"As a matter of strategy, we did not recommend cricket to our clients since we realised the ad recall factor was going to be extremely low. Pledging big-time money on events like the World Cup is essentially a big gamble," said Nandini Dias, national media director of Media Interface, a subsidiary of fcb Ulka. Media Interface recently completed a study evaluating the impact of World Cup advertising on target consumers. It polled 400 adults in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kochi at various stages during the league matches.
Respondents were quizzed for their views on predicting the winner, the level of recall of commercials, tournament and telecast sponsors and "best of luck" campaigns. "Our research showed that among all campaigns, Pepsi-primarily because it had such a high-profile celebrity endorsement and a huge budget-was the brand which performed the best. But for the rest, it was surprises galore," Dias told Outlook. Pepsi, Emirates Airlines, Vodafone and Natwest Bank are official sponsors of the Cup. The study found that only Pepsi got its money's worth with 73 per cent of respondents recalling the brand. The other three brands failed, if only because the Natwest and Vodafone promotions were not aimed at the Indian audience. <[p> Says Deepak Jolly, vice-president, Pepsi: "Movies and cricket are the two passions of this country. Naturally, the Shah Rukh-Sachin amalgamation worked for us wonderfully. And the fact that we-for the first time-split our campaign, it helped us enhance recall." Coca Cola's Karishma Kapoor campaign, according to the study, achieved a 22 per cent recall.
As soon as India's form dipped and there were fears of a possible drop in viewership, some top advertisers initiated moves with various channels to replace their campaigns if possible. Says Sajal Mukherjee, Rediffusion dy&r vice-president (media planning): "The risk factor in a tournament like this is always there. Ads concerning individual stars, team spirit, team confidence and victory were likely to be affected in the event of the Indian team's poor performance. Don't expect me to continue the team spirit campaign (of Maruti) now. Agreement with the channels will not allow any agency to pull out ad campaigns but there will definitely be changes."
The study seems to burst a few generations-old myths associated with high-spend ads. Sample this. Asked about the official sponsors of the World Cup, 26 per cent respondents believed that LG Electronics was among the official tournament sponsors. Among espn/Star Sports telecast sponsors, Samsung and Hero Honda had a recall of 11 and 10 per cent respectively, while only one per cent of the respondents recalled Clinic All Clear commercials featuring Rahul Dravid.Another telecast sponsor Reid and Taylor suitings, even though endorsed by Pierce Brosnan, had zero recall, perhaps because interest in suitings is low during a cricket tournament.
"Unless planned properly, huge spends don't help create and communicate a definitive property. At LG, we realised the team could end up losing, so we focused on a message wishing luck. For a company which has been in India for just two years, we have done relatively well with brand awareness, penetration and sales," says Ajay Kapila, general manager (sales), LG Electronics. But, says Dias: "With this huge array of products and little ad-time for a lot of money, the recall value remains insignificant, unless you spend big and take an even bigger gamble." Indeed, the scariest part is that even after Rs 900 crore was spent, 12 per cent of the survey's respondents could not recall a single brand whose ads they had seen during the World Cup.