BCCI faces ‘chin music’ for retaining Vivo as IPL 2020 title sponsor

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on August 03, 2020 Published on August 03, 2020

Putting ad ban on Vivo may be difficult   -  The Hindu

Anti-China lobby sees red; but brand experts see nothing wrong in the move

Long before a single ball is bowled in IPL 2020, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) finds itself facing bouncers and googlies.

Its decision to retain Chinese smartphone company Vivo as the title sponsor has attracted brutal deliveries from a traders association and political parties. However, marketing experts point out that since the brand is selling in the country, it is illogical to impose advertising or sponsorship restrictions on it.

On Sunday, when the BCCI officially announced this decision, it drew flak from organisations such as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).

Expressing itself as stumped by the decision, CAIT, which has been running a campaign to boycott Chinese goods, also shot off letters to the Home Minister and the External Affairs Minister, stating that the BCCI’s decision was contrary to the government's broad policy of vocal-for-local.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah sent in a yorker, when he tweeted, “Chinese cellphone makers will continue as title sponsors of the IPL while people are told to boycott Chinese products. It’s no wonder China is thumbing its nose at us when we are so confused about how to handle Chinese money/investment/sponsorship/advertising.”

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala’s chinaman tweet went thus, “Whither #AatmaNirbharBharatAbhiyan. Welcome back Cricket-China-profiteering and double standards.”

Sponsor selection

However, the ad and marketing community pointed out that it may be tough to impose restrictions on sponsorships.

Ashish Bhasin, CEO, APAC and Chairman India, Dentsu Aegis Network, said, “As long as a company is legally allowed to manufacture and sell in the country, then there is no logic or reason to put any restrictions on them to advertise. Nothing is more important than national sentiment and security but these are calls the government has to take.”


Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and former APAC Marketing Head of HP Inc, said that while the BCCI will come under criticism for continuing its sponsorship agreements with Chinese brands, it needs to be seen in the light of the fact that the sponsorship deal was done well before the current Indo-Chinese border standoff.

Brand Strategy specialist Harish Bijoor, too, felt critics need to take cognisance that the agreement with Vivo, inked in 2017, predates the current conflict.

Also, as Bijoor pointed out, while IPL is a made-in India brand, its footprint is global, extending across Indian diaspora countries as well as cricketing nations. The implication being that the country of origin of the sponsor should not matter.

Could IPL’s brand value be impacted by its sponsorship decisions? In 2019, the prized cricket league commanded a brand value of ₹47,500 crore, according to Duff & Phelps.

Mathias felt that given the increasing role of geopolitics in business and sports, the BCCI and especially IPL franchise owners will need to tread carefully on sponsor selection. “The forced change may indeed impact the overall brand value of the IPL and other sporting events — like the Kabaddi League,” he added.

Over the past 4-5 years, Chinese brands, particularly those in the smartphone category, have been aggressive in advertising spends especially on premium sporting events such as the IPL. Veteran media expert Anita Nayyar said that given the current geopolitical sentiments, Chinese brands are not expected to be bullish across advertising platforms and will want their visibility on the event to be muted and subtle. Given the strident opposition, Vivo is also on a difficult pitch. However, since IPL 2020 is being played on a neutral ground — in the UAE — the Chinese firm may be able to sweep the controversy away.

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Published on August 03, 2020
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