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Why Sony is very excited about the FIFA World Cup

By Urvi Malvania
June 09, 2018 09:25 IST
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Sony eyes a ₹2 billion payoff from telecasting the Fifa World Cup, reports Urvi Malvania.

FIFA World Cup

IMAGE: Football has grown in popularity since the 2014 World Cup. Photograph: FIFA World Cup/Twitter

Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN), the cluster of sports channels under the Sony Pictures Network India (SPN), could be looking at a ₹2 billion payoff from the FIFA World Cup 2018.

This is the ad sales and on-air sponsorship money that the broadcaster is targeting this edition, a jump of over 50% from the last one, according to persons in the know.

SPN is the official broadcaster for the FIFA World Cup 2018, which will be telecast from June 14.

The network is in talks with multiple brands for on-air advertising and sponsorship. However, sources say that final contracts are expected to be signed next week, closer to the start of the tournament.

Some of the potential advertisers include Airtel and Hero MotoCorp.

Handset maker Vivo and beverage giant Coca-Cola are global commercial partners of the event, and have the first right of refusal for partnership at the local level, and are expected to take up the opportunity to advertise on the network.


Sources also say that advertisers new to investing on sports properties may also bite the bait and be part of the roster of brands advertising on-air during the tournament this year.

"The (media) planner and buyer community is very excited about the World Cup this year. For one, the popularity of football has grown quite a bit over the last four years. And this time around, the match timings are also suitable for Indian viewers," says Vineet Sodhani, chief executive officer, Spatial Access.

"The delay in signing on the dotted line (by advertisers) is on account of IPL (Indian Premier League) fatigue. There is some resistance there," Sodhani adds.

Planners and buyers agree that if the event were 15 days later, the traction as far as ad sales go would have been much better.

FIFA World Cup

IMAGE: Advertisers new to investing on sports properties may bite the bait. Photograph: FIFA World Cup/Twitter

"In fact, the initial expectation, in Sony and outside, was ₹2.5 billion (in terms of ad revenue). But now that advertisers are resisting, it may boil down to who blinks first, and if the broadcaster buckles, then ₹2 billion in ad sales would be the number to go by. However, if the network plays hardball, then it could stand to earn more," says a media planner privy to the discussions.

Football has grown in popularity since the 2014 World Cup, also telecast on SPN.

This is, in part, due to the rising popularity of the Indian Super League and interest in international leagues like the English Premier League, Copa America and La Liga.

The emergence of football stars from the country and the fact that India hosted the FIFA Under-17 World Cup last year are also contributing factors.

FIFA World Cup

IMAGE: A screen shot of Sony's campaign Meri Doosri Country. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sony Pictures Sports Network

In 2014, SPN had earned close to ₹1.3 billion in ad sales from the World Cup, with spot rates (ad rates per 10 seconds of commercial time) ranging between ₹150,000 and ₹170,000.

This year, the network aims to sell inventory at ₹200,000 to ₹225,000 per 10 seconds.

The matches are going to be telecast in four languages -- Hindi, English, Bengali and Malayalam.

The English feed will be telecast on the SONY TEN 2 SD and HD channels, the Hindi feed will be aired on the SONY TEN 3 SD and HD channels while the Bengali and Malayalam feeds will be available on the SONY ESPN SD channel (the two languages will be part of the audio feed option).

In order to promote the tournament, the network has released a campaign called Meri Doosri Country.

It is driven on the insight that while the Indian football team may not be among the contenders for the World Cup, there is an audience that catches all the action, and even 'adopts' a country to support during telecast.

"After analysing the data we found football to be the second-most popular sport in India. It is also the one in which India is not represented at the highest level. We are still not in the FIFA Top 32 countries. But we found that there is a football audience and there is a FIFA audience," says Kedar Teny, head of marketing and OAP, sports cluster, SPN.

"Every four years, there is a set of audience that comes back to FIFA (the World Cup). This helped us understand the process and the phenomenon better," Teny adds.

The campaign includes a 360-degree approach, including use of augmented reality and virtual reality. It is spread across television, digital, print, and radio and is being telecast in four languages: English, Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam.

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Urvi Malvania
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