'There is pent-up demand for cricket after last year when no tournaments were played on Indian soil due to the pandemic.'
India's win at the Brisbane Cricket Ground in Australia has increased both viewer and advertiser interest significantly in the game. This has come at a time when domestic cricket is set to stage a comeback after a year of absence due to the pandemic.
England's tour of India will include four Test matches, five T20Is and three ODIs. Conversations with media planners reveal that advertising rates for the India-England series are up 10-15 per cent over last year, when India toured New Zealand for a two-month bilateral series.
While India lost the Test matches and ODIs to New Zealand last year, this year could be different, say media experts, as they go into the tournament against England -- a motivated side -- with an Indian audience equally charged.
"There is pent-up demand for cricket after last year when no tournaments were played on Indian soil due to the pandemic," says Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India.
"As such cricket is a big draw in India, but the win at the Gabba has given the sport a fillip. There will be a lot of expectation on the Indian side as they fight England. This will have a rub-off on viewership as well as advertising," adds Sinha.
The India-England series will have 28 playing days, which is higher than the India-New Zealand tour, which had only 15 playing days. If more bilateral series are taken into account, such as the India-West Indies tour, which happened in October-November of 2018, then the playing days were just 14.
More playing days will mean more advertising inventory and Star Sports, which is the broadcaster of the India-England series, is on a strong wicket, say experts tracking the market, since January-March is a period when many companies kick off their advertising calendar.
"A significant number of categories have evinced an interest (in the India-England series), including automotive, gaming, edtech, insurance, and telecom," says Anil Jayaraj, executive vice-president, Star Sports, adding, "With the recent performance of the Indian team in Australia, there is high anticipation among viewers."
Though cricket tends to be skewed towards men, audiences for bilateral series come from all viewer segments, including men, women, and children, shows the data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council India.
Of the total viewers for the bilateral series, nearly 46-47 per cent, says BARC, are males above 15 years, while 53 per cent are females (above 15 years) and kids (between 2-14 years) put together.
Media planners say that the gaming, fintech, and edtech start-ups are leading the race for sponsorships deals, much like they did during the Indian Premier League in September last year. Dream11 emerged the title sponsor for the IPL, pipping Byju's and Unacademy.
On television, Dream11 came on board as co-presenting sponsor along with PhonePe, Amazon, and Byju's during IPL 2020.
There were associate sponsors across categories, such as cable and wires (Polycab India), fast-moving consumer goods (Procter & Gamble, ITC, Mondelez India, and Coca-Cola), online rummy (Rummy Circle), and financial services (Association of Mutual Funds in India), among others.
IPL this year will revert to its springtime schedule, coming right after the India-England bilateral series, implying that Star Sports -- the official broadcaster of the IPL -- will have two tournaments to sell back-to-back in the first half of 2021.
While that is a handful, some media planners and experts say that categories riding the summer season will hop on board.
"There will be no dearth of advertisers for the IPL this year, despite a surfeit of cricket," says Karan Taurani, vice-president-research, Elara Capital, adding, "Small and large advertisers will be keen to invest in the property."
Cricket certainly seems the flavour of the season this year.