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How did the Indian Premier League brand fare as the 13th edition comes to an end?

IPL 2020 / twitter.com

The grand finale of the 13th edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) is being played today (10th Nov) bringing weeks of cricketing action to conclusion, for the many fans of this sports format.

Even though the IPL matches were played this year in United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a bubble owing to the pandemic, instead of home-market India, the frenzy around the game continued unabated. It brought in a much-needed excitement among both the cricket enthusiasts as well as the brands vying for the attention of these fans. In a year marked by overall pessimism and muted consumer sentiment because of Covid-19, IPL, with its ‘cricket meets entertainment’ format, did manage to bring some buzz and activity back.

Getting high and higher

The 13th edition of the IPL has seen a sizable surge in viewership as compared to previous seasons. According to the Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC), IPL 2020 has registered 30% growth per match in terms of viewing minutes as compared to the 12th edition of the league. In the first four weeks of the league, out of the total of 32 matches, the IPL registered 7.3 billion viewing minutes and a cumulative reach of 110 million per match.

No longer an India-only phenomenon

As per a Yahoo report, the viewership data suggests that the IPL 2020 viewership has been on a rise not just in India but elsewhere too. The United Kingdom viewership trends have seen a spike, like never before. As per reports in the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), the viewership of the IPL games has even surpassed the viewership of English Premier League (EPL) matches and that over 2,50,000 people in the UK have watched the cricket tournament in the last couple of weeks.

Gender equality: name of the game

Even as the overall viewership gained traction, thanks to many more people staying and working from home of the data, also showed the consumption becoming more inclusive. While men may be watching the IPL more, women are also getting right up there. The female viewership for the 13th season of the event has grown 33% as compared to season 12 as per published reports. In the opening week of the IPL this year, female viewership was recorded at 3.7 billion viewing minutes for the first seven matches.

What do marketers say about Brand IPL this year?

Nikhil Rungta, VP and country manager, Verizon Media

While IPL was not in India nor were there any spectators in the stadium, the excitement and energy around the games have not been any lesser. There was a sense of community and celebration after a long time. It made evenings pleasant again, we had time to take a break from work and experience the thrill which was missing this year. IPL this year is like chicken-soup-for-the-soul, just what the doctor ordered. It was the ‘flu-shot’ that advertisers were looking for to restart engaging with their consumers to tap into their desire for ‘revenge shopping’.

From an engagement perspective, it was great to see how fans are starting to understand the value technology can bring, and how they embraced digital viewing experiences. More people were watching live streams and matches online. At Yahoo Cricket, we saw more users and higher engagement with new features like real-time polls and quizzes. Going forward we will see the online cricket experience becoming more social, immersive, and interactive. New community viewing experiences will emerge to give fans the ability to co-watch.

Richa Sharma, director of brand marketing, PhonePe

IPL 2020 has managed to deliver the much-needed impact for its advertisers and helped boost the consumption in their categories well-timed with the shopping season, given how the year has been. This year since mobility is limited and everyone is largely working from home, audiences in much greater numbers watched the IPL matches. From supporting their favourite teams to entertaining social media banter, the IPL excitement definitely helped brands grab more eyeballs. Our PhonePe campaign has been well received by all consumer cohorts - users, non-users alike, with the ads garnering over 425 million views on YouTube and Facebook. There has already been a significant positive impact on brand recall and business metrics along with positive engagement and organic love being shown by audiences on digital platforms.

Dheeraj Sinha, managing director , India and chief strategy officer, South Asia, Leo Burnett

Being on IPL is like riding a rocket of visibility and the visibility a platform such as this gives your brand, doesn’t decay so easily. Moreover, many brands on-board this year are the once who have found increased relevance, despite the pandemic - they are from ed-tech, fin-tech, e-commerce or essentials categories. For these brands, IPL is a great platform to build large scale awareness and immediate preference. These are also the categories with arrowhead, we will see an increasing rise in relevance of these brands in our lives and on media around us. IPL has brought in the breath of fresh air, both to the year of 2020 and to the marketing landscape. This year, the event as a media platform has become more accessible to brands who would otherwise not even think of IPL. Many brands on the platform this time are first-timers. This also means that the narrative of storytelling has changed. Since many of these brands are start-ups, they are focussing on the immediate objective of sign-ups and downloads.

Prathyusha Agarwal, chief consumer officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited

As consumers looked to this festive season filled with restrictions on outdoor celebrations, it got critical for brands to make sure that the festivities continue indoors and drive positivity in the consumers’ lives. This year a new breed of advertisers took to the property and the medium, a reflection of the much spoken about K-shaped recovery with categories that has risen during the pandemic maximizing on the at-home consumption opportunity. While the IPL has traditionally been dominated by categories like FMCG, mobile handsets and auto, this year many new and emerging online gaming apps and online social media/entertainment apps flocked to the IPL in a huge way, the biggest of all being the title sponsorship itself coming from this space.

Despite the tournament airing on lesser channels this year, the viewership has increased, driven by higher average reach on every match as more people are spending more time at home with even festive celebrations largely confined to home. However, the same reasons have also seemingly led to a dip in the number of advertisers (109 in 2020 vs 129 in 2019, Weeks 38-43 ’20 vs IPL period ‘19) and brands (217 in 2020 vs 246 in 2019, Weeks 38-43 ’20 vs IPL period ‘19) jumping on board the bandwagon.

Harish Bijoor, brand-strategy expert

The Indian consumer economy was going through a period of fear. Fear was driving the agenda of lives, their manner of living, their attitude to life, and indeed their attitude to consumption. The fear economy is not such a great thing for marketers. Marketers love the ‘celebratory economy’, where people are freer and more open to spend without attending guilt on spend. Options such as the IPL with its mass reach, its ability to hook a nation onto the singular religion called cricket in their lives, and the ability of the format to bring cheer back helped break that fear-cycle. The IPL, e-commerce sales over the festive season and the festive season itself are all nudges to get the ‘celebratory economy’ going again. Therefore, paying these mega-bucks for IPL is an investment to re-invoke dulled and dumbed-down consumer sentiment. IPL pepped up the marketing ecosystem and has most certainly brought back marketer confidence, if not consumer confidence back!

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