Debashish Chakraborty
Brands and Sports marketing

“We wanted to take MPL to the masses…and the IPL can help any brand become a household name”: Abhishek Madhavan

We spoke to the marketing head at Mobile Premier League (MPL) about the brand’s partnership with IPL, the role of broadcast, the involvement of young brands and more.

It’s rare that an event, especially a sporting property, lures advertisers like the Indian Premier League does. The last edition (2020) of IPL witnessed an omnipresent bag of brands vouching for almost half a billion fans. In addition to traditional players like consumer goods and automobiles, India’s most beloved and popular sporting event has been witnessing the involvement of multiple young brands from industries like edu-tech, fin-tech and fantasy gaming as well. Last year, the event saw participation from two major players in the fantasy gaming segment – Dream11 and Mobile Premier League (MPL).

In conversation with afaqs!, Abhishek Madhavan, SVP, Growth and Marketing, MPL shared insights on association with IPL, leveraging multi-lingual televise and broadcast, the reason for increasing involvement of brands and more.

“We wanted to take MPL to the masses…and the IPL can help any brand become a household name”: Abhishek Madhavan

Edited Excerpts:

What were your expectations from IPL 2020 for your brand?

The IPL 2020 presented itself as a multi-pronged opportunity: First, live Cricket with the superstars of the game was returning after a sizeable gap; second, with no in-person attendance in stadiums, viewership was bound to break records and we saw it happen.

We wanted to take MPL to the masses and bolster our standing as India’s biggest esports and mobile gaming platform and the IPL can help any brand become a household name. We also used our IPL brand campaigns to promote new features on the MPL platform.

Your first association with IPL (in 2019) broadcast was only months after your inception. As a new brand what were the objectives, you’d planned to meet? How did the event fulfil them?

We had just signed Virat Kohli as our brand ambassador and had an exciting new campaign with him. The IPL 2019 presented itself as a perfect opportunity to take this campaign throughout the country. Virat’s association with a leading IPL team and Indian Cricket in general, along with us being a broadcast sponsor for the IPL, helped MPL become a recognised brand nationally.

Tell us about your target audience. How does this wide reach help with reaching your target audience?

Simply put, our target audience is anyone above the age of 18, who owns a smartphone with a fast data connection. Hence, we need a medium like the IPL to help us reach a broad, massy target audience. Cricket and the IPL cut across the length and breadth of the country in terms of reach and it is watched as a family or household activity too. Hence, advertising during the IPL and partnering with IPL teams bolster our reach.

Marketers often curate campaigns around the sporting event (MPL released an IPL-specific ad film with actor Prakash Jha). Tell us the importance and relevance of brand communication around the event.

Yes, we released our Rs 99 Pass ad campaign with Manoj Bajpai and Prakash Raj. The ad was to highlight a special product (Rs 99 Pass) we had introduced, which gave users free entry to Fantasy Cricket contests for the entire season. In this case, since this product was introduced specially for the season, it was very important for us to release it around the start of the season. Even apart from product features, it’s important as a brand to be visible throughout, and a great way to do that is by partnering with teams, which we did with KKR and RCB.

IPL’s multi-lingual televise gives it an edge to reach out to national & regional audiences. How can brands make the most of it?

Cricket in India, and of course the IPL, is a pan-India phenomenon. It cuts across States and languages. Hence, it’s no surprise that the IPL commands the kind of viewership it does. Brands by associating with the IPL or its constituent teams are already grabbing eyeballs and viewers’ attention. All that they need to do is communicate their USP to their target audience concisely and creatively.

How does the IPL broadcast help brands of varying growth journeys capitalise? What are your thoughts on this recent trend of brands from the fantasy gaming category partnering with the event?

Irrespective of the brand’s growth journey, the IPL helps the brand reach the masses. And historically, we have seen established brands use it to underline their presence, as well as new brands capitalise on the IPL’s record reach. It is a vehicle that can help brands across the spectrum.

MPL is a gaming platform and Fantasy is one of our offerings. Unlike pure-play fantasy gaming apps, we are an all-season platform, so we plan our brand marketing initiatives for the full year and not just the IPL. That being said, it is encouraging to see new fantasy sports companies enter the market as it is good for the overall growth of the industry.

What do you think is in store for the advertiser for IPL 2021? What trends from a marketer’s perspective can be seen in the upcoming/future editions?

We saw a lot of young startups sponsor the IPL 2020 and partner with teams, and we can expect to see more of the same. Further, we saw a lot of celebrities endorse brands in the online gaming and esports space and we expect that to continue too, as it is a sunrise sector industry.

What was noticed in advertising was that a lot of ads and campaigns took a crisper, tactical approach and shortened their creatives. This might continue with the upcoming and future editions too.