Corona impact on IPL: Brands take a wait-and-watch approach

Brands are relooking at their strategy in view of the virus scare

MUMBAI: Three weeks into India’s biggest cricketing event, Indian Premier League, brands and sponsors are re-looking their strategy amid the outbreak of coronavirus.

The virus that first appeared in the Wuhan city of China has spread to over 46 countries and entered India earlier this month. Around 50 positive cases have been confirmed in India as of Tuesday, as per the union health ministry.

Amid the pandemic, the global trade has taken a toll and affected countries have shut their borders. “From a brand perspective, the market has slowed down a bit. Everybody is putting things on hold and is on wait-and-watch mode”, says Havas Media’s chief executive officer Anita Nayyar.

She believes that as the League approaches, everybody will take a call on the impact of the virus on IPL. “Since money is involved in this event, the virus scare will absolutely impact the overall business. The impact will be there, but to what extent? It’s something we will get to know as we approach the sporting event,” says Nayyar.

Nayyar adds, “Change in on-ground viewership will open up the box of re-negotiation amid the virus outbreak. Except for broadcasters, events, stadia-ads, event-ticketing will get impacted as on-ground viewership leads to different hue and add tinge to the entertainment-sporting event.”  

Sharing the same view, Madison Media’s senior general manager Chirag Shah believes there will be a deep impact on on-ground revenue as the turnaround on stadiums could be lower, especially in regions like Delhi and Kerala where the virus spread is huge.

“Though the co-sponsors and title sponsors may have been sold as the event nears there are inventories and spot-buys to be sold that will be impacted. Brands are somehow reluctant and discussions are happening within them and they definitely have doubts about it,” says Shah.

Explaining as to why spot-buys will see an impact, Shah says, “Consumer durables are the major advertisers that buy inventories during IPL and are heavily dependent on the south-eastern countries like China, Japan and South Korea for the components or parts. And, as these countries are majorly being hit by the virus, there’s an impact on supply, and eventually, ad spends on such expensive property will be re-looked.”

The virus being most contagious and its spread phenomenal, chances are that the stadium may see less number of turnout as people are worried about their lives.

Trust Research Advisory CEO and brand expert N Chandramouli says, “Such sporting events draw the attention of large crowd gathering. Amid the virus outbreak, the crowd coming together is a big no-no. IPL not being that sacrosanct as Olympics can be held later. There would be viewership challenge if there’s no stadium crowd as they are the one who add drama, excitement, and passion to the tournament.”

Says Chandramouli, “The virus’ impact is huge on the economy and all the other sectors. Similarly, don’t believe that IPL will be spared. The only thing is people are not sure about the intensity of that impact.”

“Brands are re-looking their strategy very closely”, says Mouli, echoing Nayyar’s view. “Even brands themselves should pull back from the event and urge government for the postponement.” According to him, down the line if the situation worsens, the union government may step in and probably come up with the alternative of postponement or time cancellation of the event.

On the other hand, Dentsu Aegis Network India’s chief executive officer Anand Bhadkamkar says, “At this point, nobody knows what will happen and postponement of the event won’t impact the brand value; however, there definitely will be a loss of viewership, and eventually revenue.” IPL during summer vacations garners maximum eyeballs.

Adding further, the DAN India CEO says, “Every brand is going back to their drawing board and re-looking the strategy planned for the IPL. They are evaluating the options and scenarios considering a lot of money, manpower involved in the process.” How long this will go on? That is something we need to see, he adds.

He says, “Anything that is changed or moved from the original format will certainly have ramifications; the only difference is that we are unaware of the impact and too early to predict loss. But the impact of the virus outspread will definitely be seen.”  

Is the virus scare hyped?

All the four industry experts are of the view that there is no hype regarding the outbreak, but people, of course, are overcautious and don’t wish to take risk as the virus is pandemic.

Amid the concerns, the Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope had said the state government is thinking of postponing the 13 edition of IPL. The Board of Cricket Council of India president Sourav Ganguly has said the game will happen as planned and that the board will take as many precautions and measures as possible.

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