Star Sports begins Asia Cup blitz; focus on regional feeds, interactivity

After the Indian Premier League, Star Sports is gearing up for another round of cricket with the Unimoni Asia Cup 2018, which will commence from September 15. Dubbed ‘The Tournament of Neighbours’, the cricket event will see Asian neighbours – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the winner of Asia Cup 2018 qualifier battle it out to become the champions of Asia. 

In a bid to create buzz for the tournament, Star Sports has rolled out a quirky film, ‘Knock Knock’, which is based on the creative insight that one’s neighbour’s success will always be a consistent reminder of their own failure. The film subtly takes on the age old ‘Neighbour vs Neighbour’ rivalry, and brings alive the neighbourhood rivalry in a way which is bound to leave viewers with a smile on their faces. The campaign aims to ignite a flurry of emotions – pride, merriment, euphoria and most importantly, the love of cricket across the sub-continent.  

The campaign has been conceptualised by Star Sports’ in-house creative communications team, while Nirvana Films is the production house. 

Gautam Thakar, CEO, Star Sports, commented, “The Asia Cup is a competitive, thrilling and action-packed celebration of historic cricket rivalries between neighbours. It is where nations from the Asian continent take on each other in one of the most exciting cricket tournaments in the world. The core creative thought – ‘Neighbour vs Neighbour’ – presented by Star Sports will showcase the cricketing rivalries that the Asia Cup has to offer.” 

Though Thakar refrained from sharing specific numbers, he said that advertiser interest for Asia Cup is very high given that it has been a long time since Indian and Pakistan had faced each other in Dubai or in the Middle East, which probably last happened during the Sharjah Cup days. 

He noted, “We’ve had a good run against Pakistan in most World Cup scenarios, except for the last final in the Champions Trophy. So, expectations of India hitting back are high. I think in this particular format for Asia Cup, there could be up to three India-Pakistan matches – one in the Group stage, one in the Super Four stage and obviously, if both of them reach the finals. There haven’t been too many times recently where there were three potential India-Pakistan clashes. I think that is driving not just sponsor interest, but user interest as well.” 

He also believed that the Asia Cup will be a big kick-off for the big ICC tournaments. As is known, Star Sports has the cricket coverage right under the purview of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). 

However, despite the cricket frenzy, Thakar feels that on a more macro-level, sports is still in the very early stages in India. He remarked, “I think the amount of time that people spend watching and playing sports is still low compared to the rest of the world, which is actually exciting. There is a lot of potential in India. The momentum is only growing and we couldn’t be more excited to kick off this challenger with cricket.” 

He also underscored the rise of women’s cricket, which is slowly but surely making its mark. “We have the women’s T20 coming up in November in the West Indies. Each of these events will draw different audiences and will continue to grow the sport. It is an exciting time for sports in India,” Thakar asserted. 

The Star Sports CEO also mentioned two key factors contributing to growth of sports viewership in India – digital platforms like OTT and focus on regional languages. He acknowledged the role of Hotstar, Star India’s OTT platform, in whipping up cricket frenzy during IPL 2018. “Some of the numbers that we saw on IPL in terms of viewership set world records, like multi-million concurrent users,” he noted. 

Thakar further said, “The big goal here is how do we engage our users, because Hotstar is truly a two-way medium. Hence, we are making big bets on Hotstar. Interactivity is the next thing that we will invest more in. You can expect much more of what you saw in terms of newer and fresher formats. But the goal will always be to get the users engaged while watching the game.” 

With the success seen in the language commentary during IPL 2018, Asia Cup 2018 too will see commentary in English, Hindi, and Tamil. Thakar is also excited about the launch of Star Sports Kannada.

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