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THE PASSION AND POWER OF THE IPL

The IPL’s huge fan base makes it an ideal platform to launch new brands.

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MUMBAI: No other sport generates as much excitement in India as does cricket. No other sport unites a nation of 1.3 billion more than cricket.

The world’s most popular T20 cricket league – the IPL – also does the same trick, but it takes it to a different level. It splits the nation into several large tribes or cohorts who vociferously root for their individual teams in the hope their support will help their favourite lift the trophy and the prize money after two months of competition. 

Stadiums wherever the matches are held fill up and an IPL ticket is a much sought after item as fans congregate wearing their team colours, waving pennants, donning wigs and sporting tattoos on their cheeks and foreheads. The roar that fills the air whenever the bowler runs up to deliver a ball is deafening. And it gets even louder when the batsman lofts it out of the ground. Or the leather hits the stumps. The stadium simply explodes.   

They have a common cause. A common passion:  their love of cricket.

When it comes to the IPL, age, gender, and time of day don’t matter. Men, women, the old and the young, children stay glued to their television sets. The IPL is the big glue. There were some interesting insights on how more youth are watching IPL during the IPL season than non-cricket content. Friends come together and raise a toast to their respective teams, shouting themselves hoarse either in pubs or restaurants or in the comfort of their homes. Much similarly, families come together and it becomes a part of their day where they huddle together and spend quality time.

Last year, a leading publication also showcased an interesting infographic that clearly showed viewership of the league amongst women is on the rise, based on Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data.  It reached 85 million women during prime time as compared to 48 million who watch GECs in the same time slot.  They also accounted for 47 per cent of the tournament’s audience, which is sizable though lower than males who make up 53 per cent. A recent study also showed that cricket is the biggest aggregator of women as audience and it has almost 300 million plus reach. This opens doors to various brands and companies who are looking for the right platform for their target groups. 

The IPL draws in sponsors and advertisers year on year for obviously its large reach.  BARC data reveals that the IPL 2019 season attracted an audience of 462 million on TV with reach going up by 12 per cent. Total viewing was a mind-boggling 338 billion minutes and the OTT platform too attracted 300 million viewers with a peak concurrency of 18.6 million for the final. 

It’s these reasons why the IPL with its fan craze and passion has proved to be one of the country’s largest marketing platforms. Heads of companies see it as an opportunity to showcase some out-of-the-box advertising, be creative in designing their brand associations and gain all the reach and eyeballs the league delivers. It’s this passion that marketers can capitalise on to make sports fans – and they number hundreds of millions - their brand fans. It makes eminent sense for savvy marketers to use the IPL to launch new brands or extensions, build product categories, as well as roll out salience and sustenance campaigns. 

The league offers creative and innovative solutions that bring visibility to a brand. One of the better examples of the execution of this is what it did with the RP- Sanjiv Goenka group’s Too Yumm baked snacks campaign during IPL 2018 and IPL 2019. Says Too Yumm chief marketing officer Anupam Bokey : ”Unlike other media, IPL is a very well measured and researched event, which gives the brand great confidence to invest in it,” he reveals. “The league helps the brand to get an accurate ROI, as well as higher recall, compared to other genres”. (for more read: How Too Yumm Hit a Six with the IPL)

Consider Byju’s. It generates 63 per cent of its ad GRPs from cricket, according to BARC data. The education app came on board as an associate sponsor of IPL 2019. 

What sense does it make for an education app to partner with a sport? 

You don’t have to dig too deep to look for the reasons. India and Indians have always had this romance and passion for education.  Both have only intensified recently. In a country that is undergoing drastic changes in terms of a shift towards a modern lifestyle with all the trappings thereof, families view education as a ticket to a high paying job that will help fulfill and achieve those aspirations. Ditto with cricket; it’s a game and a discipline that has captured India’s imagination. 

Additionally, the blazing competitive nature of cricket requires cricketers to study opponents, improvise and learn new skills all the time, if they want to stay on top of their game. Byju’s aids families to educate their school-going children, helps them learn beyond school and even tool themselves with other skill sets. Hence, an association could only help Byju's. 

The results showed:  its average daily downloads shot up 90 per cent plus after its IPL association. Research has shown that 95 per cent of those surveyed associate Byju’s with the IPL. 

Auto industry newcomer MG Motor too successfully used IPL 2019 as a launchpad for the entry of its connected car into India in the competitive luxury sports utility segment. BARC data reveals that it banked heavily on news as a genre from February to the end of March 2019 to generate 50 per cent and 49 per cent of its 212 and 810 ad GRPs. Google Trends reveals that Its search index on the engine was hovering around 10-15 per cent during this period. 

It shifted its spends almost entirely to sports from 30 March and continued doing so in April, May, June, and July 2019. And of course, a large part of it was on the IPL, followed by the cricket world cup.  It generated ad GRPs of 888, 417, 719 and 514 for those months respectively. But it's Google search index went up nine times over a 30-day average, peaking on 12 May at the time of the IPL final. 

The impact was felt on MG Motor’s order books too, which jumped up to 20,000 bookings at a time when other brands were witnessing much less. Finally, awareness of the brand rose: it was 3.5 times higher amongst those who associate it with the IPL, leading to an overall improvement in its imagery parameters, according to Kantar Research. 

Said MG Motor India president & managing director Rajeev Chaba at the time of the launch: “The MG Hector, as India's first internet car, has been built with a high level of localisation and comes power-packed with features, inside-out. As MG's first offering in India, the Hector demonstrates our commitment to provide the best cars to Indian customers, that they love and appreciate.”

Even simple spot buy associations can work well. Online grocery delivery service Grofers took up this option during the last edition of the IPL.  The net result: it doubled its Google search activity; notched up a 4x increase in app downloads even as daily usage went up 22 per cent, according to data available with indiantelevision.com.  

“We were normally advertising on Hindi GECs but then we thought that the response on Hindi GEC could have gone down during IPL. So we experimented with IPL with a small burst of advertising. We did get a bump up during that time,” Grofers co-founder AlbinderDhindsa had expressed to a publication sometime back. 

Nuvoco Vistas Corp’s Duraguard (part of the Karsanbhai Patel-promoted Nirma Ltd) got onto the sponsorship bandwagon. However, it chose to associate as a features partner sponsoring spontaneous pushbacks and Super Sixes. The Super Sixes partnership was the more exciting one as it highlighted batsmen belting the ball out of the ground, no matter how well it was bowled to him. It is craftsmanship from the batsman at its best. The victory of bat over ball. And it’s a piece of content which is always something viewers want to watch. 

The company has three principal cement brands—Duraguard, Duraguard Microfiber and Concrete. The objective of the IPL association was to raise awareness and recognition for the cement brands it acquired after its purchase of the erstwhile Lafarge India’s assets in 2016.

And it worked extremely well. Search on Google for Duraguard went up by 30 per cent, and total awareness for it went up 3.4 times in research conducted in an exposed versus a controlled group. 

The IPL is a big celebration because it demands the attention of this diverse nation. For its viewers, it's the perfect marketing platform and an opportunity for brands to connect with these audiences and convert them into brand fans. Various kinds of brands from FMCG to automobiles and fashion to electronics, everyone is a fan of this cricketing bonanza; and with the growing viewership in men, women, youth and the elderly – the league is only getting bigger. The passion for the sport and the brands, is what the power of IPL is all about!

With the countdown to this year’s edition commencing, almost everyone is looking forward to another winning inning for the league once again

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