Debashish Chakraborty
Brands and Sports marketing

IPL: The surest bet for marketers in an uncertain environment

Agency and marketing heads share their views on the comeback and how the timing couldn’t have been more perfect…

The news of the return of the world’s biggest cricket property has hyped up the entire live sports ecosystem. From what was declared ‘the most significant disruption in live sports since World War II’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic and when the road to recovery looked distant, IPL has come to life - reviving the dead hopes of fans as well as the brands. Amidst the pandemic, with limited sources of entertainment, this year’s edition is expected to surpass previous records in spite of the novel approach.

With the short festive period, brands are often on the lookout for platforms that can give them greater reach with high impact in a shorter period of time.

Over the years, IPL has consistently proven to be a platform with an unparalleled reach and an impact which has lured in myriad brands. Last year, IPL reached out to 284 MN fans within its first week. When compared with top TV shows like KBC, Bigg Boss, and Dance India Dance who gathered 154 MN in 2.5 months, 165 MN in 3.5 months, 140 MN in 2.5 months, respectively, these matrices definitely showcase the massive audience that the sporting event is capable of pulling in. Another factor that makes IPL a marketer’s favourite, is the lucrative returns it offers. With the current schedule of the IPL, this season can also prove to be the ideal platform for marketers to explore the short festive period.

With numerous brands from diverse sectors betting hard for partnerships, we asked Vaishali Verma, CEO, Initiative India, on the current IPL scenario and what factors play a crucial role in creating brand interest. “First and foremost, we need to understand that the sentiment of the audience is currently low. One, the factor of hope will play a crucial role now. Post the pandemic outbreak, there haven’t been any live sporting events and in a country like India, we’re not really used to such a gap. Hence, with the World Cup and Asia Cup getting postponed, IPL was long-awaited. Therefore, with people confined within their home, from a television or broadcasting perspective it is a great viewership opportunity.” said Verma.

Vaishali Verma
Vaishali Verma

Additionally, considering the poor sentiment of almost every market, the event is expected to revive sales for a lot of brands. And with the lockdown limiting the supply of essentials and further with the restricted unlock, brands are keen to grab as many eyeballs as possible, especially in sectors like e-commerce, edu-tech, food delivery, BFSI and delivery facilitators who will be looking forward to leveraging the offline to online paradigm shift through the association. “For a lot of marketers, this could be a make-or-break chance. Because 5 months of this year have been spent waiting and brands need to ensure that the rest is leveraged in the best way to revive and recover,” adds Verma.

Mohit Joshi, MD - India, Havas Media Group believes that IPL has a standardised format that has evolved over time, though some specific changes are being done this year to make it more lucrative; especially, the change in the broadcasting timing. “To provide better ROI to the advertisers, the matches would start at 1930 IST which would provide better TVRs for the matches, daily trivia contests to be held to increase viewer engagement – brands can leverage this, more peripheral options to advertise rather than conventional FCT only.”

Mohit Joshi
Mohit Joshi

Sai Narayan, CMO, adds, “One of the key reasons for IPL taking the centre stage is its prime-time slot i.e 7:30-8 pm onwards. Hence, the maximum eyeballs will go to IPL and if the consumer is there, definitely brands won’t miss this wagon. In the past, during the IPL, the viewership numbers of GECs, Hindi movies, and to some extent news have been impacted. It will be interesting to see what happens this time.”

Another interesting or rather co-incident happening is the event being enveloped with the festive season; making the package more fruitful and ensuring a bang for a buck. Narayan says, “What is unique is the IPL falling into the core festive time. During festive time i.e September to November, the advertising spend increases. Also, since April onwards, the business has been pretty slow for brands. Hence, brands will be aggressively looking out to meet revenue targets. And with the scale that IPL offers, marketers will be looking at reaching out to their TG through the sporting event. Also, the timing is right, and mixing it with the high audience sentiment, brands are going to spend higher to make their presence felt loud and clear.”

During festive time i.e September to November, the advertising spend increases.
Sai Narayan
Sai Narayan

IPL over the years has catered to the interest of many traditional big players across industries. But the last few years have seen an increasing interest from young players. This year too, new entrants like My11Circle, MyTeam11, Unacademy, Khatabook, and Dunzo are expected to debut. This raises another question about the capability to spend while associating with the sporting event. Considered a rich advertisers game, why is there a vested interest from players who are willing to bet a substantial sum from their marketing and advertising budgets.

Verma reveals, “Typically when launching a new brand, in addition to smooth distribution and availability, on top of the consumer funnel is awareness. And to create such awareness, you need a high reach platform and that’s where IPL delivers. Hence a lot of new brands like Dunzo or Uncademy might be keen to get on board keeping this factor in mind. Remember, we launched Amazon India on IPL 6 years back. Because in a market with existing players like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Myntra, eBay, etc, nothing could have been bigger than IPL for a launch. In the past, we’ve seen brands like Swiggy and Paytm leverage IPL to improve their reach/metrics exponentially.”

We launched Amazon India on IPL 6 years back. Because…nothing could have been bigger than IPL for a launch.

As far as the broadcasting angle is concerned, marketers are interested in two metrics: first is the scale and relevancy of the platform, and second, what kind of viewership can be attained through the broadcasting channel. This will be the 13th edition and IPL as a sporting property has been backed by innumerable anecdotes showcasing its gravitas. In addition to the massive reach factor, one also can see a lot of iconic campaigns being built on the back of IPL which helps the brand establish a relationship with its customers which is unique, loyal, and long-term.

With no sign of ebbing, the event seems to be an ideal platform for brands to bounce back and might even be ‘the biggest IPL of all time’ in terms of reach and brand association.

When asked about the same, Verma said, “Yes, IPL can be considered an ideal platform for marketers to bounce back. We’re expecting this year’s reach to surpass previous records and touch the 500 MN mark. It is a desirable platform but it definitely comes with a cost involved. If you can afford it and it caters to your TG, it’s definitely worth putting your bet on. As an industry, we hope that a substantial revival will happen for brands during IPL.”

“With the live sports scene stagnant during the lockdown months, IPL is poised to generate a lot of excitement for the audience and brands. Whether IPL 2020 will be the highest-rated IPL ever or not, but there is definitely a chance.” opines Narayan.

Lastly, Joshi signs off stating, “IPL has always been a great platform to provide engaging reach to the brands. This year the role of IPL in delivering reach and engagement will be even more important. I am very optimistic about both the brand associations as well as IPL’s performance.”