Debashish Chakraborty
Brands and Sports marketing

“During an India match day or a big IPL match, we certainly see a rise in our downloads...”: Atit Mehta, BYJU’S

The chief marketing officer of the Edu-tech giant shares his views on the brand’s partnership with IPL, marketing objectives, yield factor and more.

The Indian Premier League (IPL), without a doubt, is the biggest sporting event in India. It has been 12 years since its inception and it hasn’t looked back since. In addition to being the most cash-rich event, its glamor and entertainment factor has been successful in keeping both - the audience and brands - loyal and hooked. Considering the craze that the Indian audience has for Cricket, the t20 format with celebrity-backed franchisees provides brands unparalleled exposure and reach. 

IPL is considered to be the harbinger for commercialising sporting properties in India. While today these events have mushroomed, increasing the standard and the scope for sports, IPL has maintained its top spot - becoming a marketer’s favourite. In addition to its colossal reach, it has also managed to offer unique marketing and branding opportunities. With brand associations across sectors - FMCG, technology, auto, FinTech, e-commerce, electronics - the brands in the league’s kitty is copious and diverse.

With just a couple of months left before the IPL-fever kicks in and hijacks conversations, we spoke with Atit Mehta of BYJU'S. The chief marketing officer of the edu-tech giant shares his views on the brand’s partnership with IPL, marketing objectives, scope for customisations, yield factor, and more. 

Edited Excerpts:

In the realm of Indian cricket, IPL has been a major catalyst in sparking conversations. Do you agree?

Yes, I completely agree. The IPL is about 60 matches, each of nearly 4 hrs of complete entertainment and a very high level of competitive cricket. With all matches in the evening, it looks to be even bigger and higher viewership and impressions. Also, at the time of the IPL, there is a lot of chatter not just about the games and the players, but also brands. Therefore, if a brand gets associated with it, lot of positives rub off and derived benefits can be attained. The ‘IPL months’ also coincides with the closure of the previous academic year and this augurs well for both of our brands - Disney BYJU’S Early Learn for grades 1-3 and BYJU’S & The Learning App for grades 4-12.

Last year you were the Broadcast Associate Sponsor for the IPL. What was your marketing objective and strategy to connect and cash-in favourable returns?

Our marketing objective was to reach the core mass audience which a platform like Cricket or IPL provides. Associating with a series like IPL not only gives mass reach, coverage and frequency, it also gives a brand credibility and presence. For example, only about 80-100 brands are on IPL compared to regular television where a thousand brands are advertising. As a marketer, one needs to look at all aspects, as these sponsorships require a huge investment but if the returns commensurate the investment - there is good ROI and money well invested.

What is the target group that you plan to tap with an association like this?

Our target group is the parents who have kids in the age group of 5yrs to 18yrs. IPL is a great platform for any brand that is looking to reach a mass audience and who has a pan India coverage and penetration.

With this partnership, how has your experience been? What kind of incentives do you think IPL provides over other Indian sporting events?

BYJU’S has been associated with cricket from September 2015 onwards (when the app was launched). During an India match day or a big IPL match, we certainly see a rise in our downloads as compared to non-cricket days. Other measurable objectives like awareness, audience engagement, time spent on the app, conversation rates, etc., also have shown an upward trend.

Cricket, in general, provides a lot of incentives for advertisers. For example, cricket is an advertiser-friendly sport with a break after every over or at a fall of a wicket. Plus the breaks are of 45 seconds, so there are 2 or 3 brands whose advertising plays out - thereby reducing the ebb and flow of viewers.

Customized activations during sporting events have increased sporadically over the years. What are your thoughts on this?

Activations are only possible if a brand is either a team sponsor or a ground sponsor or a broadcast sponsor. Over the years, most of the brands have taken extra effort in leveraging the sponsorship which comes at a fraction of the cost to what one pays for a sponsorship. In a way, it's good that by sponsoring a big cricket tournament, the brand gets mass reach and coverage plus there is an opportunity to create customer delight by driving in some activation.

In the last few years, IPL has become one of the biggest marketing platforms with multi-language feeds, live stream on OTT, etc. How do you think these benefit marketers and how can this be leveraged?

The availability of live cricket across multiple platforms and multiple languages is a great benefit for brands and marketers. Live cricket on the OTT platform augments the reach and drives in more unique viewers, language feed increases time spent as the commentary and cricket graphics are in your preferred language which one can read and understand. This is a huge innovation in sports, especially cricket which is driving viewership and brands lining up to pick up sponsorship and signing high-value deals on cricket.

As a viewer, what are you looking forward to in IPL 2020?

I am certainly looking forward to IPL 2020. For around 45-60 days in March and April, there is something that will make you switch on your television set once at home. Every other content like News is on the app or general entertainment content is on OTT platform - Live sport and cricket are what makes me switch on the TV set.

How do you see the future of cricket unfolding in India?

Cricket is not fading away or going anywhere. All of us used to watch cricket to see Sachin or Rahul Dravid bat, now we watch it for Virat or Rohit or Dhoni. Tomorrow we will have some new players emerging which will take the sport further and the cycle will go on. According to me, the future is still very strong for cricket and will only grow with more and more countries playing the sport and more and more platforms showing the sport. In fact, this year cricket is looking bigger with IPL, Asia Cup, Women's World Cup and T20 Men's World Cup. Brands will have a lot of opportunities with cricket in 2020.