One day to go: Are marketers excited to cash in on the IPL 2021 craze?

Value proposition takes front seat over cost for IPL planning

KOLKATA: As the country slowly descends into the second wave of the pandemic, a sudden sense of bleakness is on the rise among the populace. More and more people are trying to stay at home because of partial lockdowns, night curfews. Against this gloomy backdrop, the Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) is a cause for cheer. With just one day left, the tournament is exciting brand marketers as well.

For IPL 2021, official broadcaster Star Sports has already onboarded 18 sponsors and 100 plus advertisers. According to media reports, the network has hiked ad rates for both TV and OTT this year looking at a cool Rs 3,200 crore in revenue. While the IPL has always been considered an expensive property, industry heads from advertising agencies and brands believe it should be looked at from a value proposition rather than a cost point of view.

The insight emerged during a virtual roundtable IPL 2021: Brand marketers’ delight? hosted by, and moderated by its founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari. Mediacom national buying head Srinivas Rao, Initiative India EVP & head of south Priya Iyer, Byju’s marketing head Atit Mehta, Amplifi India (dentsu) group trading director Sujata Dwibedy took part in the engaging session.

“IPL gives us a platform like no other. It is a long event that keeps the audience engaged, it gives us the highest mass viewership, it is not only a cricket event, but an entertainment package. It is one of the events which has a very high co-viewership – meaning it is for the entire household to watch,” Dwibedy said.

The annual extravaganza also gives the highest ratings and no other GEC programme comes close, she added. Most importantly, IPL gives brands a spike in the top of mind awareness (TOMA) which is the immediate awareness a brand looks for. Hence, emerging categories lineup every year as it drives up awareness in a short span.

Moreover, one of the key reasons IPL sees interest from brands is it has moved from catering to specific cohorts to multiple cohorts long back, Iyer explained. Starting as a metro phenomenon, it has travelled across tier-2 and tier-3 cities to reach deeper with regionalisation efforts from Star Sports. Regional feeds have helped brands foray further into the heartland.

Globally, any sporting property is expensive. If a brand does not opt for the cash-rich league or a sporting event, it might go for multiple other options at a lower price. But if they choose a music reality show, ten other channels will have such shows but the IPL is a unique property on one channel, Mehta stated. If a brand plans well and looks at long term ROI, enough value can be created from a business angle.

Echoing the sentiment, Mediacom’s Rao also agreed to Mehta emphasising the value proposition of IPL. “You just need to be there through various elements. If I look from an advertiser point of view, you would want to have all aspects being in place. If you are doing an association with a smaller property and smaller pockets, you don’t get to ride on a campaign through Virat Kohli,” he explained.

It is a well-documented fact that viewership switches to the IPL when it’s taking place, resulting in a significant decline in other genres. Hence, it becomes difficult for seasonal brands to avoid the league. If they have to choose another genre, they will have to plan very carefully. So, despite being expensive, the tournament brings out value for those brands as well.

While the 13th edition of the IPL was like a welcome deluge after a drought of live sports, there have been two power-packed international cricket series since then. However, panelists played down fears of over-saturation and contended that Indian audiences can never get tired of cricket. Moreover, any victory of Indian team tends to boost viewership further, Iyer added. Dwibedy also reminded that the IPL has a more mass consumer appeal compared to other cricket properties, which have a more loyal and slightly male-skewed fan base.

This segued into a discussion on female oriented brands being scarce on the IPL advertisers list. According to Dwibedy, many food and beverage and FMCG brands are now coming on board which was not the trend a few years ago. For instance, Reckitt came on board for IPL 2020. But she acknowledged the fact that female targeted brands are mostly efficiency oriented. Along with that, the high price could act as a deterrent as these brands need to be present in other genres too.

Iyer highlighted that women-led FMCG brands are present on the event but they may not fall in the top 20 categories, their participation might be different in nature compared to big categories. On the other hand, Rao noted that more FMCG brands spent money on IPL 2020 as consumer demand was not back to track and those brands wanted to bet big. Now with demand coming back, supply chain issues solved, they have taken a step back again.

In terms of overall expectation, the viewership this time around will be higher as more people would need to stay at home during night curfews and weekend lockdowns, opined Rao.

By contrast, Mehta stated: “My expectation from IPL 2021 is somewhat lower than 2020. The excitement isn't as high as it was last year. But, I think it should deliver as much as it delivered last year, though it could be some percentage points behind compared to last year.”

For this season, open competition will build up the excitement and the first three days of the tournament being close to the weekend will add to it. If games are played in all fairness, enough buzz will be created around it, giving brands recall value. The first 10-15 matches will set the tone of the entire season, Iyer noted.

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