Television

IPL auctions set to kick off 2019 cricket bonanza for brands, marketers

Cricket commands premium price because of the consistency of viewership.

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MUMBAI: Indian fans are in for a rollercoaster ride in 2019 thanks to an action-packed cricket calendar. Virat Kohli’s men have major challenges – tough and exciting in equal measure – lined up right through the year. The Indian side is set to play 12 Tests, 22 ODIs, 17 T20Is and the all-important World Cup in June. That’s in addition to the two-month-long cricket party – the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The mouth-watering prospect of the star-studded Indian cricket team taking on some of the most formidable cricketing nations offers an exciting proposition for fans, marketers, and brands. From a broadcast perspective, it obviously is a golden opportunity for ensuring maximum viewership and revenue. While Indian broadcasters are now investing in emerging sports along with a growing interest from audiences, nothing captures the hearts and minds of India’s public like a hotly contested cricket match.

Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia chairman and CEO Ashish Bhasin says cricket always commands premium price purely because of the consistency of viewership that it ensures.

“I think cricket is always a good opportunity for brands particularly those who want to reach a wide range of audience because it is one of those properties that reaches to each and every corner of the country and has got the universal appeal. If you look at the last few years, cricket hasn’t let any advertisers down because the interest has only gone on increasing. So I do think it’s a good opportunity and every opportunity comes at a price. Advertisers pay for eyeballs and cricket gets you consistent eyeballs. So it will always command a good price,” he feels.

According to the 2018 KPMG media and entertainment report, television is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.6 per cent owing to growing TV penetration, strong advertising demand on the back of domestic consumption and major events (two cricket world cups and a general elections on the next five years) supported by better distribution realisations due to operationalisation of TV digitisation.

Season 11 of the IPL saw a spike of 15 per cent in viewership from 1.2 billion impressions in 2017 to 1.4 billion impressions in 2018. On the other hand, Star India’s OTT platform Hotstar hit a world record for concurrent online viewing with 10.7 million viewers for the final. The 2015 ICC World Cup garnered 635 million viewers till the India versus Australia semi-final. A total of 309 million Indians (TAM Panel CS4+ extrapolated to the universe using a standard conversion factor) tuned in to watch India’s semi-final clash against the Aussies on their television sets.

Syska Group marketing head Amit Sethiya is looking forward to all the opportunities the upcoming year is likely to throw up to his brand.

“Definitely there are a lot of opportunities that are going to come because of a whole range of experiences in 2019. But I think the main concern is that advertisers and brands need to check what kind of integration they are going ahead with. Three things that we are fundamentally repeating that it’s Bollywood, politics and cricket and these things still stand true,” he adds.

Sports advertising expenditure is largely driven by cricket with other sports contributing a minor share. According to India Sports Sponsorship report 2018 by ESP properties and SportzPower, media spending in sports as a whole grew 15.8 per cent from Rs 3511 crore ($ 516 million) to Rs 4065 crore ($ 616 million), driven even more strongly in 2017 by Television On Air, which grew an incredible 42.7 per cent from Rs 2376 crore ($ 348 million) to Rs 3379 crore ($ 512 million). The other reason for sports adex increase is the annual increase in ad rates, especially on IPL.

Broadcasters have started investing heavily in regional feeds, the likes of which were witnessed in the last IPL season. Star India leveraged 17 of its channels, including Star Plus and Star Gold to make the finals a runaway success. It was aired in eight languages including Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi and Malayalam.

At the time, Star India aired all the regional feeds apart from Hindi and Tamil on GEC and movies channels, but in the recent past, it has launched a new channel for Telugu feed called Star Sports 1 Telugu. The network is also ready to launch its fourth regional channel on 30 December for the Kannada audience named Star Sports 1 Kannada.

Fashion brand fbb’s marketing head Prachi Mohapatra said that cricket now reaches more demographic segments than before and therein lies its true power.

“Our association with IPL has been positive from a view of fbb’s brand visibility and subsequent in-store traction. We were confident about the partnership and believed in the strength of the association. Cricket stays a superior property and now has a wider consumption that cuts across demographic segments than what it had earlier. Hence, association with the same will remain high on the agenda for many participating brands,” she adds.

The ad expenditure on IPL increased from Rs 228 crore in 2008 to Rs 1204 crore in 2017. Sports advertising across all media accounted for Rs 4065 crore, 6.6 per cent of the total ad spends in the country. While the bulk of this advertising is on cricket though, other sports like kabaddi, football and badminton are now gaining traction from both the viewers and advertising.

Eros Digital COO Ali Hussein highlights how his platform’s partnership with Kohli’s IPL franchise helped him drive their subscriber numbers.

“It has been an interesting collaboration with Royal Challengers Bangalore as it was an industry first. No other OTT player in India has sponsored an IPL team. This association helped us reach a larger audience for Eros Now and we were able to leverage great synergies with content that we created for the platform and value that we were able to drive to our subscribers via match tickets and exclusive merchandise,” he said.

While cricket has been the country’s most loved sport for a while, the explosion of the IPL has added another dimension to the sport. Apart from helping the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to further propagate the game, the cash-rich league has aided brands in unlocking new markets and tapping more consumers.

“Consumer-focussed brands are always seeking for various mediums & opportunities to reach out to their target audience. Given the kind of viewership these cricketing events enjoy in India, they would always serve as potential platforms for partnerships. Cricket and Bollywood are the two most followed headlines in the country and hence provide for a great association for a brand like Eros Now,” Hussein adds.

Earlier this in January, IPL teams spent a mind-boggling Rs 431.7 crore in a two-day auction in Bengaluru, with pacer Jaydev Unadkat bagging a Rs 11.5 crore contract to earn the top Indian grosser’s tag.  The salary cap of Rs. 80 crore then was 33 per cent higher than the Rs 60 crore available in the 2014 auctions.

Franchises have witnessed a windfall due to the renegotiated broadcast rights (won by Star India for Rs 3270 crore per year, four times higher than what Sony Pictures Network India paid per year during from 2008 to 2017) and title sponsorship rights (acquired by Vivo for Rs 440 crore per year).

Indian cricket has set global benchmarks in the past couple of years, with the IPL rights being awarded for a record Rs 16347 crore to Star India for the period 2018 to 2022 and Oppo snapping up the Indian cricket team’s sponsorship rights for Rs 1079 crore till 2022.

As the IPL money-spinner returns for its 12th edition, the auction on 18 December is where all the action commences before the players battle it out on the field.

While 1003 players had initially registered but the final auction list is out with a total pool of 346 cricketers set to undergo the hammer in Jaipur. In a sense, the IPL auction is likely to end 2018 with a big and set the agenda for a thrilling season of cricket in 2019.

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