Asia Cup 2018: Star Sports puts weight behind upcoming cricket tournament

Star India’s sports broadcast network Star Sports is gearing up for an intensive sports calendar for the next several months, starting with the Asia Cup that kicks off on September 15. It already has brands such as Coca-Cola, BYJU’s, Dominos, Hero Motors, Google, Britannia, Nerolac, Droom and Dream 11 on board while Unimoni, the newly rebranded UAE Exchange (India) is the tournament’s title sponsor (on ground). 

Industry estimates put the advertising rates for the series between Rs 400,000 and Rs 500,000 per 10 seconds. However, the rates for India-Pakistan games (the tournament has three potential face-offs between the two) are likely to be higher. Sources said that Star India was targeting close to Rs 2 billion in TV ad-sales and hoped to add another Rs 500 million through digital ad-sales. 

The tournament serves as the perfect launch podium for the busy cricket season that will culminate with the ICC Cricket World Cup next year. And the programming that is being devised around the tournament is likely to set the framework for other cricketing events on the network’s calendar. Similarly, the Star Sports campaign for Asia Cup is expected to set the tone and pitch for campaigns for the rest of the season, too.

The team that has been entrusted with the Asia Cup campaign is the same one that designed the popular ‘Mauka’ (opportunity) campaign in 2015 around the World Cup. It generated a huge number of views and comments at the time and was the second most-watched ad on YouTube. The network is hoping to repeat its success with the Asia Cup.  

The network will not only focus on national advertisers but is also in talks with local advertisers since the tournament will be available in three languages—English, Hindi and Tamil. The success of the Tamil feed during the IPL has given Star India confidence that the market can be monetised. “With languages, you can customise (the production/packaging) to suit local preferences like local language commentary. It helps grow the sports’ viewership in that it attracts a lot more people who are interested in the sport but do not have access to it in their language of choice,” says Gautam Thakar, CEO, Star Sports. 

The Asia Cup will be followed by the West Indies tour of India and after that, there is the women’s T-20 World Cup, and the India tour of New Zealand. Just before the World Cup, the network will host the Vivo Indian Premier League for the second year in its five year rights tenure. Star Sports will use the interim period, between the Asia Cup and the World Cup 2019, to build on the game’s marketing and packaging, all culminating in the telecast of the grand event. 

In terms of packaging, the network has decided to carry on with some of the show formats that found success during the IPL for the Asia Cup, which could make their way into future events too. The ‘Select Dug-Out’ format, which was introduced on Star Sports Select during IPL 2018, will be back on air. Under this format, there are fewer ad breaks and between overs, a team of experts provides an over-by-over analysis of the game. 

“We got very positive feedback from core cricket lovers and will bring it (the show) back for the Asia Cup. There will be limited ads and a panel of experts who will analyse the game. Since this series has a longer format of the game, we will be tweaking the format to better suit the 50-over format as opposed to the 20-over IPL format,” says Thakar. 

The 50-over format also means that Star Sports has more advertising inventory to sell. “The rates get a boost because of a couple of factors. First, the teams are known, and there are a few established rivalries between teams. India-Pakistan is a classic rivalry, but Sri Lanka and Pakistan are rivals too and Bangladesh has caused quite a few upsets in previous editions of the cup. It is an interesting series in that sense. Also, the timing is conducive to prime time viewing,” says a media planner.