Debashish Chakraborty
Brands and Sports marketing

Sports television broadcasting is here to stay...

In a digital era, how is television still a viewer's companion and an advertiser's friend?

In a time where digital mediums are gaining traction, the question one ponders is–How is television broadcasting still lucrative or...relevant? Living in an online-offline world, where the tussle to which screen to move next is always on, the relationship with television has changed – but not shifted. In spite the deluge of digital content that's been curated, television doesn't seem to be losing its sheen anytime soon. According to a BARC report, there is a jump of around 7.5% in the number of households that own a television set; taking it to 197 million in 2018. Additionally, the number of viewers has also increased to 836 million.

Taking into consideration the colossal reach that television offers, a segment that provides substantial 'coverage' and audience pull is live sports. In the last decade or so, with the sporting events mushrooming, television viewership has seen a spike like never before. While other sports like Football (ISL), Kabaddi (PKL), Hockey (HIL), Badminton (PBL) are sweating it hard – both on and off ground – to make a name for themselves, Indian Premier League (IPL) has managed to hold on to the crown. The nail-biting finishes, miss-in-a-heartbeat moments and palpitating thrillers have not just kept the audience hooked but also the advertisers in its kitty. The league not just gives the brand visibility, but also provides engagement opportunities via marketing innovations and brand building techniques. In addition to these, the loyal regional fan base and avid followers across age-groups make it an ideal advertising package that promises a bang-for-a-buck.

News and GECs which enjoy a majority of the viewership and advertising pie also seemed to be playing on backfoot during the cricketing seasons. IPL 2019 remained untouched by the General Election 2019 wave. As projected by TAM-BARC, IPL 2019 catered to a massive 242 million weekly audience while the general election 2019 could only touch about 105 million viewers.

IPL which has seen a year-on-year growth among its female audience, the average female audience for IPL 2019 was up by 18%. As per a report, GECs collectively have lost almost 10% of its female audience (15+ years) during prime time hours of 7 pm to midnight, during the first three weeks of IPL 2019.

To understand more about how sports broadcasting associations have worked out for brands, we got in touch with Sai Narayan, chief marketing officer, Paisabazaar.com and Prashant Verma, vice president marketing, Grofers. Here is what they had to say...

Prashant Verma, Vice President - Marketing, Grofers
Prashant Verma, Vice President - Marketing, Grofers
Sai Narayan,  Chief Marketing Officer, Paisabazaar.com
Sai Narayan, Chief Marketing Officer, Paisabazaar.com

It is believed that the television space, especially the inventory for broadcasting on sports, is cluttered with advertisers. Why do you think it still holds the top spot in a marketer's list?

SN- Sports is a high reach medium for any brand. Historically, the biggest brands have done some of their most iconic campaigns around marquee cricket events. What makes sports really meaningful for financial services is that they are able to grab the eye-balls of their target audience at a mass level.

While it is cluttered, if you look at the size of the opportunity for financial products across lending, investment, insurance and payments, it makes good business sense for financial services players to be associated with sports broadcasts. For a fintech brand like Paisabazaar, it’s a great opportunity to keep building consumer trust and enter every Indian household.

PV- To build a sustainable business for the mass market that enjoys long term loyalty, brands need to build both relevance and respect with the audience. And for doing the same, there is no better medium in India than television which enjoys reach like none other, has a stature that is greater than other mediums and is most effective in putting out a brand story that creates empathy and affinity.

How has your advertising experience with/around IPL turned out?

SN- Reach is the primary factor as you get a chance to reach out to around 700 million people on TV and OTT. But we also need to remember that properties like IPL are easy to watch and snackable and gives you the opportunity to reach out to a more diversified and more importantly a new audience, unlike say a Test match. We have seen huge spikes in traffic on our platform during IPL whenever a spot goes on air. Our product, like free credit score, enables a consumer to check his credit score on his phone from Paisabazaar between overs and resume watching the game. Within a minute.

PV- IPL not only offers media opportunities that create high resonance but also cuts through various consumer profiles by reaching out to a wider TG set. Advertising during the IPL elevated the impact of our campaign and we saw great results on both brand and business metrics - in terms of organic reach, brand lift on consideration, growth in order volumes and new user acquisition.

According to you, what’s the trick-of-the-trade to leverage sports in a non-traditional way?

SN- So, sports, typically cricket, is a low-hanging fruit for any brand because of the sheer reach. Some of the newer sports properties like PKL can also be cost-efficient for some brands. What really needs to work is sports as a medium and a brand’s communication for the audience. It, of course, works well for digital brands who can measure the impact instantly. But at the end of the day, while sports will give you the reach, your product has to be relevant and work seamlessly for the audience and your communications need to be meaningful.

PV- Sports events are amongst the most-watched properties of the year and play a role across the full marketing funnel. Apart from building incremental reach at the top, digital on sports supports the middle & bottom of the funnel with conversions and efficient remarketing. Conversations with consumers help drive real-time engagement on social platforms. Furthermore, tech-enabled marketing using game mechanics also builds engagement during sports events.

With the IPL ecosystem blooming every season and sporting events proliferating, the claims about the slowdown in sports broadcasting seem fallacious. While, brand clutter is definitely a pressing issue for every marketer, broadcasting on sports provides a solution for that as well. If we were to compare sports with other genres which have about four ad breaks per hour and each ad break can range between 4-10 minutes; it has almost 25-30 commercials being aired during every ad break, the over-crowding is a sure test of patience for the viewers. Whereas, the ad breaks on cricket are less than 60 seconds which accommodates 3 to 4 adverts. This results in the break viewership drop during the IPL airing to about 3-4%, and it is about 35-40% for new channels. While there is no denying the fact that digitalisation is evolving the way content is being consumed, but the interest of both – audience and advertisers – still majorly lies in the popular traditional medium. And as of today, television is still growing and...dominating.