Brands on IPL: To Be, Or Not To Be?

The author points to clear directions that have emerged for advertisers - big or small - to leverage the IPL, depending on their requirements

Mar 22, 2013 03:55:00 PM | Article | Navin Khemka Share - Share to Facebook

It’s March again and the sixth edition of the IPL is just days away. Come April and billions of cricket crazy fans will be glued onto their screen or favourite venue to watch the excitement unfold over the next eight weeks. The cumulative reach of IPL has grown steadily from 101 mn in 2008 to 164 mn in 2012. The ratings have however, gone down from a start of 4.8 in 2008 to 3.5 in 2012. It has had its ups and downs but it is important to acknowledge the impact that it has had on cricket and marketers in India.

New brands in the form of the teams have become household names. They were non-existent before. This has given birth to a business opportunity that all possible sectors are cashing in on.

It is a great platform for young players who have suddenly found themselves rubbing shoulders with cricket’s who’s who. Apart from the money that is unheard of, the exposure is huge for this young talent.

The mega bucks are luring all the big names in international cricket. They want to play for IPL and not for their country given an opportunity. This ensures that the international talent pool on the IPL will always be the best players available.

The Indian domestic cricket leagues are getting a much needed thrust with more and more players now getting a chance to come and play in to the IPL even if they do not get into the national team.

Given these inherent advantages to the sport it is evident that the 20-over format only adds to this excitement and ensures that this game is packed with all the masala of a Bollywood Blockbuster.

Not to forget there are Bollywood stars too (with their squads and smiles and cheerleaders)!
Clearly, this is an event no marketer is able to ignore.

The last edition of IPL saw over 100 advertisers with over 170 brands on air with the tournament on TV. In addition, there were at least a dozen endorsements for each of the nine IPL teams on ground. Not to forget the advertisers who buy rights on ground from the BCCI. It would be fair to estimate that over 200 advertisers with 300-plus brands make their way into the IPL band wagon in 2013. This is a 40 per cent increase from the first edition where there were 150-plus advertisers (approx.) sampling the biggest cricket that India had to offer to its cricket crazy nation. No one realised that this IPL will turn cricket into an industry that it is become today. It has turned cricket into a sport second only to soccer globally.

But, with increasing clutter on the event, there are questions in the minds of all marketers...

Should my brand be on IPL? Will it get the desired RoI?

‘To Be Or Not To Be’ on IPL is a key decision.

The question is on our minds a few weeks or months before the IPL begins very year. Every advertiser is looking for the right answer. Given that we are now entering into its sixth year, there are very clear directions that have emerged for the various stakeholders across the various options available with the IPL.

On Ground: Advertisers who ride on ground look at IPL as a strategic marketing initiative. Their marketing plan needs to have significant surround planned to be able to bring this association to life. There are very few brands that can fall into this space. The list pretty much would exhaust within the top 50 advertisers in India. Recently, Pepsi has got the title rights for the next five years at Rs 396 crore. Clearly, these investments are only for advertisers with deep pockets. Some new local mobile phone brands to generate instant awareness and acceptability have used it very effectively in India over the last five years.

On Teams: IPL teams are under tremendous pressure to make the return on the investments that they make and this shows on the teams. Every visible part of the IPL player’s attire is taken up by a brand. Some of the logos are so small that one really has to make an effort to understand the association and why it was done. Apart from being a principle team sponsor and some other associations, the other options are only adding to the clutter. Brands are fighting for attention. This association should be evaluated beyond the exposure it gets on ground. Advertisers should be cautious and ensure that they are aware of what they are getting into.

On Air: A presence across the entire tournament is again restricted to top TV advertisers in India. Sponsorships are dominated by the big categories. Investments of Rs 19 cr plus (approx.) gives a brand a minimum threshold presence of 60 seconds on every match. This option rules out most advertisers on TV. Brands that have campaigns in this period and with limited budgets need to evaluate what they expect IPL to deliver. For example: impact, continuity, reach or frequency?  They then should look at various other options of being on IPL but with a restricted presence to meet these objectives. The options could be - launch week on IPL, every alternate match, follow some teams given their geographical priorities, and so on. Each brand should try and see what delivers best from its marketing objective and structure a presence that is a win-win for the brand. This will help the brand to achieve the desired result and not get lost in the eight weeks. It is better to make an impact in the shorter period than be continuous for eight weeks with limited budgets.

On Surround

A lot of brands also use the surround options available like news channels, sports pages on print, digital streaming and radio updates. Clearly, for larger advertisers who are investing on the main IPL, this is a small additional investment to ensure that no competitive brand takes the association away at a fraction of their investment. For smaller brands who cannot afford to be on the main event, this is a good opportunity to ride the IPL wave with limited investments. Depending on objectives, this needs to be well covered.

Being on IPL is therefore not only a big daddy’s game. There are options for all brands which need to be evaluated. Every brand can be on IPL if their objectives are being met. There are brands also not on the IPL which have done successful campaigns in this period. So to be or not to be is a call that all brands must take individually keeping their own objectives in mind. The RoI can then be easily ascertained and decision taken.

(Navin Khemka is managing partner, ZenithOptimedia India. The views expressed are personal. An abridged version of this article appears in the print issue of Campaign India dated 22 March 2013.)