MUMBAI Indian cricket fans are not the only cheerleaders for the country at this month's World Cup -- advertisers, sponsors and broadcasters are counting on a home triumph to maximise their investment in the tournament.
The fate of India, one of the favourites for the tournament which gets underway this weekend, will determine the value of tens of millions of dollars that have been pumped in as advertising for the Feb 19-April 2 event.
"If India crash out of the World Cup, it will be devastating. Last minute ad rates will come down, ticket sales will be affected and the interest in the tournament will wane," analyst Rohit Maheshwari of consultancy K R Choksey told Reuters.
Analysts say ESPN Star, which won broadcasting rights, will reserve at least 20 per cent of its ad inventory for last minute sales, hoping to raise rates if India go through.
The 10th edition of the World Cup has so far attracted more than $150 million in advertising revenue, 50 per cent more than the 2007 World Cup, which saw both India and Pakistan making a first-stage exit.
A repeat of that performance on home ground would mean that any last-minute inventory of slots and tickets would suffer, as would viewership numbers.
The sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said it would help the tournament if top teams like India stay in the competition.
"If the host nation goes through till the end, there is a sustained interest. All I can hope for is that the host nations remain engaged as deep into the competition as possible," ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat told Reuters earlier this week.
Last week, tournament director Ratnakar Shetty was quoted as saying that the format of the tournament was changed to ensure that all top teams had a chance to compete.
"Economically, we all know that India is the financial powerhouse of cricket. The exit of India and Pakistan from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 was a disaster for the tournament. The sponsors, broadcasters, tour operators, West Indies Board all lost a lot of money," Shetty told the ESPNStar website.
While sponsors say they would love it if India go through to the finals and win the world Cup, they also want to make sure they leverage their value, regardless of the home team's fate.
"We've hit the ground running even before the start of the World Cup and are leveraging our brand right at the beginning," said Giriraj Bagri of Castrol India, one of the main sponsors of the tournament.
"If India do go on to win, it would be a payback of the kind we can only dream of. But even otherwise, we are leveraging our brand."
According to analysts, the World Cup and the domestic Indian Premier League (IPL), scheduled to kick off in April, will attract $330 million in advertising revenue alone.
"Advertisers are increasing their budgets by more than 15 to 20 percent to make sure they get eyeballs in both major cricket events this summer," Sanjoy Chakraborty, chief executive officer of Dentsu Media, told Reuters.
ESPN-Star Sports, which bagged the broadcast rights for the World Cup, said the event would be telecast in 181 countries, and would also be streamed live on their website and on mobile, opening a new avenue for revenue generation.
More than a quarter of India's total ad revenue ($2.41 billion) will be allocated to cricket this year, an industry analyst who did not want to be identified, told Reuters.
(Editing by Jon Bramley; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)