IPL 2020 excitement builds as final looms

Mumbai Indians take on Delhi Capitals in a brand studded final this evening.

MUMBAI: Two hours to go. And the top two teams till the playoffs will be slugging it out with each other in the IPL final  as a billion cricket lovers watch the fierce competition on the field. Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals – two teams which impressed one and all on the way with their fighting spirit. Both the blues will be on the field.

It was not an easy IPL and it went down to the wire, with five teams almost level, until the playoffs. Yes, there were no spectators. But the simulated audience cheers, encouraging roars, the instruments blaring away, did not make that apparent at all. The palpitating excitement kept you glued to your screen – whether mobile, TV or laptop. And the commentators, well, they surpassed themselves, and put in that extra effort they took to get the action seem more engaging.  

Cricket lovers responded in droves: the opening match had 200 million viewers across TV and digital; with the fixture streamed behind the Disney+ Hotstar pay wall seeing a record 8.4 million viewers. Yes last year’s audience numbers on Hotstar were higher, by multiples, but it was a free AVod service. Star India’s goal is to go past a record 550 million viewers for the entire league, as it had elaborated at its start.

Of course, the brands made merry: whether it was Dream11 or  Byju’s or Zomato, or Unacademy or  payTM or Cred or Ceat or Tata Motors (and its famous gold standard vehicle Altroz displayed during the matches at the three stadiums and being talked about by the commentators) or  Upgrad or Great Learning or  Usha fans or AMFI - the list could go on.

 Clearly, an association with the IPL helps get a tremendous recall value, and especially if the communication is humorous and brings a smile to your face – a tack many of these brands took. More than a hundred brands associated with the IPL, whether with the broadcaster or with the franchises or with the BCCI.

 Fortunately for them, the sponsorship ticket sizes were not as large as last year, giving them a fabulous return on their investments. Even as  broadcaster and streamer  Star India and Disney +Hotstar took a hit in revenue, they build a stronger bond with cricket lovers.

Expectation amongst all is that the final telecast today is going to set new records in terms of viewership, even though tomorrow is gold buying time and the festival mood is in full swing.  It’s the classic old duel, Mumbai - the Indian commercial capital – vs Delhi – the political capital – though Delhi is led by a Mumbai lad. Who will triumph? Punters are betting it will be Mumbai Indians who have a better pedigree or track record, but who knows Delhi might spring a surprise.

Whosoever wins, for audiences too, the IPL has been time well spent. The sixes have rained, the wickets and bails have been lit up very often, new players have emerged, records have been set and  there have been more than enough heart stopping super-overs. Clearly cricket has entertained, and how.  2020 will be known as the year when despite the most challenging Covid 2019 circumstances it was sport – namely cricket – which turned out to be a winner.

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