In India, cricket is more than just a sport; it's a fervent passion that courses through the veins of millions of viewers and attracts a lot of advertising attention.
And so it wasn't a surprise that when the ICC World Cup 2023 kicked off, brands looked to grab their share of the advertising pie on television and digital during this big-ticket event.
But alongside these TV and digital, there's one medium that's been a steadfast companion to cricket – radio.
Radio has a long-standing tradition of delivering cricket commentary to the masses, and even as the advertising landscape undergoes significant change, it continues to hold its own during mega-events like the World Cup.
In this ever-evolving advertising landscape, radio networks are finding innovative ways to connect fans with their beloved sport and brands with their audiences.
Experts dived into how radio, with its wide-reaching presence, continues to play a crucial role in enhancing the sporting event experience for fans across India.
Unlocking radio's potential during the World Cup
Rupali Chavan, senior vice president - client engagement, MudraMax, shared that even when Disney+ Hotstar is offering the tournament free to view on mobiles, radio will add to the incremental reach.
While the convenience of over-the-top (OTT) viewing is undeniable, Chavan recognised the challenges faced by commuters in metros and mini metros, particularly during their morning and evening travels.
Chavan remarked, "For those behind the wheel, tuning into OTT platforms is not a viable option, making radio the ideal medium to receive instant updates and live commentary. In rural areas where internet connectivity remains a challenge in certain locations, radio plays a pivotal role in expanding the reach, leveraging its years of presence and widespread distribution."
Chavan delved into the statistics, revealing that as per the 2023 database of TGI, out of a base of 84.7 crore individuals, a staggering 6.2 crore owns a car. This translates to a substantial base of over 5 crore listeners tuning into radio daily during peak hours. The accessibility and universality of radio, especially in vehicles, position it as the go-to choice for those wanting to stay connected with the World Cup action.
Navigating new advertising frontiers for radio
In the world of cricket and radio, Nisha Narayanan, director and COO, Red FM & Magic FM, acknowledged the deep-rooted connection by asserting that Indians follow cricket like a religion.
Radio and cricket have a longstanding bond, serving as the first medium for the masses to savour live commentary of cricket matches. While private radio networks like hers are constrained from delivering live commentary due to legal constraints, they find innovative ways to engage cricket enthusiasts during international tournaments.
Narayanan emphasised that even as television and online streaming have gained popularity, radio still brings an unparalleled level of excitement to the game.
“It's a non-intrusive, companion medium that has consistently kept enthusiasts updated on scores, field excitements, and expert opinions. To enhance the listening experience, radio has incorporated elements such as trivia, contests, and online activities, all designed to keep the audience engaged and entertained," she shared.
Abe Thomas, CEO, RBNL, delved into the transformation of radio from its traditional role as a medium for cricket commentary.
He noted that in the current digital age, content related to cricket is gaining prominence across various platforms, compelling radio players to explore innovative avenues for monetisation beyond conventional audio updates.
Thomas shared, “As passions run high among cricket fans, they are actively seeking multiple ways to express their fervour for their favourite teams and players."
Thomas identified gamification, online video marketing services, and creative brand integrations as the emerging trends that can pave the way for radio advertising's evolution.
"Cricket, being a revered sport in India, provides a unique opportunity for brands to connect with a passionate and engaged audience. The palpable excitement surrounding the game has made radio's mass local reach and effectiveness an attractive choice for brands looking to maximise their visibility and connect with their target audiences,” he added.
Shaping listener experiences and brand recognition
In the world of cricket and radio advertising, Narayanan laid out how Red FM aims to hit a sixer this World Cup.
She remarked, "We are doing it the Red FM way by making a lot of noise through our innovative campaign - Quiz India Movement."
This year, Red FM shifted the spotlight on their listeners who have been made on-air experts.
"Since we cannot stream, we still can scream!" she exclaimed. “The essence of the strategy is to create a buzz around the cricketing extravaganza. We delve into 'behind the scenes' stories, provide in-depth analysis, share trivia, and host quizzes, all designed to keep the audience engaged and entertained.”
Thomas echoed the sentiment that cricket transcends mere sport in India; it's an emotion that unites the entire nation.
He believed that radio, as the voice of the masses, plays a pivotal role in amplifying this emotion.
He shared, "At Big FM, the emphasis lies in crafting a captivating fan experience with features such as pre and post-match analysis, fan stories, interactive play-along games, spirited cheer anthems, and much more. We've introduced exciting digital campaigns and fostered partnerships, like their online bingo games, such as 'Big bingo cricket'. These initiatives not only boost brand visibility but also adapt seamlessly to different sporting events.”
Brands making music through radio advertising
Advertisers from diverse industries recognise this fervour and eagerly capitalise on the sport, particularly during international tournaments like the World Cup.
Whether it's a classic showdown between traditional rivals or an encounter with newer teams, advertisers representing various sectors are keen to invest in this cricketing extravaganza.
Narayanan highlighted that brands from industries such as auto, BFSI, FMCG, consumer durables, mobile handsets, home appliances, industrial, new-age startups, and e-commerce giants, all were looking to make their mark through advertising this World Cup.
Thomas further unravelled the story of radio advertising's thriving diversity during this period.
He noted that radio advertising has witnessed substantial investments from a wide range of sectors, with a significant portion of the planned campaign inventory already pre-booked in anticipation of the upcoming excitement.
Thomas stated that he saw interest coming in from sectors such as e-commerce, FMCG (with a strong emphasis on food and beverages), BFSI, building materials, paint, home décor, retail, accessories, automotive, fast-moving consumer durables (FMCD), and mobile phones.
"These sectors have not only embraced radio advertising but have traditionally demonstrated robust engagement, particularly during the festive season from August to October. The fact that a significant proportion of advertising slots have already been secured underlines the effectiveness and appeal of radio as a platform to reach their target audiences. It's a testament to the enduring partnership between cricket and radio in India's advertising landscape", conveyed Thomas.
Radio's role in capitalising on festive and cricket excitement
Narayanan stated that as the World Cup coincides with the peak festive period, businesses will seize this golden opportunity.
However, Narayanan believed that this surge in demand for advertising during this season might lead to limited availability of space in traditional mediums.
"The consequence of this supply-demand imbalance is the expected rise in advertising prices, compelling brands to carefully plan their campaigns within a tight schedule," said Narayanan.
Thomas added, "Brands are increasingly looking to leverage radio advertising's reach and effectiveness, thereby contributing to the anticipated increase in advertising expenditure. It's a testament to radio's adaptability and responsiveness to the evolving needs of advertisers and the pulse of the nation's collective enthusiasm."
Wrapping it up, Chavan highlighted four winning radio advertising strategies for this World Cup:
Targeted approach: Brands can strategically target specific markets that require increased traction through radio advertising.
Anywhere, anytime medium: Radio, being live and local, reflects the community it serves, making it an adaptable platform for brands to connect with their audience.
Promotional opportunities: Brands can offer tickets as part of contests, generating substantial interest and engagement among listeners.
Meet and greet with cricketers: By facilitating interactions between cricket fans and players, brands can create local-level distributor activities such as breakfast with cricketers or one-on-one interactions. These initiatives not only foster a deeper connection between fans and the sport but also provide an excellent branding opportunity for sponsors.