| Soccer fans try to get a peep at the Brazilian team practice in Weggis, Switzerland. (Reuters)
Mumbai, May 28: Cricket is religion in India. But if media planners are to be believed, football might be catching up.
Industry watchers expect over 75 per cent growth in advertising revenue for the Fifa World Cup, which starts on June 9.
“There has been an unusual revival of interest in football across the country. The World Cup has always been big; but this time it is bigger. Some of the biggest ad spenders have planned multi-crore campaigns around the tournament,” said Deven Deshpande, brand manager, TAM Media Research.
ESPN-STAR Sports, the official broadcaster, hopes to sweep in more than Rs 40 crore from advertisement revenue during the tournament. Industry experts say Ten Sports, which launched in India before the last World Cup in 2002, had grossed around Rs 10 crore from advertisements.
“Nearly 75 million Indians watched the football World Cup last time, and we expect it to go up to at least 100 million this time. We are happy to see interest picking up in non-cricket sports among the younger section of the audience,” said R.C. Venkateish, managing director, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd.
ESPN sources say the channel is hawking 10 seconds of airtime at rates ranging between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.25 lakh.
“This is equivalent to what an advertiser would have paid for a prime-time soap or a one-day cricket fixture, though certainly nowhere close to the premium-priced Indo-Pak ODIs,” said an official of Group M, Sports.
Experts agree that the current football mania among advertisers is largely because the event is the World Cup.
“Unlike the western countries, we are still not a nation where football has pop status. But the World Cup is and has always been a premium event. Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra have led the Cup TRPs in the past. But this time the viewership will be high in almost all the metros and will surge past all previous highs,” a senior Zee Sports official said.
An ESPN source said: “When Ten Sports launched with the Fifa World Cup in 2002, its distribution was still not in place. Yet it managed an average viewership rating of 9.1 for the matches. Imagine what it’s going to be now. We expect at least a 30 per cent jump in viewership.”
But the World Cup apart, football viewership is rising in India, say media research companies and media planners.
“The interest in the game surely revived a lot thanks to Vijay Mallya’s decision to buy two of the most well-known teams in India ' East Bengal and Mohun Bagan,” and industry expert said.
“Bhaichung Bhutia brought in the nearly absent celeb factor. Though many companies always had their football teams, it is of late that they have started promoting the matches as events. That certainly has started reviving spectator, broadcaster and advertiser interest.”
The biggest boost for football’s popularity came when the All-India Football Federation sold its marketing rights to Zee Sports for Rs 273 crore for a 10-year period.
“And it was justified by the sponsorship earnings and TRPs for the live telecast of the Federation Cup and Santosh Trophy this year,” the Zee Sports source said.