CAMPAIGN REPORT ON FOOTBALL: France 98 a broadcasting bargain - The multi-million dollar prices for World Cup rights seem exorbitant, yet broadcasters and advertisers are queuing up. Andy Fry reports

The 1998 World Cup in France this summer will be the biggest sports event ever broadcast. A total cumulative television audience of 37 billion viewers will tune in to 64 games over four weeks, compared with the 19.6 billion people who watched the Atlanta Olympics two years ago. On the day of the final, three-quarters of the world’s population will be glued to their sets. For advertisers and sponsors, the scale of the World Cup makes it the most significant marketing platform of the year. At a global level, 12 multinationals, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Mastercard and Adidas, have paid around dollars 35 million each for the privilege of being associated with the event. Most will spend at least the same again on advertising and sales promotions.

The 1998 World Cup in France this summer will be the biggest sports

event ever broadcast. A total cumulative television audience of 37

billion viewers will tune in to 64 games over four weeks, compared with

the 19.6 billion people who watched the Atlanta Olympics two years ago.

On the day of the final, three-quarters of the world’s population will

be glued to their sets. For advertisers and sponsors, the scale of the

World Cup makes it the most significant marketing platform of the year.

At a global level, 12 multinationals, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s,

Mastercard and Adidas, have paid around dollars 35 million each for the

privilege of being associated with the event. Most will spend at least

the same again on advertising and sales promotions.

At a UK level, the event is a chance for advertisers and broadcasters to

tap into the same euphoria that swept the nation during Euro 96. With

both England and Scotland taking part, there is likely to be a ground

swell of interest from all sections of the community as the finals


If past experience is anything to go by, an England versus Germany tie

would attract around 25 million viewers. Even a seemingly innocuous

confrontation such as Romania versus Sweden managed to attract 25 per

cent of men in London during the last World Cup.

The BBC and ITV will share coverage of France 98, with each showing more

than 30 games exclusively and both broadcasting the final. ITV is

guaranteed a minimum of one England and one Scotland match and is

expecting an overwhelming response from advertisers.

’We are dealing with the greatest ever sports event on British

television,’ Alan Hodge, an account director at the airtime sales house,

Laser, says.

’It features the best sides in the world and will be shown at the best

times. It is event television and we will make a point of selling it

hard as a major commercial opportunity.’

His view is endorsed by Barrie Gill, the chairman of CSS International,

which handles the Team England sponsorship with clients such as BP,

Canon and Green Flag. ’The major multinationals are seeking global

marketing activities,’ he says. ’And outside the US, there is nothing

sexier than football. The public is in thrall of it. English football,

in particular, has never been at such a high.’

The key opportunity for advertisers is undoubtedly young, upmarket males

- and the demand for ITV airtime will be high. Cars, beer and sportswear

are obvious categories of activity. But as Hodge points out, soccer has

become a platform for a wide range of new clients. L’Oreal, BT, Procter

& Gamble and Walkers are just a few of the companies that have used

football icons as part of their advertising programmes, he reveals.

Hodge says Laser will try to be as flexible as possible with


Although a substantial part of the ITV inventory is already spoken for,

Hodge says Laser will keep some slots open for the short-term


He adds: ’We want clients to be able to come in at a week’s notice if

they have to. There is nothing worse than a disappointed customer.’

France 98 belongs to a bygone era in terms of the cost of television

rights. The rights for the competition were granted before the Italia 90

finals in a contract between football’s governing body, FIFA, and the

European Broadcasting Union, which represents more than 50 broadcasters,

including the BBC and ITV. In today’s prices, the EBU paid approximately

dollars 135 million for this year’s finals. But since then, the cost of

European soccer rights has gone though the roof.

In the case of the World Cup, FIFA struck a deal in the summer of 1996

to sell the competition rights for 2002 and 2006 to Germany’s Kirch

Gruppe and the sports marketing agency, ISL, for a staggering SFr2.8

billion. That deal effectively values the European broadcasting rights

for the World Cup at ten times what the EBU paid for France 98.

The increase in the cost of soccer rights is driven by two factors.

First, pay TV broadcasters need to acquire programming that will drive

dish sales.

Sky’s willingness to pay pounds 650 million for the rights to broadcast

the English Premier League for four years is typical of a trend that has

swept across Europe.

But in the case of the World Cup, FIFA is adamant most of the games must

be broadcast to the widest possible audience - in other words, free TV.

This brings the second factor into play.

Jean Paul de la Fuente, the senior vice-president, media, of ISL,

explains: ’Our ability to get the money is based on calculations from

television funded by advertising revenue. With media fragmentation,

there are going to be fewer opportunities for advertisers to achieve

mass communication.

As a result, a large live audience will become increasingly


De la Fuente insists the World Cup is ’the bargain of the decade’. ’The

networks are making ten to 15 times what they are paying in rights, so

it is our intention to adjust it to a more realistic level for FIFA’s

benefit,’ he says.

De la Fuente is confident that when negotiations start later this year,

the increase in rights fees for the World Cup won’t discourage many

networks from bidding. ’They know the value of the competition and are

already queuing up to put bids in and acquire some or all of the rights

to broadcast the World Cup in 2002 and 2006.’

De la Fuente’s overt reference to selling ’some or all’ of the World Cup

to broadcasters is an indication that, despite FIFA’s broad ambition,

some elements of the World Cup are likely to be lost to the terrestrial

television audience. It is more than likely some of the early qualifying

rounds will find their way on to subscription platforms.

’We won’t sell the World Cup in a way that would upset the public,’ de

la Fuente says, ’but FIFA’s general view is that the World Cup has been

underpaid and under-distributed. Our objective is to present it in

various broadcast windows.’

ISL plans to offer the World Cup in six different windows, according to

de la Fuente. Although he would not specify them, they could include

pay-per-view, pay, free-to-air live transmission, delayed transmission,

highlights, radio, news access or the Internet. The key point, however,

is that ’potentially, six different companies in each territory could

acquire some of those rights’.

To ensure this distribution policy is adhered to, Kirch and ISL will

control the broadcast of games using digital technology. This way, they

can also offer digital enhancements to games. ’It might be possible, for

example, to show the same game on free TV and PPV,’ de la Fuente


’But a number of embellishments may be included on the PPV service that

would make people willing to pay extra.’

Despite such prospects, the World Cup is likely to remain a significant

advertising proposition. With sponsors likely to have to pay dollars 50

million each for the 2002 World Cup, they will need guarantees that they

can secure enough exposure to drive a year-round marketing campaign.

Although the France 98 finals will attract a frenzy of marketing

spending, official sponsors such as Gillette have had promotions running

throughout the past year. Equally, for Coca-Cola, the World Cup is only

one element of a strategy that revolves around the Olympics and football

in general.

Although there are reports that Nike - which is not an official sponsor

- may spend as much as half of its annual UK budget in the month of the

World Cup, the company’s spokesman, Graham Anderson, reiterates the

point that its strategy is apparent all year round.

’The World Cup is important from Nike’s point of view but we work with

players and teams every day of the year. Nike has strong links with

teams such as Brazil, Italy, Nigeria and Holland, as well as individual

stars such as Ronaldo, Romario and Maldini, and England’s Paul Scholes

and Teddy Sheringham. Most of these players have worked in various

guises in the development and marketing of our products and this is the

showcase for that activity,’ Anderson says. ’If they are performing

well, that is the best endorsement of our products.’

Mike Smallwood, chief executive of Western International Media,

underlines the appeal of the event from a media planner and buyer’s


His client, Vauxhall, has spent pounds 4 million on sponsoring ITV’s

coverage of the event, having previously linked up with ITV as sponsor

of Euro 96. Vauxhall’s European sister brand, Opel, is also one of the

main sponsors of the World Cup.

’It is a fantastic opportunity to get the message across to a mass

audience at a time when the opportunities are becoming rarer,’ Smallwood


’And if England does well, it really fires the imagination.’

However, Smallwood takes a pragmatic view that the escalation in rights

fees may have an impact on the cost to advertisers. ’We see the World

Cup as a premium product,’ he says. ’But if the price got too high then

we wouldn’t buy it. I think broadcasters are conscious of the likely

value of the event to their advertisers.’

De la Fuente stresses that there are many dynamics at work. ’The

experience of sports broadcasting in the US has shown that a major event

can bring up a whole network.’ Not only is there the chance to sell

sports-related airtime at a premium, but other inventory can be hooked

in as part of a package deal. Buying TV rights (or sponsorship rights,

for that matter) is also a way of making sure your competition doesn’t

get hold of them.

Bill Sinrich, the head of operations at Trans World International, the

sports production arm of the largest sports rights broker in the world,

IGM, believes the current frenzy for football rights is likely to


’In a world where there is an increasing number of broadcasting options,

it is harder for networks to differentiate themselves,’ Sinrich


’In Europe, football is the number one way of achieving that and it will

get richer while other sports get poorer. I firmly believe that as good

as Sky Sports is, if it lost the Premier League tomorrow, it wouldn’t

exist in six months’ time.’

The question for broadcasters is how much they are willing to pay for

sports rights. In the US, some networks have already reached the point

where their outlay on sport is so great as to make it a loss-leader.

’I don’t think football is a loss-maker in Europe yet. But it is

entirely possible that it will push the limits of some broadcasters’

ability to pay,’ Sinrich says.


BBC Radio holds a place in the hearts of many footie fans over the age

of 25 for broadcasting live games throughout the wilderness years of the

70s and 80s when TV coverage was mainly restricted to highlights.

For the World Cup, however, fans will have an alternative to BBC Radio 5

Live in the shape of Talk Radio, which is planning substantial live

coverage of matches throughout the tournament. A pounds 1 million ad

campaign will kick off shortly to promote Talk Radio as the official

World Cup station.

The potential of football as a ratings winner for Talk Radio was shown

by the Italy versus England World Cup qualifier last autumn when its

audience was boosted by 30 per cent.

Talk Radio’s head of sports, Moz Dee, says: ’Live sport is an audience

driver, and football rights in particular are very important to us. As a

station, we recognise the escalation of interest in the game.’ Like the

BBC, ITV and Eurosport, Talk Radio’s ownership means it is able to

broadcast live coverage courtesy of EBU. Dee admits the prospect of

head-to-head competition between radio stations is daunting. ’We are up

against a bloody institution but we believe there has to be consumer

choice in the marketplace.’

As it happens, Talk Radio can boast a number of advantages that will

make its coverage of particular interest to advertisers. The first is

that it has Sky’s highly regarded commentary team, Andy Gray and Alan

Parry, on loan while the satellite broadcaster’s football coverage goes

into hibernation. This will be a particularly attractive proposition for

the 16- to 24-year-old demographic.

Tim Bleakley, the head of airtime sales, adds to the list of plus


’With Sky unable to broadcast live coverage, Talk Radio is the only

option of a low capital entry cost for advertisers.’ Not only that, but

the BBC has the lion’s share of England and Scotland games in the early

rounds of the competition, making Talk Radio the only commercial

proposition available to clients.

According to Bleakley, 60 per cent of Talk Radio’s airtime has already

been booked. A mainline sponsor - as yet unnamed - has been found and

there will be a further 11 key partners. ’I couldn’t exaggerate about

how much interest there has been,’Bleakley says. ’And the fact that

radio is an interactive medium is a key advantage.’

Observers may wonder why anyone would be interested in listening to the

World Cup on radio when it is available free on TV. Bleakley explains

that a lot of games will be played in the 4.00pm to 6.00pm time period,

which is drive time. ’That’s where we will concentrate a lot of our

effort,’ he says.


After a few years in the sporting wilderness, ITV showed renewed

ambition with the broadcast of Formula 1 last year. Coupled with its

rights to show the Soccer World Cup, a variety of European and domestic

soccer competitions and the Rugby World Cup in 1999, the UK’s leading

commercial network can now boast a reasonably strong portfolio of sports

properties for the foreseeable future.

The World Cup rights come courtesy of the EBU and are shared with the

BBC. ITV will show 31 games live and also plans to run a comprehensive

highlights package. As far as possible, head-to-head coverage will be

avoided. Only the semi-finals and the final will be simulcast. In the

early stages, ITV is guaranteed one England game and one Scotland game


ITV’s head of sport, Brian Barwick, says: ’I can’t remember a time when

football has been so fashionable across every demographic group. ABC1

men, who are potentially difficult to attract, are drawn to it. But it

also connects with a significant cross-section of the UK public.’

Barwick, who crossed over from the BBC, regards the World Cup as

’football’s biggest festival’. ’It’s as big as sport gets and is a

fantastic product in the way it is delivered on air. Live football is

not a cheap event for a broadcaster but people make a real date to watch

it.’ ITV will rely mainly on the broadcast feed provided by the EBU but

add its own embellishments to give the coverage personality. The former

Chelsea boss, Ruud Gulit, has been poached from the BBC and Jean Michel

Jarre has been commissioned to write a theme tune. ITV has also decided

to take the show on the road by broadcasting live from the French stadia

- rather than using a studio location at home. ’This gives you more of a

sense of the live experience,’ Barwick says.

Another key development has been the transfer of BBC 2’s popular

late-night show, Fantasy Football, to ITV for a run during the World

Cup. ’That shows how committed ITV is to having an attractive schedule,’

Barwick says. ’It will also free ITV sport from the obligation to try

and be all things to all men.’

The World Cup is an important step in re-establishing the feeling among

viewers that ITV is the home of top-quality sport. ’Part of my brief

when I came from the BBC was to help awareness that ITV football hasn’t

turned into mothballs,’ Barwick explains. ’We are driving the message

home by heavy-trailing sport throughout the schedule.’

With the Premier League unlikely to return to free TV, holding on to the

World Cup next time round will be a key long- term objective for


’I don’t think any terrestrial broadcaster can take lightly the

opportunity to broadcast the World Cup. But it is a bit premature to

have a view on the 2002 World Cup. The negotiations haven’t really

begun,’Barwick says.

France 98 may be the swansong for the BBC as far as World Cup coverage

goes. By 2002, it is likely to be priced out of the market by its

commercial rivals.


The only possible protection for the BBC is a political will in Europe

to keep sports on free TV. At the moment, the UK has a set of ’listed

events’ enshrined in legislation which must not be made available to the

public on pay TV only. These include football’s FA Cup final, domestic

test cricket, Wimbledon, the Olympics and the World Cup Final.

Last month, a government committee suggested some amendments which would

drop test cricket from the list but protect the World Cup Final, the

semi-finals and home team games for free TV.

The BBC’s response to the proposed amendment is one of


’The BBC will respond in due course with its view to the Government,’ a

spokesperson said. ’Meanwhile, it is of serious concern that (from the

2002 World Cup) viewers will not have the opportunity to see the whole

of the World Cup Finals competition, as they will this coming summer on

the BBC and ITV.’

ISL’s De la Fuente, like many in the sports marketing sector, is

fundamentally opposed to the principle of listed events, which he calls

’a market distortion in favour of the BBC and ITV’. ’It is based on the

idea that football is a basic need like water or gas - but it isn’t. It

is a market-driven business,’ de la Fuente says.


Eurosport is a member of the EBU, despite being a third-owned by

Disney’s ESPN and a third-owned by Europe’s largest pay TV operator,

Canal Plus.

As such, it is entitled to broadcast live coverage of the World Cup

alongside the BBC and ITV.

That opportunity is made all the more significant by the fact that the

UK’s major pay TV hitter, Sky, will be unable to offer anything other

than news updates from the event.

Of 64 games being played, Eurosport will show 33 live and the remainder

as delayed. Altogether, this amounts to almost 400 hours of


According to Eurosport’s advertising sales director, Tom Keaveny, the

whole schedule will reflect the emphasis on the World Cup. Each day,

coverage will start with highlights at 6.00am and run through almost

uninterrupted until midnight. Only major events such as the world

motorcycle championships will get a look in.

Eurosport’s usp is its ability to show sports events in a depth which

terrestrials cannot match because of their other scheduling


However, it does not take them on head-to-head. So while ITV will show

England versus Romania in peaktime on Monday, 22 June, Eurosport will

wait until the following day to broadcast the match. It will also show

everything from the quarter-finals to the finals on a delayed basis.

This policy is both strategic and political. On the one hand, Eurosport

knows most English viewers are likely to choose ITV or the BBC for major

games; on the other, it defers to those broadcasters which have paid the

lion’s share of the EBU’s commitment to FIFA. All the same, Keaveny

expects Eurosport to break its existing ratings record of six million

for last year’s Tour de France, and a cumulative 85 million for the

recent Winter Olympics.

Because the channel broadcasts across Europe, it does not use studio

talking heads. However, it has brought in a high-profile commentating

team which includes the former England captain, Bryan Robson, and the

Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger.

The appeal of Eurosport’s coverage is clear in the raft of advertisers

and sponsors it has attracted. Key among these are Gillette, General

Motors, JVC and Budweiser, though there will also be tactical support by

US movie studios for summer blockbusters such as Godzilla. In the case

of Gillette, the relationship has been running for nearly two years

through airtime and sponsorships - Eurosport is running a series called

Gillette’s World Cup Dream Team. During the championships, it will

sponsor a best goals package each day.

Keaveny says that most of the airtime and sponsorship options around

Eurosport’s World Cup coverage have already gone. However, he stresses

that the emphasis has been on long-term partnerships.

’The World Cup shouldn’t be seen in isolation. When it finishes, sport

doesn’t just stop. In September, for example, there is a beginning of

qualification for Euro 2000 and we want to take our partners with us for

that,’ Keaveny says.