IPL 2020: From the brands' lens

It has democratised sports as a medium for advertisers

MUMBAI: For audiences and TV viewers, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is all about the action on the field - the ball being belted for fours and sixes on all sides of the pitch. The leather striking the stumps with the bails being lit up as they leap up in the air. The superhuman lunge that lands the ball in the fielder’s hand. The IPL is about the edge-of-the-seat finishes to the matches. That’s what viewers thrive on; that’s what they can’t get enough of.

But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make the IPL a possibility every year. Humungous amounts have been invested to acquire the rights. And who is it that helps the broadcaster recover the investment? It is the brands that consumers so desire and lap up in the supermarkets and kiranawala stores.

For brands, it is all about that standout moment throughout the tournament so that the investment turns out as money well spent. IPL has transformed cricket and it has seen a noticeable increase in family viewing. It has also democratised sports as a medium for advertisers. An FMCG brand like Fortune has come on board as a broadcast associate sponsor while there is a notion that these brands don’t look at sports traditionally.

Adani Wilmar Ltd media & strategy head Sanjay Adesara denies the claim that FMCGs do not consider sports as a crucial part of their communication mix and media plan. According to him, FMCG brands have been putting their ad dollars in premium sports events like the World Cup or the IPL for long now. And he adds that the percentage has only been increasing year-on-year.

“Now, you cannot consider IPL as a cricketing event only. For the Indian households, IPL has become an entertainment show. It’s a short-format of cricket T-20; entertainment happens around IPL. IPL as a property or event transcends genders and markets. It reaches out to both males and females. IPL is a perfect platform to launch any new communication, positioning or campaign. Currently, we have revamped our brand, look and feel. We will capitalise on IPL as an event,” he says.

Asian Paints, which has possibly hopped on to the IPL sponsorship bandwagon for the umpteenth time, is a die-hard fan of the format. Asian Paints COO Amit Syngle expresses that it is associating with the league once again as it wants to create mass appeal for the brand. “It cuts across genders, age group. Brand association plays a critical role in influencing consumers’ purchase decisions. Not only does it make a memorable impression on consumers, but it also allows customers to connect with the brand and the company,” he adds.

Considerably, IPL 2019 brought more viewers across age groups and genders to television.  The twelfth edition of the IPL saw the highest growth of viewership among kids (2-14 years), an increase of 25 per cent compared to the last session. Even female viewership grew by 14 per cent during the last year.

IPL has acted as the ideal platform to launch new communications as well as products. Fortune has recently launched a brand new logo and a wide range of product offerings and featured Akshay Kumar in its TVCs. As the 1999-born brand revamps its identity, Adesara admits that recent activities are co-related.

“In the past four-five years, Fortune has expanded beyond edible oils which is into basmati rice, atta, soya, nuggets. We have also upgraded our local feel. We are establishing the fact that Fortune is no more an edible oil company or a brand. It’s a range of food products which are available. The new campaign and entire activity is a continuation,” he comments.

“We believe our association with IPL has helped us to engage and connect with consumers in a great way in tier 2 and 3 markets and develop omnipresence for the brand. Our prime objective with this association was to create several effective touch points to attain maximum reach, generate top-of- mind recall and strengthen the brand image,” Asian Paint’s Syngle adds.

PhonePe, the digital payment startup which raised Rs 743.5 crore fresh funding from Walmart before the last IPL, is now a second-time sponsor of the league. A PhonePe spokesperson says that the focus of last year’s brand campaign was on building awareness around digital payments for both rural and urban audiences. A mass media platform such as TV offered it the perfect opportunity to do so as it is the medium with the largest reach in the country.

“We have continued the association this year as well. We are the official co-presenting sponsor for the television broadcast of VIVO IPL 2020 and will be launching a series of TV ads during this IPL season. Alia Bhatt has joined Aamir Khan as our brand ambassadors this year,” the spokesperson adds.

Fortune’s Adesara says width and depth are the strength of IPL. According to him, one can expect both. In past seasons also, IPL has delivered reach but he mentions that the addition of regional feeds has strengthened the reach more. IPL is a great property to associate with. 

It seems Star’s bet on regionalisation has paid rich dividends for the broadcaster. Last year, there were dedicated Telugu, Kannada and Bangla sports channels for matches. According to BARC data, while viewing minutes in Hindi increased by 18 per cent, other regional languages including Tamil, Telugu,  Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali and Marathi saw 10 per cent growth.

The PhonePe spokesperson points out that customer acquisition and brand recall among the target audience are a few of the metrics that it looks at while measuring the effectiveness of the association and the brand campaign.

“We aim to grow the pie of digital transactors in the country, especially from tier 2 and 3 markets and beyond. We aim to drive greater awareness and preference for PhonePe's features and services. The key theme will be to catalyse progress for everyone through our brand platform of 'Karte Ja. Badhte Ja',” the spokesperson adds. PhonePe has earmarked Rs 800 crore for marketing in this calendar year. It can be predicted that a major chunk of it will go for IPL as it has already roped in a B-town brand ambassador and will launch many TVCs during the tournament.

While Asian Paints also has an association with KKR, it plans to boost the brand presence with consumers across key markets like West Bengal. With the growing popularity of the IPL especially on digital, the brand also intends to continue its strategy with regards to shorter edits and higher frequency of spots along with content partnerships to maximise the reach. With IPL 2020, Asian Paints seeks to further boost visibility for its key brands, in addition to enhancing mind recall among consumers, Syngle adds.

Last year, along with regular advertisements, brands relied on innovative communication strategies to drive more engagement. With the spectacle of cricket, we can hope to see new types of marketing campaigns too from 29 March.

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