Asia Cup: Kohli’s absence to hit commercial interest, dampen sponsors’ spirit?

Virat Kohli

The announcement of the Indian squad for the Asia Cup Cricket 2019 has dampened half the spirit of an average Indian fan. Virat Kohli has been rested. The absence of cricket’s biggest brand can hit the spectator interest. It poses a threat to TV ratings and sponsors’ interest.

Even a much-awaited India-Pakistan duel, the possibility of the neighbouring rivals meeting thrice in two weeks cannot match the charisma of cricket’s commercial phenomenon called Virat Kohli – cricket biggest ambassador, biggest crowd puller and the strongest influence on television viewership ratings with his presence on the crease.

Star Sports expert and former Australian batsman Dean Jones though says that Kohli’s absence will not make a difference to Team India or the tournament. “India are not a one-man team, it is all about Blue (Team India) for them and trust me when Green (Pakistan) meets Blue (India) there will be excitement and fireworks. I think it’s a great team led by Rohit Sharma. India has bowlers who can reverse swing at the death. 25-30 overs will be bowled by their spinners and Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel are bowling beautifully. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah to bowl the death, India has got a very good balanced bowling side that brings a lot to the table. Sure, no one is going to replace Virat Kohli but it is an unbelievable opportunity for Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu and these boys, and don’t forget M.S.Dhoni, I am looking forward to him having a huge series. So trust me, even if Virat Kohli is not playing, when Pakistan meets India the world will be watching.”

“Bhuvi (Bhuvaneswar Kumar) and (Jasprit) Bumrah to bowl the death (overs), they got a very good balance up jaw. No one’s going to replace Kohli but I will tell you what, it is an unbelievable opportunity for (Manish) Pandey, Ambati Rayudu and these boys, and don’t forget MS Dhoni. I am looking forward to him having a huge series. So trust me or not Kohli is not playing, but when Pakistan meets India the world will be watching.”

That is cricketing aspect of the game. The commercial market feels Kohli’s absence will have an impact, just like his presence in the middle does. “It is going to be a dampener. Considering his (Kohli’s) performance and star power as well as India’s dependence on him, there could be an impact on the outcome of the matches. This could potentially lead to fluctuation in the viewership ratings,” says Arshad Nizam Shawl, India’s leading media buyer in sports, director and co-founder of Alliance Advertising and Marketing.

Statistics and data back Arshad Nizam Shawl’s claim. Every time Kohli walks in to bat, even a dull match comes alive for viewers. The entertainment quotient of his class and craft more often than not overpowers the competitive excitement the game.

This Broadcast Audience Research Council data can be the best testimony to the Kohli impact and influence on the game. In the Micromax Cup in Sri Lanka last year the BARC ratings for the duration of Kohli’s innings remained 30% higher than the average match ratings.

During the second India-Australia ODI at Kolkata last year, the TV viewership ratings when Kohli batted for his 92 runs were up by 31% from the match ratings. The female audience registered a 60% jump. That is the commercial value this one individual brings to this team game.

When Kohli collapses early, the TV audience have registered a sharp 50% decline. For all his class and might, Kohli remains the seventh most valuable brand icon among global sport stars. His presence in the middle put premium even on the match tickets. This was evident when Delhi Daredevils had priced their highest denomination ticket for their IPL 2018 home game against Royal Challengers Bangalore at ₹ 17,500 as against ₹ 15,000 for most of the other matches. That is the Kohli impact on commercials of the game.

The Asia Cup official and exclusive broadcaster in India, Star Sport was reportedly targeting ₹385 crore ad revenues from the tournament. Kohli’s absence can potentially upset the broadcaster’s Asia Cup economics as well.

Star Sports – on the strength of its broadcast quality, Asia Cup star attraction and the elusive India-Pakistan high octane duels – has already signed broadcast sponsorship deals with some of the top brands like Coca-Cola, Byjus, Dominos, Kajaria, Hero Motors, Google, Britannia, global money exchange brand Unimoni and Nerolac. There are some more brands on board as Asia Cup broadcast sponsors.

At a time when the probability of three India-Pakistan matches has invoked a certain commercial premium for the Asia Cup, Kohli’s absence has raised some moot questions –Will prospective sponsors see same marketing value for their products? Will the sponsors who have inked deals not have a cause of concern.

The brands endorsed by Kohli which could have picked the Asia Cup for promotions, too, will surely miss a connect now.

The bigger question remains, Will the Indian fan have the same interest and faith in Team India? And, there lies the answer to all the concerns.

Also Read: Kohli Rested for Asia Cup; Rohit to lead Team India