ALL work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But if he were an international cricketer, all play and no work would definitely make him one of the rich guys.

The game has become astoundingly lucrative of late, so much so that a mega event like the ongoing World Cup looks more like a fiscal fiesta than a sporting spectacle.

As the cricketing giants battle it out on the pitch, the commercial arena is no less exciting. Let’s just take a look at the numbers from our neighbour: the ongoing World Cup, hosted by India from Oct 5 to Nov 19, is expected to supercharge the nation’s economy, with some estimates placing potential earnings at a staggering ₹220 billion ($2.6bn).

Of this, a major chunk (₹120bn) comes from TV rights and sponsorship, followed by ₹50bn from screenings and food delivery, ₹22bn from ticket sales, ₹10bn from event management, and ₹8.5bn from foreign and domestic tourists, according to the Bank of Baroda’s estimates cited by Bloomberg.

Global companies are shelling out millions of dollars to get their names seen during the World Cup and tap as many of India’s 1.4bn people as possible.

Brands tapping consumers in Pakistan fork out Rs90,000 for 10 seconds on Cricket World Cup ads

A striking ₹300,000 ($3,600) per second is being funnelled into Cricket World Cup advertisements, reflecting the intense competition to capture eyeballs. The rates reportedly doubled to a hefty ₹600,000 per second during the high-stakes Pakistan-India clash on Oct 14 in Ahmedabad.

Some of the major brands fronting the spending spree include names like Coca-Cola Co., Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay and Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

Besides, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) roster of official partners boasts names like Saudi Aramco, Emirates, and Nissan Motor Co., underscoring the global reach of the tournament. Disney Star, wielding the broadcast rights for the World Cup, has allied with 26 sponsors, including Emirates, Booking.com, Nissan and Mastercard.

Pakistan’s landscape

The World Cup fervour also runs high in Pakistan, with the advertising market experiencing its own surge. Brands eager to connect with cricket watchers have already invested a hefty sum, with industry insiders citing a spend between Rs4bn and Rs4.7bn as of Nov 1.

The battle for ad slots is fierce. A sports channel official notes that brands are forking out as much as Rs92,000 for a 10-second slot. However, the investment varies widely, with the most extravagant spender having lavished Rs700m on TV ads, while the most modest spend is reported at Rs55m.

Karachi-based Pulse Consultant (Pvt) Ltd, a marketing and social research firm, has found that 115 brands — spanning 62 categories and belonging to 63 companies — are vying for consumer attention with their 134 ad copies.

Around 50 companies have placed their bets exclusively on PTV Sports, while 36 are choosing to engage audiences on Ten Sports and A Sports.

Of the 115 brands, 35 also have a digital presence, whereas 24 are digital-only. The categories range from tea, biscuits, smartphones, telecom companies to detergents, soaps and shampoos.

Pulse Consultant CEO Kashif Hafeez tells Dawn that the viewership for big sporting events and during Ramazan is so substantial that some companies channel their entire annual ad budgets into these periods, eschewing ad expenses for the remaining year.

A series of surveys conducted by the research firm also reveals a growing engagement with the sport: from a humble 32pc of respondents tuning in during the World Cup’s first week to a peak of 57pc in mid-October, before slightly falling to 50pc.

Besides, 5pc to 9pc of the respondents said that while they didn’t watch matches, they regularly checked scores online using different online sources.

Interestingly, TV remained the preferred medium to watch (54pc respondents) during the initial two waves of the survey (from Oct 6-12 and Oct 15-16). But it was taken over by mobile in later periods, with 55pc saying they watched matches on smartphones. Another 3pc to 4pc people watched matches on computers and laptops.

This significant migration from conventional broadcasting to online streaming is led by over-the-top (OTT) services like ARY Zap, Daraz, Jazz Tamasha, Myco, PTVFlix, Shoq TV, and Tapmad, which are bringing live action to cricket aficionados at the palm of their hands.

As of Nov 1, both Tamasha and Myco were among the top 10 entertainment apps on both Android and iOS platforms. Jazz Chief Digital Officer Aamer Ejaz recently told Dawn that more than 14.4m viewers used Tamasha to watch the Asia Cup 2023 (held from Aug 17 to Sept 17).

Mr Hafeez of Pulse Consultant agrees that there’s a noticeable ascent in digital viewership and that the platform better enables companies to track progress. Yet, he maintains that electronic media retains supremacy over its digital counterpart.

However, a decisive element influencing this, Mr Hafeez says, is the timing of the matches. Electronic media takes the lead during prime evening broadcasts, while digital platforms tend to outpace it for games aired early in the day or late at night.

But no matter the platform, the frequency of the ads also plays a crucial role, Mr Hafeez notes.

And here comes the catch: brands with deep pockets take the cake by putting their ads more frequently in front of potential customers, thus enhancing brand recall and consequently driving up sales.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 6th, 2023

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