Nisha Qureshi

How RISE and Cricket Australia are revolutionising cricket sponsorships through virtual inventories

A look at the rise of virtual sponsorship inventories in cricket and what they mean for brands.

Cricket Australia (CA) and RISE Worldwide’s exclusive partnership is aimed at revolutionising cricket broadcasting with virtual advertising and sponsorship inventories.

The tenure of the partnership covers various marquee series like India’s tour of Australia in 2024/2025 and 2025/2026, Ashes in 2025/2026, the annual Big Bash League, and other select international matches.

According to Richard Ostroff, acting executive GM for broadcast and commercial, Cricket Australia, 45% of inventory for these tournaments has already been sold.

However, this is not the first time these bodies have partnered. During the 2020-21 season, RISE became the exclusive global agency for Cricket Australia in a game-changing partnership opening up a new revenue stream and business model for CA with virtual sponsorships.

Virtual inventories and what they mean for brands

Nikhil Bardia, head of RISE, says that for brands, partnering with Cricket Australia means partnering with a very big board whose structure back home is a sponsored structure where they have limited brands and a much cleaner environment from a branding perspective.

He says that getting virtual partnerships means unlocking a lot more for brands. “What happens with virtual is that it allows brands to be innovative in their communication. It could be a logo, it could be a version of the product, it could be messaging, it's very dynamic. It allows a lot of innovation in a campaign.”

Bardia states that RISE is constantly working towards evolving the technology around the phenomenon to help brands. “Working with someone like Richard who is a pioneer in broadcasting, it allows us to keep pushing the path, offering brands more innovations which excites them when they are engaging with fans,” he says.

“About 50% of the brands that signed on last year have pretty much signed on this year also,” states Bardia.

Hero, Diageo, Dream 11, Volkswagen, Amazon Pay, Ebco, IIFL Finance and Sensodyne are some of the brands that have renewed their partnerships with the board.

Ostroff explains that previously with physical assets, whether it be physical pitch mats or paint on the grass, branding was very inflexible because of the physical alignment of it and of course it used to be the same branding that appears everywhere worldwide.

“With virtual, what that means is that we can, firstly, have a much better representation of the creative in terms of the dynamic nature, the colour, the resolution. Secondly, what we can now start to do is change that brand by territory. So what viewers will see in India and in the UK often may be different from what viewers in Australia will see,” he explains.

He further adds that as technology evolves, brands can unlock more and different kinds of assets and inventories.

Ostroff shares that CA tested the technology for over three years to ensure it was foolproof. He states that this is part of the board’s broader strategy. “We are very, very focused on ensuring that our world feed, which is our TV coverage that is broadcast throughout the world, obviously in India, is the best it can possibly be. So that's not just about the quality of production and graphics, commentary etc but also about making it relevant and making it accessible to as many people as possible.”

He mentions that India and the United Kingdom are the only two markets where CA has launched virtual inventories. “India is a very mature market when it comes to understanding of the game of cricket. Even more so than in the UK because people are really passionate about the game. I think by nature there's a high degree of interest in the way we go about doing things here that perhaps doesn't exist in other markets and from that perspective that's kept us on our toes to ensure that we are delivering a quality product in the way it looks and is presented to fans here. We can't deliver something that looks second rate or is cluttered.”

Ostroff states that Indians make up one of  its biggest viewership numbers. He explains that on YouTube, out of 9.2 million, almost 7 million fans are from India. On Facebook, out of 21 million almost 5.5 million fans are from India and on Instagram, out of 5.2 million almost 2.5 million fans are from India.

He says although the Indian national team and the IPL drive most of the cricket craze in India, CA positions itself as being the content of choice for Indian cricket fans outside everything that's put on by its friends at BCCI.

What Cricket Australia is doing, more broadly, is that it is very focused on better connecting Indian cricket fans and its Indian partners with Australia in a way that hasn’t been done before.

“There's a huge amount of effort and momentum and support coming from the Australian government at the moment to build closer connections with India. This is happening at government-to-government level. The Australian government and I think the Indian government as well, no doubt, recognise that cricket is the ultimate platform by which to build a bridge and deepen those connections,” he says.

Apart from virtual inventories the board has also partnered with Disney Star to produce local language coverage of matches as well. This makes coverage more accessible and more relevant to more people in India.

(With additional inputs from Benita Chacko.)

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