By Shruti Mahajan and Alex Gabriel Simon
Global companies are spending millions of dollars to get their names seen during the Cricket World Cup in India, with the sporting event representing an opportune moment for brands to tap into the cricket-crazy nation of 1.4 billion people.
India will be hosting the tournament, which begins on Oct. 5 and runs through mid-November, guaranteeing sponsors more than a billion viewers across the world from Europe to Oceania. But it’s the consumers in the world’s most populous nation who are the biggest prize, particularly for foreign brands, said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Bank of Baroda.
Brands are likely to spend about Rs 2,000 crore ($240 million) in advertisement spots on streaming platforms during the tournament, estimates Jehil Thakkar, a partner at Deloitte India. A 10-second advertising slot during matches costs up to Rs 3 lakh, a 40 per cent increase compared to the last World Cup in 2019, he said.
“Demand for eyeballs is really strong,” Thakkar added.
Amid an economic slowdown in China and its geopolitical tensions with Western economies, India’s thriving consumer market is emerging as a sweet spot for global companies looking for growth. The South Asian nation is expected to drive a fifth of world economic expansion in the next decade and become a $10 trillion economy by 2035, according to some estimates.
Cricket is by far the most popular sport in India, and attracts more than $1.5 billion in sponsorship and media spend a year, according to research from Jefferies, representing 85 per cent of all such sports-related spending.
“Cricket has less fanfare globally as compared to other sports like soccer,” said Sabnavis, “but the kind of frenzy you witness in India around cricket is not present elsewhere.”
Among the brands that are paying for airtime during the World Cup are large corporate names such as Coca-Cola Co., Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay and Unilever Plc’s India unit Hindustan Unilever Ltd., while the ICC’s list of official partners includes Saudi Aramco, Emirates and Nissan Motor Co.
The roster of brands on display shows a shift back to more traditional sectors such as consumer goods, automobiles and phones, said Thakker, as education technology and online betting companies that were once major sponsors cut back on spending amid debt and regulatory concerns.
Disney Star, which holds the exclusive TV broadcast rights for the World Cup in India, said in a statement Wednesday that it is partnering with 26 sponsors including Booking.com BV and liquor company Diageo Plc.
The Indian economy will also be getting a major boost in household spending during the World Cup, as fans travel for matches, watch them in venues like restaurants and bars or order takeout at home. Hotel fares have increased by 150 per cent on average on days India is scheduled to play, according to a note by Jefferies analyst Prateek Kumar.
Companies are also expecting a strong December quarter as the World Cup coincides with India’s festive season, which runs from September to January. Diwali, for example, falls in mid-November just as the tournament draws to a close.
“The Cricket World Cup is the biggest sporting event of the year for fans across the country,” said Yannick Colaco, co-founder of FanCode, the International Cricket Council’s official retail partner in India for the event. “No other sports tournament captures the hearts and minds of Indian fans like a World Cup. That’s why you see brands and companies making a beeline to be associated with the tournament.”