Benita Chacko

Here's how IPL's oddball brand alliances are making a run for victory

  • Brands like KPT Pipes, Advance Decorative Laminates, and NIC Ice Creams have partnered with IPL teams

  • These partnerships use unique nomenclature to drive brand messaging and create a deeper connection with consumers

  • By aligning with cricket, brands can guide consumers through the purchase journey and boost brand recall

  • These partnerships go beyond logo visibility and involve collaborations on content creation and consumer gratification

KPT Pipes is Royal Challengers Bengaluru's (RCB) ‘Official Piping Partner’ for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024. Advance Decorative Laminates is Kolkata Knight Riders’ ‘Official Laminates & Plywood Partner’. NIC Ice Creams is the ‘Official Ice Cream Partner’ for Mumbai Indians. Now, what have Pipes, Laminates and Ice Creams got to do with the game of cricket? Well, nothing really, and absurd as these partnerships may sound, experts suggest that such nomenclature helps brands drive their messaging and ensures better brand recall.

The IPL allows brands to align closely with teams to enhance their market positioning. Brands across categories sponsor IPL teams and adopt different nomenclature to set themselves apart. Becoming official partners to these teams also helps the brands capitalise on their strong fan bases. While mainstream names like ‘Title Sponsor’, ‘Principal Sponsor’ and ‘Associate Sponsors’ are common, in recent years there has been a rising trend of brands taking on more descriptive titles. Brands choose these distinctive nomenclatures to align with their objectives. 

Trupti Dave, VP, Starcom India, says brand associations with cricket events have consistently proven effective in maximising their presence and guiding consumers through the different stages of the purchase journey. By strategically aligning with cricket, brands create a pathway for consumers starting from awareness, moving through consideration and ultimately influencing their purchase decision. 

“The comprehensive approach capitalises on the popularity and widespread appeal of cricket to create a lasting impact on consumer behaviour. In a nutshell, it builds brand imagery and brand proposition in the consumer's mind.”

Shantanu Ghosh, head - sports, Wavemaker India, says that brands are increasingly aligning with sporting events to champion causes and connect on a more profound level with audiences. These titles help establish a deeper connection between the brand and the functional aspect of the sport.

“While traditional sponsorship might only involve logo placement or ads, brands now seek deeper partnerships. This shift, focused on storytelling and supporting causes, has been evident in recent years. These nomenclatures allow brands to emphasise the causes they support through sports,” he says.

Here's how IPL's oddball brand alliances are making a run for victory

Last year, Sunfeast Supermilk called itself the ‘Official Strong Biscuit partner’ of CSK. In 2020, Colgate became the ‘Official Smile Partner’ for six IPL teams. In the same year, Mondelez signed up to be the ‘Official Goodness Partner’ for Mumbai Indians. “These roles represent emotional attributes that brands wish to associate with the event. If it just called itself the official partner, it wouldn't necessarily reveal the specific brand associated with it,” adds Ghosh.

According to media experts, these associations (that do not have any visibility on the jersey) cost around Rs 1 to Rs 2 crore. Brands don't merely associate with teams or sports, they seek alignment in brand ethos. Without this synergy, partnerships remain superficial sponsorships focused solely on logo visibility. Nowadays, brands prioritise meaningful connections over simply buying media assets.

Sanjay Adesara, CBO, Adani Sportsline, says each brand participating in IPL has distinct objectives and positioning requirements. “The brands have specific tasks it aims to accomplish, depending on which stage of the brand cycle it is in,” he says.

Here's how IPL's oddball brand alliances are making a run for victory

Dave says these titles on IPL are effective and if taken consistently over multiple seasons work wonders and leave an impact in consumers’ minds. “These don’t just drive brand recall but also brand recognition which is what moves the needle of consideration in consumers mind,” she says.

She insists that an IPL association surely helps move the marketing needle if planned and executed effectively. “We have seen it bring an uptick in brand awareness amongst consumers on many occasions. Contextual associations are far more effective than just having a brand association which is limited to brand logo exposure. These contextual associations drive not just brand recall but brand proposition as well,” she says.

ITW Catalyst, a sports consultancy firm, has facilitated 22 such deals across teams for IPL 2024. Among them are HDFC Payzapp’s partnership with RCB as the official payment partner and ITC MasterChef’s association as RCB’s gourmet partner. 

Paroksh Chawla, CEO, ITW Catalyst says these strategic nomenclatures forge a strong connection and enhance brand visibility and appeal. “For example, HDFC, while being India's largest bank, desired to establish itself in the payment sector as well. Utilising a nomenclature effectively aligns with this goal, ensuring its positioning in the payment space is clear and memorable. This trend has been evolving over the past seven to eight years, with an increasing number of brands capitalising on the high-affinity fans have for their teams,” he says.

Here's how IPL's oddball brand alliances are making a run for victory

However, some brands also take on functional attributes, like the earlier mentioned KPT Pipes and Advance Decorative Laminates which are piping and laminate partners respectively. These could be to boost sales and leverage the team's platform for increased trade.

“Brands have various objectives when entering partnerships, such as trade growth in specific markets or improving brand visibility and recall,” Ghosh explains.

The partnership goes beyond just the nomenclature. It primarily offers three key assets to the brand: Firstly, access to team assets including player images, team logos, and other intellectual properties. Secondly, the opportunity to collaborate on content creation, bringing the team's communication to life through engaging content. Lastly, brands leverage consumer gratification through contests, offering tickets and promotions that allow consumers to attend matches and have meet-and-greet opportunities with players.

When a brand becomes a partner, the first benefit is typically the visibility of its logo or trademark. Ghosh says brands want to go beyond that. For instance, Mondelez as the goodness partner of Mumbai Indians provided insurance to daily wage earners for every run scored by the team. This was during the COVID lockdown when daily wage earners were most affected. 

Here's how IPL's oddball brand alliances are making a run for victory

Further, its players like Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, and Surya Kumar Yadav announced the initiative through both digital and TV campaigns. “This campaign combined the power of media and the power of sport comes together. It's important to do effective media planning and budget allocation to amplify such partnerships. It's not enough to just form a partnership; it's essential to actively market the cause or designation associated with it,” Ghosh says.

When a brand becomes a partner, it creates certain attributes with the help of the team to align with its branding. These partnerships extend beyond mere nomenclature, with various marketing activities enhancing its involvement.

“Nowadays, brands have access to a plethora of content opportunities both on and off the field. Players within the franchise often support these initiatives, which are then further activated on social media platforms. Brands may choose the digital route, utilising social media groups to generate new content or engage with their audience. These activations encompass various activities such as quizzes, contests, and meet-and-greets with dealers and consumers,” Adesara adds.

Have news to share? Write to us