Over 12 crore people are expected to visit Prayagraj this year to be part of the Kumbh Mela that commences on January 15. Such a large congregation, lasting for 55 days, has palpably caught the interest of marketers \u2014 not just of FMCG brands but also of airlines (like Air India, SpiceJet and IndiGo), banks, mobile handset makers and also first-time Kumbh advertisers like Welspun. Around 100 brands are expected to participate in the Kumbh this year. On the cards are digital and mobile activations, apart from hoardings and sampling activities. READ ALSO:\u00a0Kumbh Mela 2019: Yogi government to set up virtual reality kiosks \u2013 How to watch Aarti, Shahi Snan in 3D format Colgate, for example, will distribute around three crore Vedshakti toothpastes at the mela. Meanwhile, Welspun will launch its QUIK DRY range. With the aim to engage at least five lakh consumers, the company plans to send geo-targeted invites to pilgrims to generate buzz. Reliance Jio has created an app for the Kumbh that will feature partner brands and their campaigns, along with a call to action. A big canvas For sampling, selling and brand interactivity, the Kumbh presents an enormous opportunity. \u201cAround 70% of the attendees are from the Hindi belt, and close to 85% of them are from SEC C, D and E,\u201d informs Dalveer Singh,\u00a0head, experiential marketing, APAC,\u00a0GroupM\u2019s - Dialogue Factory. This, he says, makes it an ideal platform to launch product variants with a focus on the Hindi belt. READ ALSO:\u00a0Here\u2019s your guide to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, & ZEE5 subscriptions with all plans in detail The Crayons Network, which has won the exclusive rights for 700 outdoor sites at Prayagraj, including key entry points to the mela, railway station and bus stands, has tied up with HUL, Patanjali, Air India, SpiceJet, IndiGo and the central government so far. \u201cAround 150 hoardings will be used by the central government exclusively, mostly to highlight its achievements. Also, most brands that come on board will book at least 25 to 50 hoardings,\u201d says Kunal Lalani, MD, The Crayons Network. Impact Communications, which has been associated with Kumbh Mela for two decades, has tied up with 10 brands this year; Dabur, Ghari detergent, Welspun and Godrej Consumer Care are some of them. \u201cWe have strategic associations with the Kumbh administration, such as the police department and the Jal Board, to provide facilities such as Wi-Fi information centres, police booths, barricades, water kiosks and changing rooms, thus offering branding opportunities to advertisers,\u201d says Sanjay Kaul, founder and CEO, Impact Communications. READ ALSO:\u00a0ELSS: Why Equity Linked Savings Scheme is the best tax saving investment option for you However, this time, the inventory is limited and the prices steep. \u201cThere is a 300-500% increase in the price of media properties compared to the Ujjain edition,\u201d shares Kaul. \u201cThe number of hoardings and arch gates are limited in number and expensive. But there are new-age branding opportunities and options like poll kiosks, Wi-Fi towers, boats and parking spaces.\u201d In fact, pricing is said to be a huge barrier this year when it comes to media opportunities. Lalani, however, observes that the effective price hike is less than 100% and one must take into account that the Kumbh is more organised this time. \u201cThe number of hoardings is streamlined to maximise the usage. In each category, there is only one player,\u201d he says, adding that brands did not enjoy such exclusivity earlier. READ ALSO:\u00a0Amazon Great Indian Sale start from this date; attractive offers on Redmi, OnePlus, Honor smartphones Making it count That the Kumbh is a promising stage for brands to showcase their products is evident in the number of marketers making a beeline for it. In fact, beyond the standard FMCG, mobile handset and financial advertisers, the Kumbh is also being used by tech companies to test real-time innovations, given such a massive test group it presents. But are marketers able to gauge their ROI? Kaul says, \u201cWhile you can\u2019t track the sales, ROI could be measured in terms of sampling, trials, brand recall and the conversations generated.\u201d READ ALSO:\u00a0Jio GigaFiber vs Airtel V-Fiber: Broadband plans & everything you must know Pratap Bose, chairman, The Social Street, believes it is difficult for brands to stand out in the crowd, quite literally. \u201cThe huge crowds make getting in and out of the mela a major nightmare. Irrespective of the number of strategically placed billboards, LED screens, branded pillars and other signages, it is difficult for brands to connect with consumers,\u201d he says. \u201cBut if brands can do something socially relevant, they can surely make an impact.\u201d According to experts, the bigger brands have already moved on from billboards to engagement initiatives through product trials, such as toothpaste dispensers, beverage dispensers, beautification drives, phone recharge outlets, etc.