We aim to penetrate into tier 3 & 4 markets with continued IPL sponsorship: TCL’s Mikkilineni

TCL India's marketing head shares why the brand chooses to keep associating with the T20 League.

Mumbai : It's no secret that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is much more than just a show of the country’s love for the sport of cricket, with tons of money riding on the homegrown tournament. Organised by the richest cricket board in the world - the Board of Control of Cricket (BCCI) - the T20 League has many a deal running into multi-million dollar pacts- from the title sponsorship to broadcasting rights to individual team sponsorships. With each succeeding season, the brand value of the league has only grown, with its value in the ongoing season 15 of the Tata IPL set to jump manifold along with the addition of two new teams. The tournament has been a rollercoaster ride with mostly highs and very few lows for all the stakeholders of the IPL. So much so that it would be safe to presume that this is one unique business proposition that is 'risk-proof' with the return on investment pretty much guaranteed.

In this context, it's only logical that brands and companies across the board wish to partake in a share of the IPL pie and be associated with the league in some manner. So also global television brand and consumer electronics company TCL has reiterated its commitment to officially sponsor Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) for the third time in a row this year. This also makes it the brand’s fourth consecutive year of IPL association, having tied up with Delhi Capitals (DC) before this, in 2019. So what prompted the consumer electronics brand’s switch to the Hyderabad-based franchise? TCL India head of marketing Vijay Kumar Mikkilineni explains the rationale behind the decision and the long-standing IPL partnership in a conversation with

Background of the TCL-SRH partnership

“So although we started off our participation with IPL in 2019 through Delhi Capitals, we moved to Sunrisers in 2020. In December 2018 we had our panel factory groundbreaking ceremony in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh in which we have invested Rs 2400 crore in 153 acres, and which has become operational this year," Mikkilineni says. "With the established base in Hyderabad, the city became a big market for us and it was but natural for us to have an alliance with the Hyderabad-based team. That is the core essence of our three-years on and still going strong collaboration with SRH,” he adds.

While Andhra Pradesh has been “one of the top three markets for TCL,” Mikkilineni takes pains to emphasise that the brand does not look at the SRH collaboration as only to be leveraged in the state, but as something that will help TCL to capitalise and capture the brand presence 'pan- India' with the huge fan base that players like Kane Williamson and the rest of the relatively young team of SRH enjoy in all the states across the country.

Rationale behind the three-time collab with SRH

The brand TCL has been associated globally with sports where the younger audience will be present and which their target group of consumers would connect with, including ice hockey, soccer, FIFA to name a few. Globally it had footballer Neymar and several other players from European Football teams as its brand ambassadors.

"Coming to India, it was a given that there is no bigger sport than cricket in the country, and no bigger platform than IPL, which is a good 360-degree marketing activity for any brand to leverage its presence in the country," Mikkilineni says.

Talking about the trials the league faced in the last two years of the pandemic, Mikkilineni says that it will be difficult to judge the merit of the association merely on the basis of return on investment (ROI). The previous year the tournament was split into two halves, with the first half getting adjourned due to Covid-related issues and lockdowns. “It was very challenging for the sport itself and the players as well, being in the bio bubble and so on. Due to this, we couldn’t utilise the players in physical events. Earlier, if I had a product launch during IPL I would bring the biggest star players of that team and we would have done it in a different way.”

Despite running into such hurdles in the past couple of years, the brand did not let it impact its decision to further invest in the league and the franchise. “Considering the on-air viewership reach that IPL has in India market, while also taking into account the receding Covid cases in India, I think especially the offline activation this year would be much better as compared to the last two years in April and May,” Mikkilineni believes.

Expectations from the Tata IPL association

The brand sees the homegrown league as the platform that serves as a bridge between the brand and its consumers, helping it to stay connected and continuously engaged with its target audience. “I really feel the association with IPL from the last four years- first with DC & now three years with SRH- has taken us to the 'number four' rank in India today, in the last five years since our launch in India,” asserts Mikkilineni. With this IPL too, the brand will be looking at stepping into Q3 (with Independence day and Diwali on the horizon in August and October) with a goal to achieve a target of 1.2 million Television sets this year. “We want to keep the momentum going for the brand from the April-May-June quarter with the IPL tie-up, further moving into Q3 where bigger volumes will come up, and then we can achieve the target figure of 12 lakh units that we have  set for the year.”

Expanding its consumer demographic

While the electronic consumer brand’s core TG varies according to the product category, Mikkilineni reveals that for TCL as a brand, its target group essentially is the first time job seeker, newly married young couple, the employed young generation and the tech-savvy customer who loves to know more about the latest technology, which essentially comes in the age bracket of 25-35 age group. The next set of higher segment products sees the 35-45 age group as its target customers.

Sharing the penetration levels of the brand’s TV in the Indian market, Mikkilineni discloses, “The tier 1, tier 2 markets contribute more towards the higher segment of TVs, whereas it skews towards the lower segment when you talk about the tier3, tier4 markets. He adds that currently the brand has a very strong presence in the tier1 and tier 2 markets. “Our target through IPL- the continuous sponsorship and continued BTL activations- is to penetrate into tier 3 and tier 4 markets of the country,” he reveals.

Leveraging the IPL for user engagement

To further leverage this collaboration to the maximum, the brand is ramping up its marketing activities, emphasising the brand image, with plans to spend over Rs 10 crore on a 360-degree campaign, which includes digital, social media, channel marketing, as well as, ATL & BTL. “There might, probably, be very few brands from the consumer durable industry- especially the TV industry- who are participating in IPL and spending that kind of money," avers Mikkilineni. Talking about the omnichannel media mix adopted by the brand, he adds, “Currently, we are looking at a 60:40 split of the marketing spend, with 40 per cent in digital, social, online and PR, while 60 per cent includes ATL, BTL, channel marketing, and partner marketing activities.”

 The brand is already running promotions on its social and digital platforms currently. “We will also be focusing much on BTL activations, having kicked off BTL activations with a strong base of almost 8000 plus retailers in India. The brand stories between the association of SRH & TCL will be running parallel," he says while adding that the brand has no plans of any endorsement associating with the team players, even as it is looking at associating with the whole team. “We have online events which will be going on, such as interaction with the players, but not towards any particular brand ambassador as such,” clarifies Mikkilineni.

The brand also has an eye on regional prints ads, which it plans to run later during the league matches in the month of April. "It will be laying out its marketing plans in tune with the launch of its new miniature 8K Mini LED TV model in the last week of May," reveals Mikkilineni.

The brand also looks to leverage outdoor media now that all curbs on outdoor movement are off in most parts of the country. “We are evaluating the OOH association with Delhi, Mumbai airports, as well as, another regional key nine metro cities,” says Mikkilineni.

 While the last two years of the pandemic affected every sector, the demand remained steady for television with everybody staying at home. “Now it has become a multifunctional product- not only for entertainment but also for having a video conferencing as well as for the school going children’s education, and the OTT platforms, which are penetrating more and more into the households," says Mikkilineni. "So we see this year as very positive in terms of the growth," he concludes.

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