POV: Is brand IPL in a spot?

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | May 24, 2013
Is the impact of spot fixing on brand IPL big enough for it to struggle for advertisers in the next year? afaqs! explores.

Ever since it started, Indian Premier League's succeeding seasons have yielded newer controversies. While IPL chairman Lalit Modi was suspended in 2010 (IPL Season 3), the Kochi franchisee was terminated in 2011 (IPL Season 4); also, Shahrukh Khan being banned from Wankhede Stadium, Preity Zinta showing anger over the umpire's decision or the unproven spot-fixing allegations (IPL Season 5) and similar controversies have involved managers, team owners and now, players (three players arrested for spot fixing on May, 16).

Controversies notwithstanding, the cumulative reach of the property has shown an increasing trend, albeit with a gradual decrease in TVRs year on year. However, it is still the only non-fiction property with the largest viewership and widest reach on Indian television.

In this scenario, will the spot fixing scandal impact brand IPL and result in a struggle for advertisers in the next year?

Neeraj Vyas

Indranil Das Blah

Neeraj Vyas, senior VP and business head, SET Max

Personally, as a cricket enthusiast, I agree that the mess is big, no doubts about it. But, only BCCI can clean it and there will definitely be cleaning up. As a broadcaster, we haven't felt any significant impact on viewership to be attributed to the controversy. That said, had the revelations happened early in the tourney, the impact could have been higher and even we would have required crisis management.

There haven't been any walk-out decisions by the advertisers for IPL 6, which clearly shows that brand IPL is bigger than the controversies it has had. Generally, we start selling for IPL around October-November. It's too early to say whether we will sell at the same time this year (considering court proceedings and judgements).

Indranil Das Blah, COO, KWAN and former VP, sports, Globosports

To be honest, I think it will be unfair to comment on it now. The revelations in the case are happening on a daily basis. The brand has been scandal-hit before, and to everyone's surprise and confidence of some others, it has always come back stronger. We will have to wait and watch what level this new one grows to. If the team owners are involved (since there is mention of some Chennai link) or it's spread across the teams, then the brand is definitely on a downturn- as a brand, as a business proposition and as a sporting event.

However, since this has come out now, I believe the time is not that bad. There are eight-nine months before the marketing for the event starts and at least three months before partnerships start, it should come out. But, the court decisions and proceedings will have to happen in this short period of time.

I, personally, will not recommend any advertiser to decide now whether to be there with the event or not. I will suggest they wait. Also, I will suggest a partnership with the property, provided the brand is looking at tapping the masses, the SEC B and C, all India.

Cajetan Vaz, independent branding consultant

There have been scams and there have been talks and beliefs about match-fixing in cricket for the last 10-15 years, right from the days of Azharuddin, but it hasn't impacted the growth or popularity of the game in any way. I personally don't see any drop in cricket, so I would completely ignore this marginal dip in ratings. But, the game may get affected either way if there is government interference in the way it's conducted. Otherwise, I can only see IPL (and the concept T20) growing stronger. The people have clearly separated the players from the T20 format. You don't blame the manufacturer of the car but the (bad) driver.

Cajetan Vaz

Shripad Kulkarni

I don't think there will be much problem selling IPL during the next season because there will probably be a clean-up operation. Moreover, one would be surprised that as many teams and advertisers choose to walk-out of the property, many more will be ready to pay a premium to get in.

Some large sponsors could plan to dissociate with the event on ethical grounds. It's like politics. Even if you believe that the centre is at fault, you will still elect the same government in the next tenure. For IPL, it's simply because the popularity and enjoyment is too high and the viewership and reach that the game gives, is too tempting to get away from it. When I watched the last match, it was equally entertaining - the scam didn't take that away.

As for the next season, I am not sure if the broadcaster, BCCI or the brands will wait for the outcomes of the court and its proceedings. Rather, a strict 'Exit Clause' might appear in the contracts signed prior to the court judgment.

I believe it's more about crisis management and clean-up process. There is such a load of money riding on the property - they would rather get the ship riding!

Shripad Kulkarni, CEO, Percept Media

IPL has now carved out a role for itself in the Indian homes. There is clearly an agreement reached on the TV remote control between the cricket enthusiasts (largely men) and TV serial addicts (largely wives). So IPL drives a two way split in the TV viewership. But, now that GECs have held their fort, over the couple of seasons, I see the GECs coming up with a Bollywood centric strategy to counter the IPL dominance. And you will probably have a three way split.

IPL does work better for the male centric product categories. You can't really get enough male eyeballs without IPL in the picture.

Even if the controversies have reached the players, I don't see any major impact among the cricket enthusiasts and I will be surprised if the ratings show a fall. But this does present the GECs to come up with a Bollywood centric counter which will engineer a three way split in favour of GECs.

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