India news May 31, 2010

Sahara to continue as Indian team sponsor

The Sahara Group will continue as sponsors of the Indian team after they won the contract by bidding Rs. 3.34 crores ($719,000) per match, a marketing committee official has told Cricinfo. The current sponsorship contract ends on June 30 and the new one runs until December 31, 2013. A top Sahara official also confirmed the development. Bharti Airtel, the only other company in the fray, put in a bid for Rs 2.89 crore ($628, 260) per match.

"We take pride in sponsoring the Indian national team," Abhijit Sarkar, corporate affairs head at Sahara, said.

Sahara's winning bid comes as something of a surprise as chairman Subrata Roy had said the company would re-evaluate its sponsorship of the Indian team after it bagged the Pune IPL franchise. According to market sources, Sahara decided to bid again because an analysis of the numbers turned out positive. It paid Rs 407 crores ($88 million) over the last four years, so the new deal requires roughly Rs 85 crores ($18.5 million) more, which doesn't hurt the group much.

Sahara waited until the last minute before entering the bidding because it was worried about the response from its competitors. It feared the price of the deal could rise over Rs 500 crores if its interest was publicly known. The deal is solely to sponsor the Indian men's team, as the group was not interested in spending an extra Rs 10-15 crore on the other three squads (women's, India A and Under-19).

The BCCI is not bothered by the failure to attract a sponsor for the three other teams, and will not attempt to find one, a board official who is a member of the marketing committee, told Cricinfo. As it stands, these teams don't play a lot of matches anyway, and when they do, the matches aren't always televised. Occasionally, the matches even clash with those of the Indian team, robbing them of any value, the official said.

The board had set a base price of Rs 2.5 crores ($ 541,000) per match for the three-and-a-half-year period, during which India will play between 144 and 167 matches, depending on how far the team progresses in ICC tournaments. At Rs 3.34 crores a match, the Sahara deal is worth between Rs 481 crores ($104 million) and Rs 558 crores ($121 million). A member of the BCCI marketing committee told Cricinfo that the board is very happy with the new deal, as it represents a 50% increase per match over the previous deal (in actuality, the increase is much higher).

Under the terms of the previous deal, Sahara paid Rs 1.91 crores ($ 412,000) per Test, Rs 2.09 crores ($ 455,000) per ODI and Rs 1.57 crores ($ 340,000) per Twenty20. The new price is the same across all three formats, and more than doubles the price of a Twenty20 game, highlighting its appeal and popularity.

The board had originally issued a tender late last year with a base price of Rs 3 crores ($ 650,000) per match, but failed to attract a single bid. As a stop gap measure, the Sahara Group agreed to extend its sponsorship of the Indian team for a further six months.

The Indian board issued the tender on Monday inviting companies to bid for the rights and the bidding period closed on Saturday.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo