Dropping the ball?


Euro 2012, one of the biggest sporting carnivals globally, appears to be scoring few goals, at least in India. Unlike cricket, the sporting extravaganza which has held sway over many soccer-loving nations is finding it difficult to engage with audiences in India.

Had there been a media and marketing blitz around the event, observers say, it could have caught on with soccer lovers and generated substantial revenue.

Take the case of Adidas, one of the event's sponsors.

The sports goods maker’s global numbers indicate that the brand is leading in almost every respect – products, sales, brand visibility and innovative strengths.

Adidas expects to achieve record sales of well over €1.6 billion in the football category in 2012, surpassing even record sales from the World Cup year 2010 (€1.5 billion in sales). In 2008, the year of the last Euro cup, sales in the football category totalled €1.3 billion.

So is there a case study for Indian marketers?

Interestingly, even in India, the percentage of ad revenue contribution by soccer is in double digits compared to two years ago.

As many as 16 teams from the Euro Zone are participating in the match, but the tournament is generating fewer eyeballs on television. Also, with just one sporting channel telecasting the event, the reach is poor.

For starters, the matches, telecast between 9.30 p.m. and midnight, despite it being peak viewing period, have fewer advertisers opting for them.

“There is immense interest in Euro 2012. But unlike, say, an IPL match, the timings are not conducive. The best matches happen late at night. Also, Neo Sports, the only operator telecasting the match, has a problem with reach. Not many cable operators and DTH companies air the channel,” Novy Kapadia, football commentator, points out.

Kapadia says the event could have been better marketed. “A couple of years ago ESPN had roped in actor John Abraham to promote the game, especially English Premier League, and it augured well for the sport. A similar effort could have been made.”

Neo Sports, the official broadcaster, claims it has seen a phenomenal growth of 53 per cent for the first four games of UEFA Euro 2012, over the last edition. It adds that the all-India viewership has increased by 25 per cent and the total tune-ins too have surged by 34 per cent as compared to Euro 2008.

Prasana Krishnan, COO, Neo Sports Broadcast, claims the opening numbers are fantastic and the high viewership growth over the last edition is a good indication of football’s growing popularity. He believes the combination of prime time scheduling coupled with high quality competitive matches is bound to witness an exponential rise in ratings as the knock-out stage approaches.

He says, “The response from the advertisers has been overwhelming as this is the only premium sporting event in this season that provides wide scale reach of an affluent and younger metro urbanite.”

However, media buying agencies are not too optimistic. On condition of anonymity, they say Indian sponsors are not too keen to place their money on Euro 2012. This has a direct bearing on the advertisements rates.

Even in football-crazy pockets such as Kolkata, Goa, Kerala and Bangalore, the event is not generating any enthusiasm.

“The brand of football is the same, unless, of course, the match is between, say, Germany and France who play interesting matches with their unique brand of dribbling and head hitting shots. Viewer monotony could be another reason,” a senior sports journalist notes.

Compare this with bars and restaurants in Germany and France. Large-size television screens dot almost all streets and enthusiasts cheer their team with their favourite drinks and wearing team jerseys.

Collin Matzashi, a Zimbabwean national living in India, notes, “Unlike in Africa or America, the enthusiasm is subdued in India. Sports enthusiasts wear jerseys and meet at a watering hole and through the game speak a common language – the love for soccer”.

In Bangalore, Manchester United Restaurant and Bar has themed the decor of the restaurant to reflect the Euro craze. But such marketing efforts are few and far between. Compare this with cricket, when even a shack worth its name had beverages named after participating nations.

Even during events such as IPL, online marketers had a field day selling merchandise.

Online retailer Jabong too adds that the sale of football merchandise has taken it by surprise.

“There was a minimalist campaign on Euro 2012 but we are surprised by the demand that the merchandise is generating. Even though it is not as high as for IPL merchandise, it is picking up, suggesting the growing interest in soccer,” Manu Jain, Managing Director of Jabong, says.