As the Indian Premier League (IPL) gets ready to take over the world of cricket for the next few weeks, The Drum does a reality check on the brand IPL. A peep into what makes this edition so unique and different from the previous editions as it plays out during troubled Covid-19 times.
One of the biggest sporting events is ready to be played out, for the next seven weeks or so, keeping cricket fans across the globe hooked. The 13th edition of IPL started off last week, amid much caution and social distancing. The now-iconic sporting event, launched first in 2008, has gone on to become one of the largest cricket properties with its heady blend of sport and entertainment, packed into a bite-sized 20 innings format.
This year, owing to the prolific spread of the Covid cases in home-country India, the organising committee, after much mulling over - and a delay of almost five months since the scheduled dates in March, decided to move the tournament venue. Thus, for the first time ever, United Arab Emirates (UAE) got chosen as the venue for this year, marking a significant departure from earlier editions of the league that have been played in the home turf, India. (Save for one year when the tournament had to be moved to South Africa in 2009 since the dates clashed with the parliamentary elections in India). The matches, this year, are going to be played in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. The 53-day tournament will culminate in a grand finale to be played on 10th November 2020.
The other significant shift this year is the tournament being played as a broadcast event only, in a much-sobered down avatar with the consumption being in-home. For the first time, IPL will be played to empty stadiums in UAE under the environment of a bio bubble and stringent protocols laid out by BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India).
Owing to its burgeoning popularity, IPL over the years has become a formidable property which marketers evaluate very keenly in their marketing budget allocation. It had become a must-have franchise in the media-plan, owing to its increased reach among a young fan base, which also includes women and children. As per available data, 175 million women viewers aged 15 years and above watched IPL 2019 across India.
However, with so much changed for this mega-sporting event this year, one would well wonder what is in store for IPL in terms of its popularity. Going by the pre-launch interest witnessed among the brand-owners and media planners, it seems to be on a firm wicket, despite all the limitations. As per GroupM estimates, IPL in terms of sponsorship is worth approximately INR 4500 crores, which includes media rights, team sponsorships and central sponsorships.
Air of festivity
Says Abhijit Avasthi, co-founder of Sideways Consulting and former national creative director at Ogilvy India, “The anticipation is higher (this year), which is possibly a result of an air of festivity and cheer after many months of dreariness.”
Of course, this year the rules of the engagement and the association would be different owing to the many changes. Overall, Avasthi thinks “IPL will do very well since people need a break from the negativity of the times and there are no other options out there for entertainment in terms of going out.” After 6 months of the pandemic, IPL is the first big-ticket event taking place. Not just that, it is also the only available cricket property for brands to associate in 2020.
Vinit Karnik, business head, Entertainment, Sports & Live Events, GroupM, also points out, “The event is expected to lift people morale, bring in the much-required positivity and somewhere, be the catalyst of restarting many things around us.”
Karnik calls this season of IPL ‘restart’ after the ‘reset’ phase for everyone. Already the number of brands launching new campaigns around IPL is adding up on a daily basis, giving joy to the media agencies, creative agencies and the production houses.
Brands on board
The list of brands associated with the tournament this year includes Dream11 (as the title sponsor), Altroz (car brand from Tata Motors), edu-tech company Unacademy and Cred (as the official partners), PayTm (as the umpire partner), Ceat (as the official strategic timeout partner), Star Sports (official broadcaster) and OTT platform Disney+Hotstar (as an official digital streaming partner).
In addition, there are many sponsors across various categories associated with each of the eight playing teams, ranging from telecom to cement and confectionery to banks. As per reports, the broadcaster Star Sports has already got 13 sponsors on board as well as more than 60 advertisers for spot buys etc. As a media agency head points out, this year India will celebrate one additional festival, Indian Premier League. With the Covid protocols in mind, people will find reasons around IPL to celebrate and socialise to the extent possible. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out in re-imagining the Brand IPL in a tough environment.
What’s new this IPL
- In a first time ever, IPl matches this year will be played to empty stadiums in UAE - under the environment of bio-bubble and stringent protocols laid by BCCI.
- There would be many firsts this time made necessary in absence of live events and promotions. These include virtual shoots, virtual meet and greets, digitally-enabled fan engagements, remote production units and many more.
- Cricket lovers, for the first time, can deploy a new video feature ‘Duets’ that lets fans create customized videos showcasing their rendition of famous shots and reactions of their favourite IPL Heroes. As an incentive, the best of the videos would make it to the broadcast channel.