Star Sports and Jio Cinema battle it out in their recently launched IPL campaigns.
'Game Banayega Name', 'Ab Khel Bolega', 'India ka Apna Mantra', 'Asli Picture Abhi Baaki Hai' and 'Yeh Ab Normal Hai'. These have been the Indian Premier League (IPL) promotional campaigns in the last few years. These campaigns have celebrated cricket, their teams and even invited viewers back to the matches after the pandemic disrupted the season in 2021.
However, the promotional campaigns for this season are quite different from the previous years. They have a new message for the audience. While Star Sports' campaign urges viewers to watch it on television, Jio Cinema's campaign says "Ab digital India dekhega digital #TATAIPL, bilkul FREE" (Now digital India will watch digital Tata IPL, absolutely free).
After five years of Disney Star holding both the television and digital rights for the IPL, this is the first time when two different networks will be broadcasting the matches on television and digital. While Disney Star retained the television rights, Viacom18 obtained the digital rights.
Since the last month, Viacom18 and Disney Star have been fighting a high-pitched battle to attract advertisers on their respective mediums. They have been releasing ads and writing articles projecting themselves as the best medium and sometimes even attacking the other medium as inefficient. All in a bid to attract more advertisers. Now the battle is to attract more viewers to their medium and what better way to do it than their promotional campaigns for the tournament.
Star Sports, the official television broadcaster, with its campaign 'Shor on, Game on!’ encapsulates how the passion, excitement and togetherness of fans watching IPL brings alive the cricketers to achieve incredulous moments during the tournament. Featuring Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, it stresses that IPL is best enjoyed together with fans cheering their favourite teams and players on big screens.
While the campaign continues to celebrate the cricketing fever in its campaign, there are subtle hints that urge the audience to watch the matches on television or the 'big screen'. There are shots of television sets as the neighbourhood sits together to watch it.
“...IPL is unquestioningly a big-screen phenomenon that is best watched together on TV with friends, family and the community at large. By bringing the biggest cricket stars together, combined with Star Sports’ high-quality broadcast, expert commentary, and a host of technological innovations, TV offers the best viewing experience for fans, allowing them to immerse themselves in the action and feel like they're right in the middle of the game," a Star Sports spokesperson stated in a press release.
Amit Kekre, chief strategy officer, TBWA\India, believes the larger message of the ad is to highlight the collective viewing experience of the IPL through the ritual of cheering.
"Cheering is something that's very integral to collective viewing. One can't do it alone. The ad celebrates the fact that there is no better way to watch a match than watching it together. From that point of view, I think it subtly prompts you towards watching it together," he says.
Anchit Chauhan, AVP Planning, Wunderman Thompson, says that the Star Sports ad still has the same flavour as the previous years.
"The message is that IPL is not just cricket but a festival and festivals are better celebrated with people. It is not apparent that they want it to be watched on television. There's only a subtle hint. Getting people to switch from their preferred medium without any real incentive will be a challenge, if that’s the intent of the campaign," he says.
Chauhan says it still comes from a key insight that cricket like other sports is best enjoyed when watched together.
"The competition between Viacom18 and Star seems to be heating up and it will be interesting to see whether IPL will be watched more on mobile because it’s free this year on Jio Cinema or will it be watched more on TV," he says.
Meanwhile, Viacom18, the digital streaming partner, has a direct message in the Jio Cinema campaign - "Is baar Tata IPL Jio Cinema pe. Kissi bhi screen pe, woh bhi free." (This time Tata IPL on Jio Cinema. Watch it on any screen for free.) It starts with a visual of a match playing on an old television set with drab commentary. MS Dhoni is on the crease and just before he starts playing he asks the audience to remove the 'boring TV'.
Dhoni has consistently featured in almost all the IPL campaigns in the last five years. He continues to feature in it this year as well, but only in the Jio Cinema campaign. Viacom18 recently announced his appointment as their brand ambassador. He will work with Viacom18 to make digital the preferred platform for fans to watch the tournament.
Joy Bhattacharjya, former team director of Kolkata Knight Riders, says the focus of the campaign has shifted to saying why their product is the most stable product.
"This is the first time we'll be seeing sports competing like news channels. Sports generally drives on exclusivity. But this time viewers will see the same IPL in two different skins. So their advertising campaigns are going to be even stronger and strident. Until last year Star Sports' objective was only to gather people to watch it. This year it is to gather people to watch it on their platform," he says.
This is commonly seen with news channels when all are covering the same elections and the only differentiator is the way it is packaged.
Campaigns from the previous years:
IPL 2008: The first ever-IPL
In the past (from 2015-17), Sony and Star were also in a similar position. While Sony broadcasted the matches on Set Max, it was digitally streamed on Hotstar. However, Sony's campaign for the season continued to celebrate the IPL as 'India ka Tyohaar'. Of course, digital was not as much of a phenomena back then.