Indian firms rush to cash in on World Cup craze
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Indian firms rush to cash in on World Cup craze

Wednesday, 29 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: With a cricket-crazy nation counting days to the World Cup in South Africa, Indian companies are seeking to cash in on the fever in a market that could be one of the world's most lucrative for the game.

A host of companies ranging from soft drink makers to electronic majors to automobile companies to financial services providers have embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign with the World Cup as the selling theme.

Hardly a consumer product in the country -- whose population of over a billion has easily the world's largest pool of cricket fans -- has not been linked to the World Cup to be held from February 8 to March 23.

"It (the marketing campaign) is something that comes naturally to India as a country where cricket is a religion," said Kapil Chug, a consultant with retail industry research firm KSA Technopak.

"Everyone knows that the Indian consumer is going to be glued to TV sets. So the most logical thing is to catch on to the buzzword and grow with it," Chug told IANS. "Every company today is trying to do it."

The start of the World Cup in South Africa is being greeted with something akin to ecstasy in India.

It is as if the cup is already in the hands of India's "Men in Blue", going by the aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns preceding the six-week event.

All the companies - World Cup main sponsors like LG and Pepsi, their business rivals Samsung and Coca-Cola and other firms such as HSBC and Philips - are trying to outdo one another in promotions, ranging from the simple to the outlandish.

"We have earmarked $30 million for the marketing exercise during the World Cup," said Ganesh Mahalingam, general manager (marketing) of LG Electronics India, the local arm of the South Korean consumer goods giant LG.

"It's a brand building exercise. More than product selling, we are aiming to create a long lasting impression in the consumers' minds about the company," he added.

As part of the LG campaign, the company is offering one LG World Cup Gold Pass on buying any product. The winner of the pass will get to see the cricketing action live for the entire period with a companion.

Also on offer are 600 LG World Cup Silver Passes for individual matches and hundreds of thousands of LG World Cup souvenirs.

Samsung, LG's rival in the consumer electronics market, has launched the Team Samsung India First offer for the colour television category.

This promotion, valid between January 15 and March 25, entitles a customer to win a "sure shot gift" with a four-year warranty with any Samsung colour TV purchased during the promotion.

The total value of the gifts is 250 million, while the total cost of the promotion is 300 million.

"We are looking at spending around 500 million on cricket in the first quarter itself," said R. Zutshi, director of Samsung India.

According to the Consumer Electronics and Television Manufacturers Association, sales of colour TVs are expected to post a growth of 50 percent in the January-March quarter over the same period last year.

"For Samsung, the association with cricket fits in with our efforts to enhance our brand awareness and reach all over the country, even as we are continuously enhancing our product portfolio to reach out to a wider customer base," Zutshi added.

Said Rajeev Bakshi, chairman of PepsiCo India Holdings Private Ltd: "Our World Cup campaign is positioned to connect with cricket lovers across the country. While we are engaged in it we don't expect any short-term gains."

PepsiCo India last week announced the launch of a slew of new products and promotional campaigns ahead of the World Cup.

"We have a stake as far as the game is concerned. If the game is successful, we are successful," said Bakshi.

As part of its marketing initiative, Pepsi launched a limited edition variant called Pepsi Blue, an icy blue coloured cola.

Pepsi is also set to introduce a World Cup commemorative soft drink in "non-returnable" bottles with images of popular Indian cricketers on them. The 250 ml bottles will be priced at 12.

The soft drink major's other promotion campaigns include the launch of various contests under which four winners would be taken to South Africa for the World Cup final on March 23.

Mantraonline.com, one of India's leading Web services providers, has also rushed to cash on the World Cup craze by launching new services and "user friendly" initiatives.

"We have planned a slew of World Cup specials to attract more Internet users. We plan to launch it on February 3 and it will continue for the entire duration of the event," said Dhiraj Ahuja, executive (content department) of mantraonline.com.

Chug of KSA Technopak says the buyer behaviour does change as a result of the promotions and freebies that are thrown in by the consumer goods companies.

"As a result of the cricket season, the sales are expected to go up by 15 to 20 percent for a few products in the consumer durables segment. Companies see this as an opportunity, but not everyone is able to increase sales to a great extent.

"It becomes a question of how much visibility the company is able to get, which is directly proportional to the advertisement budget."
Source: IANS
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