakfast, dinner and a days sightseeing. However, most of these bookings will go to distributors and dealers of companies that have booked the tickets as part of their promotional campaigns, and a part of it will be given to employees as incentives, explains Mr Duggal. He admits that there are only a few bookings by high-end individuals.

The electronic media is gearing up for the World Cup with special match analyses for the viewers. Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India, which has bagged the live telecast rights for India, will field Mandira Bedi to anchor Exxtra Innings. The channel will telecast match postmortems by Kapil Dev and Madan Lal. Doordarshan, which has signed a deal with Global Cricket Corporation and Nimbus to beam 43 live matches through its terrestrial channels, is mooting a tie-up with the ESPN-STAR Sports combine for pre- and post-match analyses.