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Why IPL continues to charm audiences, advertisers

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-07-2017 Shuchi Bansal

Last week, Chinese mobile handset maker Vivo Electronics Corp. became the biggest spender on the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 cricket tournament. The company agreed to pay Rs2,199 crore for five years to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the title sponsorship rights to IPL. With that, the IPL clinched its most expensive sponsorship deal yet, with the money being more than what some of the most viewed sports leagues are getting from their sponsors globally.

The amount paid by Vivo is higher than what PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd agreed to pay for the IPL title sponsorship in 2012. The beverage maker paid close to Rs400 crore for five years, but shelved its deal midway.

Some media and sports marketing experts feel that the amount that Vivo has agreed to pay is over the top. “On any RoI (return on investment) calculation, an investment this large on this one property is not really justified. Pepsi had signed a five-year deal for Rs396 crore in 2012. Vivo has ended up paying close to 500% more,” says Sandeep Goyal, advertising expert and chairman, Mogae Media. Others argue that although the amount defies logic, the brand may be looking at markets outside India where IPL is watched. Besides, whether the price point is high or not depends on the brand and its objectives. Pepsi is well known, with a very high level of awareness. “Same is not the case with Vivo. It is clearly using this platform to generate very high awareness quickly. It would be unfair to compare the price Vivo has paid versus what Pepsi did. I see the marketing objectives of the two brands as being very different,” says Hiren Pandit, chief operating officer at SE TransStadia Ltd, a sports infrastructure firm.

There are three things that advertisers look for in a sponsorship—a marquee and exclusive sponsorship position, out-shouting competition and a national footprint and exponential RoI. “IPL delivers on all three and hence remains the most sought after sporting league,” says Vinit Karnik, business head, Entertainment Sports and Live, at GroupM.

To be sure, even after 10 years, the IPL is an extremely popular franchise, attracting both audiences and advertisers.

For instance, the league’s viewership over the last year grew 22.5%, partly on the back of a change in the measurement universe in 2017 by TV viewership monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India. Barc India, in March, updated and aligned its TV universe in line with ground-level changes in demographics, TV ownership and connection type, among other things. After the update, the total number of television households in the country rose to 183 million from 154 million in 2013.

Why the IPL continues to charm advertisers is also because of the increase in both its male and female viewership. According to Barc data, across five channels—Sony Max, Sony Six (standard and high definition) and Sony ESPN (standard and high definition)—female viewership grew by 23% in IPL 10 over IPL 9. Among men, viewership jumped 24% in the same period.

In fact in 2016, IPL viewership was not male-dominated with women (41%, including rural) and children comprising a significant portion of the TV audience pie, said sports sponsorship report ‘Sporting Nation in the Making’, published by GroupM’s ESP Properties and SportzPower.

Goyal agrees that IPL viewership has increased but adds that it is also because during its 45-day run, IPL blanks out all other TV channels, most of which do not put up any content of consequence. The monopoly makes IPL a default choice, he says.

That is not all. The league itself has made efforts to garner more viewership by holding matches in smaller towns. Media specialist and consultant Gopinath Menon says the IPL is a tool to increase television viewership. “Its small town strategy increases eyeballs, which in turn increases advertiser pull.” In 2016, IPL drew Rs1,020 crore in ad sales revenue for its official broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India, according to the sports sponsorship report. It would also be correct to say the IPL is popular as it has always boasted of top international and Indian players’ participation , which improves the quality of the sport. “Although IPL has had its share of controversies, it has been a winner all through. It’s still the biggest ‘sportainment’ property in India,” says Tuhin Mishra, co-founder of sports marketing firm Baseline Ventures.

Clearly, the IPL has grown significantly year-on-year with a rise in both TV and stadium viewership numbers. The appeal of IPL lies in its marketing, advertising and packaging, which are exemplary. “The broadcast has been of the highest quality while the stadium experience with live entertainment, music, cheerleaders, hospitality, etc, draws big crowds,” points out Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer at Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions. The short format game itself creates stickiness of audiences and the match timings are perfect. Going forward, the challenge will be to increase interest, innovate with cutting edge technology and extend the involvement of the fans beyond the tournament period besides building a strong fan following for individual teams which is still fickle.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff. Respond to this column at shuchi.b@livemint.com

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