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Sahara keeps team

Dec. 19: Rahul Dravid and his boys will continue to sport the Sahara brand emblazoned across their shirts for the next four years as the group won the sponsorship right for the Indian team for the second time running.

The group’s airline, Air Sahara, emerged the top bidder with an offer of Rs 313 crore, way ahead of other heavyweight competitors.

It has to pay 30 per cent of the money tomorrow.

Air Sahara will sponsor the team for all matches played in the country and abroad except tournaments organised by the International Cricket Council, like the World Cup and the Champions Trophy.

The sponsorship runs from January 2006 to December 2009, covering 44 Tests and 110 one-day internationals, allowing Air Sahara to display its logo on the chest and the leading arm of the players’ jerseys.

With a bid of Rs 286 crore, Idea Cellular was the second highest, followed by Reliance Infocomm (Rs 257 crore), Indian Oil Corporation (Rs 256 crore) and Bharti Televentures (Rs 251 crore). Hero Honda opted out at the last minute.

Sahara’s earlier sponsorship, which expired on November 30, carried a price of around Rs 85 crore. The money it is paying for the next four years is over three-and-a-half times.

“The board is very happy,” said Lalit Modi, one of the vice-presidents of the cricket board and a member of the marketing committee which opened the bids in the capital today.

Niranjan Shah, secretary, Shashank Manohar, vice-president, N. Srinivasan, treasurer, and I.S. Bindra, a former board president, were present during the opening as were two Australian cricket board officials as observers.

The decision to award the sponsorship will be formally ratified by the board’s marketing committee tomorrow.

Does Sahara’s bid make business sense' “Sahara today is synonymous with Indian cricket. We got value for money during the deal that is coming to an end now,” Sahara India spokesperson Abhijit Sarkar said.

The media industry is divided on whether Sahara managed to pull off a good deal. “According to international models we have access to, what the BCCI is offering is not worth more than Rs 200-250 crore,” said a spokesperson for Nimbus Sport, which collected the tender documents, but did not bid finally.

“If Sahara’s past performance is any indication, they will derive much more than the amount they have paid,” said a sports broadcast official. “The total number of hours that the team plays, multiplied by the ad rates throw up a huge figure. Also, there’s a hammering of the brand on the viewer’s mind which results in tremendous top-of-the-mind brand recall.”

Team India sporting the brand also inspires public confidence, which is important for any brand and particularly so for Sahara as the airline has been at the centre of rumours about stake sale, as well as takeover attempts.

The cricket board will finalise the contract for logo display on the players’ non-leading arm and for the kits later this month, officials said. The tender for telecast rights is also expected to be floated at the end of December and opened “in the middle of January”.

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