Noel D'souza
Apr 19, 2023

'Central IPL sponsorships aren't as sexy as team partnerships'

We find out why brands are batting for multi-team sponsorships instead of contracts with the tournament itself

'Central IPL sponsorships aren't as sexy as team partnerships'

During its 15-year existence, the Indian Premier League has offered marketers plenty of opportunities to reach out to their consumers.


But with more brands taking note of the tournament, it's getting imperative for marketers to think out of the box and not be a part of the clutter.


While we have seen the likes of Jio and Kingfisher doing this over the last few years, now more brands are looking to establish the desired recall by partnering with more than just one team.


We speak to experts about how this works for brands, and how it works in comparison to taking sponsorship of the tournament itself by partnering with the BCCI.


Team vs central sponsorships


Bhairav Shanth, co-founder, ITW Consulting, partnering with teams gives brands a bigger canvas to work with, allowing them to have a presence across the entire IPL calendar and explore various activation possibilities.


Explaining the appeal for multi-team partnerships, Shanth said, “Partnering with multiple teams provides diversification, so brands are not reliant on the performance of a single team. Moreover, with teams focused not just on results but also on growing their online presence, content has become a critical component of partnerships.”


ITW worked with Mahindra Group and suggested a multi-team route. The reason for this was an opportunity for wider reach as well as a presence on social media which is amplified through team associations.




Shanth said, “For a brand with a pan-India presence, a multi-team partnership can have a huge positive impact. As with any diverse and complex association, a risk remains of stretching yourself too thin, but if a brand goal is clearly outlined and the execution structured well, then there are no drawbacks through such an association.”


Gaurav Bahirvani, founder and CEO, One One Six, cautioned that brands need to have a clear brand goal and a well-structured execution plan while partnering with IPL teams.


“Multiple factors come into play when brands decide to associate with multiple teams. The decision to partner with multiple teams depends on the visibility the team promises the brand in return with the logo placement on the jersey, the position of that logo, in-stadium branding, and association with the presentation ceremony," Bahirvani said.


Bahirvani highlighting the pitfalls of partnering with multiple teams, shared, "Too much of anything is sometimes good for nothing. Take the example of Dream 11. We've seen the logo on several team jerseys and so much more of it during the ad break. While the campaigns they have done are creatively sound, the overexposure was too much for viewers. At the end of the day, it probably created a negative value."


Bahirvani agreed with Shanth and expressed that the brand's return on investment (ROI) is hedged and wedged at the same time if they partner with multiple teams.


"While the risk of investment exposure may be spread across multiple teams, the per capita team returns may not be the same. For example, Jio probably benefits (or utilises the exposure) a lot more from its MI association than with others. It has a more natural fit with MI hence its returns are more valuable with that particular team," he added.


Brands pitching for recall innings


This year, Bella Vita Organic, signed on with Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore as the official fragrance partner and has launched a new range of deodorants 'to capture the spirit of the game'.


About the deals, Ankit Kapoor, chief marketing officer and operating partner, Ananta Capital, said, "By partnering with two of the most popular and successful teams in the IPL, with a massive fan following across the country, we can tap into the resonance with each team's unique fan base, both exemplary of passion and performance. We aim to launch new products and campaigns during this period and will hope to deliver large-scale trials and consideration among our target audience. Ultimately, the success of our IPL team partnerships will be measured by the positive impact they have on our brand's credibility."


Rario also announced partnerships with Gujarat Titans and Punjab Kings, its chief partnerships officer, Rana Handa, explained that partnering with multiple teams allows the company to tap into a diverse cricketing fan base pan India.


Handa shared, "We use a variety of metrics, including engagement metrics, brand metrics, and business metrics, to evaluate the performance of these partnerships. Our goal is to establish a powerful and enduring bond with each team that drives mutual success and cultivates an unforgettable experience for fans."


Hindware, who partnered with Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore, did so to expand its reach across different regions of India and connect with fans in those areas.


Explaining the rationale for the same, Charu Malhotra, vice president - marketing, Hindware, said, "We believe that by partnering with two teams, we have an opportunity to connect with fans in the North and South regions, respectively. To differentiate the messaging and promotions for each IPL team, we have designed campaigns around the unique attributes of each team. While our core messaging and communication remain the same, we have tried to differentiate between the teams by making the narrative more specific to the players."


Hindware is also creating team-specific social media posts and promotions, which will highlight the strengths and personalities of the member team.


A post shared by Hindware (@hindwarehomes)



Why not become a central sponsor?


Regarding central sponsorships, Bahirvani feels while monetary criteria are a roadblock for brands, there is also a lack of opportunities. "Title sponsorship requires a big cheque and a brand looking for a long-term association. Official partners are limited to six to eight usually, and the commitment is also long-term. Besides the association, media spends are another expenditure that pushes the overall exposure level for brands," he explained.


Bahirvani also mentioned that central sponsorships are not as 'sexy' as team sponsorships. "Indians do not love cricket, they love cricketers. If they loved cricket, our Test matches would not have haunted stands. Coming back to IPL, fans relate to cricketers they idolise. Those cricketers, in turn, help build team perception/fondness. Once the fondness is created, the brands sponsoring or partnering with the team become 'relatable' to these fans", remarked Bahirvani.


For some brands, the clear objective of partnering with an IPL team is the scale and exposure some of the cricketers bring to the table.


Regarding whether brands are just looking to partner with teams with high-value cricketers, Shanth stated that while such associations are undoubtedly a draw, there are many other factors at play. He explained, "A team's social media footprint and engagement are also significant considerations. Furthermore, there are conditions on the image rights of players from teams that brands can use, so just going by marquee names may not be compatible with a campaign's broader objectives."


Shedding light on brand synergy for IPL partnerships, Shanth said, "With the IPL's massive audience and multiple opportunities for engagement, the rewards can be substantial. However, as with any business venture, it's essential to proceed with caution and a clear strategy in mind."


Malhotra signed off by stating that the game plan for brands should be to create a memorable brand experience that aligns with its overall mission and values.

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