Are brands really scoring at IPL?

Giraj Sharma | Updated on September 04, 2020 Published on September 04, 2020

It’s logical for marketers to bat with the world’s richest cricket league, but how many have had a good innings?

“Name the brands associated with tennis that come to your mind?” posed Jaya Prasad, an advertising veteran, at the recently held M.A.D.D. — a platform where marketing and advertising professionals huddle up periodically for discussions.

Kia Motors, Mercedes, Rolex, IBM, Jaguar...the 20-odd participants at the session reeled off these names in a jiffy. She then asked for names associated with IPL and, barring Vivo, there was a conspicuous pause before the marketers, most of them veterans in the business, could recall the brands that have associated with the world’s richest cricket league.

So, why are brands batting with cricket — or more specifically IPL? Well, that’s simply because nothing in India gets as many eyeballs as the T20 league. According to data shared by the official broadcaster to the event, Star India, post the last edition of IPL, as many as 462 million viewers watched the event and its reach had jumped by 12 per cent over the 2018 edition. LK Gupta, Founder of CMO Now, says allocating ad-budgets to IPL is a no-brainer. “You fish where the fish are” is how he puts it.

Fishing in the same pond

The problem, however, is that there are too many brands fishing in the same pond. So you need to be creative to grab attention.

The other issue is that with too many brands in the IPL fray, the cost of advertising slots has shot up. Star India, it is reliably learnt, is looking at ad rates in the vicinity of ₹10-11 lakh per 10 seconds this year. That’s quite steep considering that a good media plan would entail multiple exposures during a match. For a 45-50 day tournament, it adds to a substantial sum.

If, as a CMO or a promoter with deep pockets, you allocate a fair share of your marketing budget to IPL, there is still no guarantee that your brand will stand out. Every marketer’s nightmare is that their brand will get lost in the advertising clutter of TVCs. So you need to play differently and create advertising that either has cricket embedded in it or screams for attention creatively (ideally both). Sadly, just a handful of brands have been able to do that in the past, with the Vodafone ZooZoos commercial, Swiggy’s ‘What a delivery’, and Amazon’s Chonkpur Cheetahs standing out in memory.

But given the drought of good content, more so this year, every brand worth its marketing mix wants to get a piece of the IPL action — through sponsorships or with ‘official partner’ tags, either with the BCCI or any of the eight franchisees separately. So other than Dream11, Unacademy, CRED, and Paytm who have tied up with BCCI for IPL, we will have close to 35 brands tying up with the franchisees.

Some brands like BKT (Balkrishna Industries) have even done multiple tie-ups this year — its logo is on the shirts of as many as six IPL franchisees.

Short innings

Still, the concern expressed by marketers is that the IPL brand association is a rather short innings, paying only seasonal dividends. As Tanmay Jaiswal, a start-up promoter and former researcher, laments, there has been a complete absence of on-ground activations or social media campaigns that play out right through the year. And that’s missing a huge trick.

But on the other hand, for smaller or regional brands, IPL is a great platform to get a pan-India recall. Veteran corporate professional Sandip Ghose, another, also points out that it works well for B2B players in sectors like cement where the tie-up with IPL enhances the brand’s stature within its dealership channel. On the other hand, these brands often end up exhausting their entire budget in the sponsorship deals and are left with no monies to truly exploit that association further.

Missing many tricks

Even the franchisees, on their part, have not fully exploited the tie-up. One could blame this on the revenue-sharing formula that the BCCI has with the franchisees that ensures each franchisee of a pie of the broadcasting fee and sponsorship deals. This could have made the franchisees complacent. There are substantial revenues to be had from hawking franchisee merchandise as the fan base has already breached the threshold levels, at least in the case of CSK, KKR, MI and RCB.

Some serious attempts are now being made to create revenue streams through this route. CSK got into a partnership with Baseline Ventures last year for marketing CSK merchandise. This year, FanCode Shop, an online sports fan merchandising store, will be offering a wide range of fan merchandise for six of the IPL teams.

But that’s one part of the story. Converting fan following to loyalty requires a much deeper emotional engagement with the brand and we haven’t seen that so far in the 12 years of IPL. Consider Manchester United. MU made £104 million last year through retail, merchandising, apparel and product licensing. And that’s because fans connect with MU at a far deeper level — it’s a brand that ‘they believe they own’. IPL franchisee brands are still way behind in building that kind of loyalty.

Giraj Sharma is founder director of Behind the Moon, a brand consultancy

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on September 04, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor