Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Counting the costs of early World Cup exits

AFP , NEW DELHI

A man walks in front of a promotion billboard featuring Pakistani cricket legend Imran Khan, second right, Pakistan's World Cup cricket team captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, second left, and team members Younis Khan, left, and Kamran Akmal in a street in Islamabad, Pakistan, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

The stunning exits of Pakistan and India from cricket's World Cup has left one of the game's biggest sponsors reviewing its future in the sport and sent the advertising world into a tailspin.

Giants such as Pepsi have had to rethink marketing campaigns centred around the teams, Indian advertisers are demanding cut-price television spots and in Pakistan the ad industry reckons losses will run into millions of dollars.

"We are sunk," said Delhi-based advertising executive Rajmohan Singh. "No one wants to advertise any more. Is there a World Cup going on? Where? My figures don't show that."

South Korea's LG Electronics said it was unsure if it would remain a global partner of the International Cricket Council (ICC) when sponsorship contracts are renegotiated later this year.

LG, which jumped on the cricket bandwagon seven years ago, said its priorities had changed.

India failed to advance to the Super Eight round last week after losing two of their three games in the preliminary stage.

Pakistan went out at the hands of minnows Ireland in one of the sport's biggest shocks.

Five ICC sponsors -- LG, Pepsi, Hutch, Hero Honda and Indian Oil -- focus their cricket advertising on India, where passion for the sport is a sponsors' dream.

The ICC has not revealed its new partners after selling global media rights for the next eight years to ESPN-Star television network for an estimated US$1.1 billion.

The deal takes effect after this World Cup and covers 18 ICC tournaments, including the World Cup in 2011 in South Asia and in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand.

Sony Entertainment Television, which paid a reported US$300 million to beam this year's World Cup and other ICC tournaments to India over the past seven years, did not even bid for the new rights.

"We did not think it would have been a profitable deal," said its head Kunal Dasgupta, who is already struggling to prevent advertisers from pulling out of this World Cup.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation, which protects the interests of the TV networks, had to step in when advertisers asked Sony Entertainment Television to renegotiate rates because of falling viewing figures as India and Pakistan returned home.

"It is a commercial contract and has to be honored," a foundation official, Naresh Chahal, said. "When India reached the final in 2003, did Sony ask advertisers to pay a higher amount on sealed deals?"

Sony is braced for losses as it charged US$6,000 for a 10-second spot for India matches and only US$2,200 for games not featuring India.

Pepsi, like many other companies, has withdrawn costly World Cup-specific advertisements targeting the Indian team.

The head of the Pakistan Advertising Association, Masood Hashmi, estimated losses there at "billions of Pakistani rupees, maybe 2 to 3 billion" (US$33 million to US$50 million).

"Advertising companies have launched schemes featuring Pakistani players worth millions of rupees but the big drop in viewership of the World Cup has had a negative impact," Hashmi added.

Many campaigns and commercials have had to be redesigned, while some on TV channels and in the print media have been stopped outright, he said.

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