‘Kent RO open to raising Rs 30 cr spend on cricket’

Kent has been associated with Indian cricket pre and post-match show for four years. The brands visibility has shot up since it began its association with cricket. Ashutosh Sinha caught up with Kent’s Chairman Mahesh Gupta and spoke about the possibility of Kent associating with sports other than cricket. Excerpts from the Interview:

Ashutosh Sinha: Kent is such a big spender on cricket. But you have always associated with the pre-match and post-match shows. How has it helped you?

Mahesh Gupta: Well, I think cricket is a good medium and it has good eyeballs. Pre and post show is an even that we have owned for about four years or so and we are quite happy about it. It is a good brand building exercise. Besides brand building, it conveys the meaning of the brand because we get space in the show where we can put our products on display. We can give messages, which a normal show will not allow you to do that. It is like I am advertising on the screen.

AS: But the association with Rising Pune Supergiants is different?
MG: Again, (Rising) Pune Supergiants association and earlier (Rajasthan Royals) Jaipur team association was a brand building exercise. You are on the jersey of the team and the moment they play for three and half hours, you are on the show throughout the day when the match is being played. We value not as a supporter of the game. We value ourselves more on catching the eyeballs and messaging on what we want to do. We see this totally as a commercial venture.

AS: Do you think any other sport is emerging which could catch your attention (for brand association), perhaps kabaddi?
MG: I don’t think kabaddi as a sport has been accepted. If our sportspersons will do well internationally, the eyeballs will come in. I would say that the only other sport which is attracting attention at this moment is badminton. We have two wonderful players and they have done very well in the Olympics. But I don’t think anything else is similar to that (cricket). Football could be the only other sport that could catch attention in the future. Worldwide if you go, it is soccer that gets attention. And there is no reason why in future soccer will not get the attention here. It is only a question of time.

AS: So, are you looking to ride on the sport early enough?
MG: Well, as I said, we are a commercial entity. I only take it as that, not for the love for sport. Love for sport is secondary. If it does not give me eyeballs, I don’t think I will invest. Let me be frank about it. Let people know that I am not a cricket lover to invest money in that. It is not a CSR campaign. It is a campaign to put my brand there.

AS: ISL had 216 million viewers this year. The season spreads over two and a half months. Do you think it comes as a possible option then?
MG: World over it is soccer that gets eyeballs. That is the potential. If it has happened in other countries, it should happen in India as well. If you go to West Bengal, people are mad about soccer. And if I get an opportunity to advertise in soccer, specially the European League or the other leagues, I will go there.

AS: Are you looking at that option?
MG: No, I am not looking at that option. Lot of Indian eyeballs go there. So, why not? The only thing is that the amount of investment there does not justify our goal. In future we will be addressing the international market. If my business goes international, I will certainly look into that aspect. That would be the right time for us.

AS: Several global leagues like the NBA, La Liga and others are coming to India with their programmes. Is that an opportunity to associate with for Kent?
MG: Frankly speaking, I don’t see visibility coming for our products there. Kabaddi is the only league which is being promoted now. I don’t have the numbers right now but think it is happening at that level which will interest Kent. Kabaddi, for example, is more popular but it is a rural sport. It is not a city centric game so people don’t get attached to it. They can get rural audience and perhaps FMCG companies can find it good. But it will not interest a company like ours.

AS: Which year for you has seen the highest spend on cricket?
MG: Last two years has been good. Every year we have been increasing our spend.

AS: Can you put a number to that?
MG: For cricket it is about Rs. 30 crore a year.

AS: And rising at what rate?
MG: I don’t look at it that way. If there is a good opportunity, we will take a call to be there.

AS: Since there is an IPL association for Kent in the past with Rajasthan Royals and now with Rising Pune Supergiants, are you looking to expand that?
MG: We can look at that possibility. IPL’s eyeballs need to be encashed. What opportunity you get and how do you get is the only thing… what price is it at.

AS: IPL10 is coming soon. It promises to be big and special.
MG: Let’s see. Let them move ahead. But you must understand that the economic situation is bad. Many brands will not invest at this moment. We are committed to our investment.

AS: What about regional sport? How do you look at them and does it interest Kent?
MG: We don’t go regional. We don’t advertise on regional channels because they are not cost effective. We are an all India brand and cricket is able to satisfy our needs. So, we don’t look at too many things.

AS: So one sport satisfies all your needs?
MG: Yes, IPL and cricket have an all India reach. Once I do this, I don’t need to worry about the regional channels.