How The Ashes 2021 has become a gateway for brands for rural outreach

A cricket series steeped in history, marking the traditional rivalry between two great cricketing nations – England and Australia – has today also become an event for brands in India to reach out to rural markets. One of the most spectacular sporting events in the history of cricket, the Ashes is regarded as the platinum standard of test cricket, and this year, both Australia and England are at almost par with each other, having won 33 and 32 series, respectively.

The Ashes 2021 got underway from December 8, 2021 and will continue till January 18, 2022. The series is being aired across Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN) channels SONY SIX, SONY TEN 3, and SONY TEN 4, as well as live streamed on the network’s OTT platform, SonyLIV.

In a bid to widen the viewer base for the series, for the first time, Sony has made it easier for cricket fans across India to watch the Test series in four languages – English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

The Sony network has already roped in quite a few advertisers for this elevated series, including BYJU’S, Vodafone, Policy Bazaar, Siggnature Elaichi, Bosch Appliances, Dafa News, Layer'r Shot, among others.

So, how will the series help brands especially in targeting the regional markets? The fact that a non-India series is being broadcast in many languages is expected to increase the game’s appeal in the hinterlands. Here’s how the trade community decodes the Ashes’ potential in the smaller markets of India.

While explaining how the Ashes 2021 series will benefit the TV industry, Sujata Dwibedy, Group Trading Director, Amplifi India, Dentsu, noted that the TV industry has already rebounded. Dwibedy pointed out, “IPL, World Cup, and India-New Zealand kind of accelerated it along with the other reality shows around the festive season. Ashes would be a great series to watch, but it will mainly be viewed by cricket loyalists and not the average Indian viewers. The viewing dips on all non-India matches even in A-League series and the World Cup. IPL works because it is more of family entertainment and every match has Indian players! Also, we have seen that Test formats garner much lower numbers than One Day or T20 formats. So, Ashes 2021 would do better than any other Non-India Test matches played, but not sure what more it would contribute to the TV industry. The viewing would have been better on OTT, SonyLIV, than on TV; however, we must watch out for the impressions.”

Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN) has worked hard to ensure that the historic series reaches a large audience base and provides them with a worthwhile experience. The channel has also brought in some seasoned commentators to cover the series, which will be broadcast in four distinct languages for the first time.

Terming it as a great move, Dwibedy said that the series will help increase the reach across markets. “This would give male-centric brands in regional markets a great opportunity to advertise. It will also attract the retail brands, considering that regional entertainment channels are also priced very high these days, but the question remains on the numbers and the delivery,” she added.

Sharing his views on how regional brands will be benefited from this series, Navin Lachandi, VP - Media Buying, Starcom, said that brands trying to establish a foothold in regional markets will undoubtedly consider ashes. “India’s telecast cricket has been played in different languages for quite some time. However, the fact that a non-India series is being broadcast in many languages may increase the game’s appeal to cricket fans. Hence, the global and national brands looking out to reach the regional part of India will be benefited a lot,” he opined.

B Sridhar, Group Director - Media Services, Innocean Worldwide Communication, while sharing his views on Sony going for a hike in its ad tariffs after the series, remarked that a tariff hike is not practical due to lack of market propensity.

According to Sridhar, “The oldest and biggest rivalry doesn’t matter. The equation of the current day in terms of viewership determines the advertising rates. Unfortunately, the Ashes doesn’t have that working in its favour. But all said and done, I’m actually a huge cricket fanatic. I will enjoy it more as a viewer than thinking too much as a media professional.”

Sridhar further said, “I don’t see the Ashes breaking its previous records, because, for a good part of the Ashes series, the South Africa versus India series would coincide with it. You would certainly expect the India event overlapping a lot with prime time, to have much greater viewership than a non-India event. And the fact that the matches are being played Down Under, which start at about 5.30 am IST, lend themselves worthy only to the cricket fanatics to watch it.”


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