Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi, Sept. 14

AS the boisterous crowd celebrated England regaining the Ashes after 16 years at Trafalgar Square, advertisers in India also seem to have got a bang for their buck.

The Ashes series aired on ESPN-Star Sports attracted nearly 23 advertisers, including Titan, Alpenliebe, Pepsi, Cadbury's, Tata Motors, MetLife and Bharti. In fact, media planners said towards the end of the series there was very little inventory left for advertisers to buy and the ad rates too increased by 50-100 per cent. Normally, a 10-second advertising spot for non-India series hovers between Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,000 depending on the competing nations.

According to Mr Sanjay Kailash, Vice-President, Ad Sales and Business Development, ESPN Software India, "Most of our inventory was sold out right at the start of the Australia-England series. We were able to add only a few advertisers later who paid a premium." He said the channel had pitched the series as one of the best non-India series. "Everybody expected the clash to be a close series, but nobody expected England to win," Mr Kailash said.

Said Mr Ajit Varghese, Chief Operating Officer, Madison Media Infinity, "The Ashes has been the best series in recent months. And after the third test match, interest among advertisers grew tremendously with clients enquiring about the series."

"The series has done well due to the sheer quality of cricket. Though the Ashes did not directly overlap with the Triangular series between India, Zimbabwe and New Zealand, hardcore cricket buffs seemed to have tuned in. Also, India's poor performance in the tri-series could have also drawn the audiences to a more exciting contest," added Mr Sandip Tarkas, CEO, Media Direction (part of RK Swamy/BBDO).

Data from TAM Media Research for the first four test matches covering males, over the age of 15 years belonging to SEC ABC in cable and satellite (C&S) households has indicated that the Ashes reached out to 30.4 million C&S individuals in India.

Traditional non-India cricket markets like Mumbai got 3.5 television rating points (TRPs), while Kolkata registered 2.9 TRPs, Delhi 2.4 points and Hyderabad recorded 2.3 points. The non-traditional smaller centres have also been encouraging with high ratings. "The advantage of playing a series in England is that at least half the match is available here at prime time. Hence, the viewership has been high," said Mr Kailash.

Added Mr Atul Phadnis, Vice-President, TAM India, "Advertisers look for audience, cost-benefit and environment. The series was relatively clutter-free in terms of advertising compared to an India-centric series.

"Also, the perception about the series is that it would normally attract the slightly upmarket Indian male and, therefore, the profile would be different unlike an India series which attracts the general public as well."

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 15, 2005)
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