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Few Takers For Delhi 2010

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With only 200 days left for the Commonwealth Games 2010, the organising committee has been able to garner only about Rs 250 crore in sponsorship against a target of Rs 960 crore — about 60 per cent of the Games’ operating budget of Rs 1,620 crore. “Over the past seven months, we have knocked on the doors of over 150 sponsors,” says Harish Krishnamachar, vice-president for South Asia at World Sport Group India (WSG), charged with finding sponsorships for the Games, in association with Australia’s Sports Marketing and Management, which owns the rights to market the Games.
So far, only five have signed up — Indian Railways as a lead partner, Air India as official airline partner, Central Bank of India as banking partner, Hero Honda as motorcycle partner and also as presenting partner for the Queen’s Baton Relay, and NTPC as power supply partner. Sources in the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CGOC) say many companies are daunted by the hefty price tags associated with the three categories of sponsorship deals: ‘lead’ (Rs 100 crore), ‘partner’ (Rs 50 crore) and ‘sponsor’ (Rs 25 crore). “The association is over-priced compared to the potential of the Games,” says Prashanth Kumar, head of Group M’s media planning. “Many of our clients in auto, telecom and FMCG sectors have either declined or are yet to finalise the value of the association.”
The Games, with an expected footfall of about 100,000 tourists, 2.2 million in-stadia spectators across 17 venues, and 8,000 sportsmen and team officials, will be one of the biggest sports events hosted by India. The Games’ viewership assures media coverage for three months in 71 countries, besides related publicity. “Delhi 2010 will be broadcast in India by Prasar Bharti, which is also working on high-definition broadcast,” says Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of  CGOC. “International distribution has been confirmed for leading markets such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.”
The lack of sponsors is, hence, a worry. Krishnamachar says three more firms may sign the agreement, but declined to name them. Moreover, although Coca-Cola is not talking, negotiations between the beverages giant and CGOC are believed to be half-way through. “Till about four months back, sponsors were concerned about the pace of the Games’ (construction) activities and were sceptical about their participation, but now that perception is changing as work speeds up,” says Krishnamachar.
However, it is not just the pace of development that has potential sponsors shying away; there are other issues as well. For instance, the Games typically has to contend with other international events that are more lucrative for sponsors. “Every four years, the Games competes for sponsorships with the Winter Olympics (recently concluded) and the FIFA World Cup (June-July 2010),” says Bhanot. “This year, other than the World Expo (May-Oct 2010) and IPL (Indian Premier League), London 2012 is also active in the market. This competitive environment is compounded by a fragile global economy recovering from the financial crisis.”
There are also grumblings about the lack of hype over the event. “An event as huge as the Games is not being given due publicity,” says Manoj Malkani, vice-president at MPG, a media planning agency, one of whose clients was approached to be a sponsor, but soon lost interest. “There is no advertisement, no hype. A marketing strategy is lacking. The Games’ publicity should ideally have been better than that of IPL.” (See ‘To A Great Innings’)
As a result, some of the country’s biggest brands have declined to associate with the Games, for now. When contacted, the likes of Pepsi, Videocon, Tatas, Reliance (ADAG) and Vodafone remained unsure of associating with the Games. “We have our events calendar fully blocked for various sporting events for the year, the biggest being IPL,” says a spokesperson of Aircel. “We have not considered the Games.” With corporate India shying away and mostly public sector companies coming forward, will we see another government bailout? 
suneera dot tandon at abp dot in
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 22-03-2010)

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