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Can the Indian Premier League continue to excite marketers and fans after 16 years?

By Amit Bapna, APAC editor-at-large

May 16, 2023 | 7 min read

The tournament is billed as one of the greatest globally, with the 2023 season no exception. The Drum takes a look at how brands and media platforms are involved in the event that generates such huge excitement among fans and marketers alike.

Indian Premier League 2023 is here

Indian Premier League 2023 is here

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is billed as the most coveted cricket league in the world. Last month it celebrated its 1,000th game, which is no mean feat for a tournament that started just 15 years ago. The first ball was bowled in April 2008 under the aegis of The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), with eight teams. The current tournament, being played from March 31 to June 2, 2023, is a 10-team sporting event comprising 74 matches.

The tournament takes place across nine Indian locations: Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Punjab, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. IPL has managed to generate huge interest among cricket fans and brand marketers alike over the years with its sheer power and reach. The well-known Indian conglomerate Tata Group is the title sponsor in the currently being played 16th edition of IPL.

As the tournament crosses over the midway mark heading for an action-packed finale next month in the city of Ahmedabad, The Drum looks at some of the standouts of this year’s tournament over the past years.

From a media planner’s point of view, Brand IPL has become a daunting option and one that brand custodians cannot ignore. Of course, it has also become a very expensive property to associate with, thereby making the IPL association decision a very key and thought-through marketing outlay. As a property, it has been evolving and adding new layers in terms of viewership, geographies and media reach. Mobile has become a key component of the reach of the tournament.

One of the big changes this year has been the aggressive entry of Jio Cinema and how it has changed the IPL broadcast landscape that was hitherto governed largely by Star Sports and their OTT player Hotstar.

This year, the penetration of smart TVs and connected TVs has impacted the media dynamics greatly, with many urban households even discontinuing DTH and cable connections at home. This marks a paradigm shift in consumption habits and consequently emerging new trends in media planning as well. There are many such emerging threads for the media planner to remember and keep in mind.

Vikram Sakhuja, a media veteran and current group CEO of Madison Media, believes the IPL must be analyzed from three lenses – the game, the audience response and the advertiser response.

“From a game standpoint, the championship has been one of the best ever,“ says Sakhuja. “In terms of audience response, after some years of pandemic-led turmoil, the stadiums seem to be full, and the ratings are higher than last year, though still lower than the all-time high.

“The advertiser response, however, has been a bit subdued, especially on TV where the number of advertisers has halved versus last year.“

While some of this decline can be attributed to the freeze of easy money coming into the startup economy, it is also a result of the redistribution of IPL money with two media owners selling TV and online.

Vinay Bapna, the co-founder and CEO of Unomer, a leading digital consumer insights and market research platform, says: “After three years of operating under Covid-19 led challenges and limitations on venues and schedules, the IPL has made a grand comeback in 2023.

“The size and scale have certainly increased in terms of viewership and ad revenues, and he feels it has been a fantastic year for the tournament.“

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Bapna says the top three standouts of the IPL 2023 include JioCinema driving massive digital viewership on mobile and connected TVs, the return to normalcy with packed stadiums and cheering fans, as well as tech innovations and advancements creating a distinct and unique experience. This includes the use of decision review systems (DRS) for any decision, spidercam and VR experiences for viewers, he adds.

Another key shift, as per Sakhuja, has been an attempt by sponsor brands to get further into regional languages, to build in interactivity and to provide more opportunities for customized feeds not only online but also on TV, as well as opportunities for brand integration.

According to Shuvadip Banerjee, chief digital marketing officer of ITC Limited: “An association with IPL takes the traditional approach of pure play reach, placing frequent content and creating brand awareness.

“Despite the expense and clutter, brands like ITC continue to be associated with IPL as it has proven to be an effective way of reaching the target audience and creating brand visibility.“

With almost three weeks still to go, the IPL matches continue to create buzz both on the field and off it, as well.

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