Anirban Roy Choudhury

Vivo IPL all set for April run; broadcasters seeking higher ad rates, more brands keen to advertise

BCCI has announced that the next edition of the T-20 tournament will be played in India between April 9 and May 30, 2021.

Tokyo Summer Olympics got postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. Marquee football tournament, featuring European countries (EURO), was also postponed. Many qualifying events were cancelled. Indian Premier League (IPL), however, was one of the very few sporting events that survived.

The multi-million dollar T20 cricket league (IPL) was held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in September 2020. For many, it was the beginning of good things.

Board for Control of Cricket in India has announced that the next edition of the tournament (IPL) will be played between April 9 and May 30, 2021. Now that IPL is back in the first quarter of the financial year (2021-2022), the leading broadcaster Star and Disney India is eyeing better ad rates.

According to sources close to the development, back in September 2020, the tournament was played in unprecedented circumstances and the broadcaster did not have much room for negotiation.

As per reports, the bundled (Hotstar + TV) slots were priced at around Rs 12 lakh per 10 seconds. However, there were only a handful of brands that paid that rate. This year (2021), according to market sources, Star and Disney India is eyeing a 20 per cent hike.

With Team India in great form lately, Ashish Bhasin, CEO APAC and Chairman India, Dentsu Aegis Network, feels that there will be high interest in the IPL.

Ashish Bhasin
Ashish Bhasin

"IPL is the single biggest television property in India. History shows that cricket has always done well. In these times (of COVID), when people thought IPL won't do well given that the people weren't allowed inside the stadium and the tournament was not happening in India... even in those circumstances, it did well."

According to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India data, IPL-13 (2020) viewership saw a substantial 23 per cent increase over 2019, with a 65 per cent contribution from the Hindi language broadcast. In its 'yearbook', BARC India mentioned that while viewership from mega (metro) cities grew by six per cent, states like Bihar/Jharkhand, Odisha and Kerala saw significant growth in viewership in 2020.

Source: BARC India's 'Yearbook'
Source: BARC India's 'Yearbook'

Also, 48 per cent of the Indian TV viewing audiences were glued to their TV sets during IPL, with 53 per cent being male. "While every year, IPL is held in the first quarter (April-June), last year, it was held in September. Despite COVID (being around), it did extremely well, with higher time spent. I expect it to do better than last year," opines Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands India.

Shashi Sinha
Shashi Sinha

During the 2020 IPL edition, most advertisers were related to online shopping, education, gaming, e-payment wallet, social media, cellular phones and services. With edtech and fantasy sports witnessing tremendous growth, they have now placed heavy bets on IPL.

Advertising on Star and Disney India during IPL. Source: BARC India
Advertising on Star and Disney India during IPL. Source: BARC India

With the market dynamics (the gradual reopening of schools, etc.) changing, will these players pump money into the IPL again? "I think many of them will," responds Bhasin.

"You will also have others coming in. That was the period when most businesses were not functioning fully. The shops were closed, people weren't stepping out, etc... whereas the digital businesses were not that much impacted and, in some cases, they benefitted as digital consumption was growing."

Bhasin is of the view that as most businesses have already recovered and the others are on their way up, the "2021 IPL edition will have lot more brands interested in it."

Considering the developments on the India-China borders and the sentiments in the country, most Chinese brands had opted out from advertising during IPL 2020. Big spenders like Vivo, OnePlus, China-headquartered apps and browsers, and social media platforms were not seen during the ad breaks between overs.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has brought back Vivo as IPL's title sponsor and the diplomatic relationship between the two countries is also improving. So, will we see Chinese brands comeback?

Yes, "but not at the level it used to be," says Bhasin. "It will need some time to go back to that level. It is a function of whether their (Chinese) businesses are picking up in the market or not. If their businesses pick up, they will probably come back. The businesses that have picked up will be the first ones to come back."

Sinha is of the view that there is no "Chinese or non-Chinese" scenario at this stage. "It will be dependent on the supply and demand. The brands with new launches will advertise, and with the economy in far better position than it was last year, I see it becoming a much better year for the IPL," he concludes.

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