Cricket World Cup v IPL: Sponsors jostle for eyeballs

By Puneet Pal Singh
Business reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
India's progress will be crucial to the appeal of the Cricket World Cup

The ICC Cricket World Cup v Indian Premier League. That is the battle being fought on the sidelines as the world gets ready for two of cricket's biggest events.

At stake is $330m (£204m) of potential advertising revenue.

On one side is a tournament that is returning to Asia after a gap of 14 years. On the other, a snappy league that has captured new audiences and redefined the sport.

The two are now jostling for attention.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) begins just six days after the World Cup. That has got the sponsors thinking about who to hedge their bets on.

"The sponsors are having to make a call," says Saurabh Saksena, executive business director at JWT.

"Had these events been six months apart, each would have got more sponsors. From a marketer's point of view, what they are looking for is eyeballs. They don't want to spread themselves thin on either event," he adds.

The fact that both the events garner high viewership is not making the choice easy for advertisers.

The Cricket World Cup will be broadcast to more than two billion viewers across the globe.

For its part, the 2010 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), was the most watched sports event in India, according to TAM Media Research.

Eyes on India

Despite its being a global event, the financial success of the World Cup is hugely dependent on the progress of the Indian team.

According to TAM Media research, viewership of the 2007 World Cup fell by almost 45% once India crashed out at the early stages.

That can severely hit the earning potential of the broadcasters. The rights holders generally keep some slots in their kitty, hoping to cash in at a later stage. Ad spots in a World Cup final would fetch far higher rates if India was playing and vice versa.

Even the sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC) admits this.

"If the host nation goes through till the end, there is a sustained interest. All I can hope for is that the host nations remain engaged as deep into the competition as possible," ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat told Reuters earlier this week.

The IPL, on the other hand, despite becoming a global event, remains an Indian league. All the teams are based in Indian cities and all of them have big name Indian players on their roll.

So no matter which team progresses to the final stages, the viewers remain interested. This in turn keeps the sponsors' interest alive as well.

Image caption,
Cricket advertising could exceed $1bn in India this year

Format wars

Its just not about the World Cup v the IPL.

The ever-increasing popularity of the Twenty20 format has seen some question the very future of one-day cricket.

The World Cup will provide a health check for the 50-over game and whether interest from sponsors is dwindling.

"Twenty20 is catching everyone's imagination. It is like a Bollywood blockbuster, an entertaining, shorter-duration event for the entire family. It manages to garner eyeballs of women and much younger audiences as well," says JWT's Mr Saksena.

"However, it is not wise to compare the World Cup to any other 50-over series. At this point of time, the World Cup is the most exciting thing that is around the corner."

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