Even as Indian sports lovers continue to celebrate the stunning victory of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) over Kings XI Punjab in the just-concluded action-packed seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the broadcaster Multi Screen Media (MSM) has moved on to a new game—World Cup Soccer (Or FIFA World Cup, as it is popularly known as). As the exclusive broadcaster, MSM has planned bigger treats for its IPL flock of fans, advertisers and sponsors together to ensure that they do not move out but stay on its own ground, er, platform. The network is airing the World Cup on its sports channel Sony Six supported by a marketing blitz to attract viewers and marketers to the tournament which it believes is the biggest television event after the IPL.
Today more than 200 countries play professional soccer with 265 million or nearly 4% of the world population (including 5 million officials) actively involved in the game. Within that, the FIFA World Cup is the most watched televised sports in history.
According to industry estimates, almost 3.2 billion people were estimated to have tuned into the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Compared to this, Euro Cup 2012, the other most watched global sports event, generated an average viewership of 150 million for each match. The English Premier League (EPL) meanwhile, is broadcast in 212 territories to an audience of 4.7 billion.
Back home, industry experts say that football is the single fastest growing sport in the country. “Today, most children in major cities across India follow an EPL club or a Spanish club. Global events such as the Champions League of the World Cup have a significant and burgeoning audience. Football is seen as aspirational and a cool sport by the youth today. Players such as Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have created a huge impact. The quality of production of international football being beamed into Indian households has also helped in an increased TV audience,” says Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, KWAN and former vice-president — sports, Globosports, a sports and celebrity management firm.
Advertisers follow eyeballs and no surprises, therefore, that a lot of marketers have begun betting their ad dollars on the game, too. Rohit Gupta, president at MSM, says football is gradually but clearly establishing itself as the second sport option in India amongst advertisers. “In 2013, the total