Preeti Hoon
May 07, 2024

Dream11's Vikrant Mudaliar on why India could lead the charge on women in fantasy sports

The Dream11 chief marketing officer also discusses the IPL boom, key campaigns, plans for FY2025, and more.

Dream11's Vikrant Mudaliar on why India could lead the charge on women in fantasy sports

India’s fantasy sports (FS) industry is the fastest-growing across the world and will continue the momentum at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33%, reaching 50 crore users by FY27, according to a report released by the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) and Deloitte India in 2023.

As per the report, the industry grew by 31% to INR 6,800 crore in FY22 and is expected to touch INR 25,240 crore by FY27.

Globally, the FS userbase has been male-dominated, with males contributing to 67% of the total revenue. However, there is promising growth of female users too—and Vikrant Mudaliar, chief marketing officer at Dream Sports, thinks the shift is going to be led by India.

Despite losing its Indian Premier League (IPL) title sponsorship to My11Circle this season, the company is bullish on capitalising on the rising interest in women-centric leagues such as the Women’s Premier League (WPL)—as there has been an approximately 80% year-on-year rise in the female fantasy sports user base on its fantasy sports gaming app Dream11.

In an interview with Campaign India, Mudaliar shares, “This surge is indicative of a broader cultural shift towards greater inclusion and interest in sports among women. The emergence of new female role models across sports in India has piqued viewership, with cricket being a prime example—as the Women’s Premier League’s inaugural season enjoyed over 50 million views within its first week.”

Vikrant Mudaliar

In 2023, market estimates suggested that sponsorship revenues from WPL teams generated around INR 15-20 crore, which was more than a 50% increase in the budgets that advertisers are willing to park with the league and its teams. “While the league’s scale might not match IPL levels as yet, it has definitely seen an uptick in advertisers' interests. As a company that is dedicated to making sports more engaging, coming on board as the official partners of the WPL and the women’s teams of Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore was a natural extension of our aim to revolutionise fan engagement and build the sports ecosystem,” Mudaliar says.

IPL: The front-wheel drive

Dream11 began its association with IPL in 2019 by making a winning bid of INR 234 crore to bag the title sponsorship rights. Five years later, it has been replaced by My11Circle, but the company calls the development a “strategic move”. It says opportunities are picked by the brand only if they justify the return on investment (ROI) and skips those that do not fit the bill.

“We firmly believe in making marketing investments that are in sync with our current business strategy. We have been deeply entrenched in the IPL ecosystem through various avenues for the past many years. As part of our strategic approach, we periodically evaluate marketing opportunities and finalise our plans based on a justified ROI—keeping the associated cost in mind, therefore, we avoid pursuing opportunities that do not tick the box on ROI. This includes continuously seeking out newer and innovative opportunities rather than just repeating previous initiatives,” Mudaliar shares.

But IPL is never off the grid for the gaming app. The company continues to derive value from the nation’s most-watched cricketing event with newer or diverse touchpoints. Dream11 tied up with not just IPL team Punjab Kings this year but also extended its partnership to Gujarat Titans, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Sunrisers Hyderabad to that of principal sponsor with an aim to engage its userbase of over 200 million.

“Dream11 this year is co-presenting sponsor for the live broadcast of the IPL on Star Sports and Jio Cinema. Additionally, we have solidified partnerships with eight IPL teams and enhanced associations with four IPL teams through front-of-jersey and principal sponsorships. These initiatives have enabled us to strengthen connections with individual team fan bases.”

“The diversity of our sponsorships and marketing associations with the IPL ecosystem has meant that Dream11 continues to be ranked highest in terms of brand noticeability on IPL,” Mudaliar adds.

And, with IPL and ICC Men’s World T20 World Cup scheduled back-to-back this year, the cricket calendar seems choc-a-block for the brand. But, will it be tough to decide the priorities? Mudaliar doesn’t think so. “While our current focus is the IPL, we will also approach the upcoming World Cup with the same enthusiasm and vigor. This cricket season is unique—with the World Cup scheduled closely after the IPL, this elongated season has exciting new prospects for brands.”

Additionally, the changing dynamics in the over-the-top (OTT) industry in India are also playing a crucial role in the way marketing moves are finalized by the brands. According to a recent report by global media measurement and analytics company Comscore, the merger between Star India and Viacom18 has seen Disney+ Hotstar and JioCinema consolidate reach of 160 million unique visitors (UVs).

Mudaliar thinks that the mega deal is set to disrupt the way IPL will be consumed in the years to come. “This IPL season, the integration of additional digital platforms into the broadcasting network is expected to substantially enhance the accessibility and viewership of the IPL. There is more opportunity for customised and interactive marketing initiatives, ensuring a more robust connection with the audience.”

The marketing moves

This year, Dream11 has launched ‘Team Se Bada Kuchh Nahi’ (nothing is bigger than the team) campaign with a potpourri of cricket and Bollywood celebrities and has a humorous and relatable stance. “Our campaigns utilise commonplace narratives rooted in sports passion to profoundly connect with our users. We consciously collaborate with sports leagues and personalities who share our mindset, with the aim to augment fan interaction and bring them nearer to the sport they love,” Mudaliar shares.

The target group for the brand is the digital population and campaigns are periodically analysed for judicious use of marketing monies.

“While our current campaign is crafted with a digital audience in mind, the concept has been carefully developed to ensure it resonates with a diverse audience, regardless of their digital preferences or consumption habits. We closely monitor user growth and retention metrics, using this data to make informed decisions about spending on marketing and advertising,” he adds.

The brand also launched a parallel campaign ‘Dream Sale’ to woo its fanbase in IPL 2024. It offered a chance for 11 mega contest participants to win big during each of the first five matches of IPL 2024 as a tactical initiative focused on user acquisition and engagement. It was promoted by separate advertising campaign films starring Kareena Kapoor Khan and Varun Dhawan.

The road ahead

Dream Sports, the parent company of Dream11, clocked a 66% surge in revenues in FY23 and the company’s profits went up by 32%. It is the highest revenue-generating fantasy sports company in India presently.

Keeping in line with its aggressive growth, the current financial year will see the brand strengthen its products and services.

“In FY25, our focus will be to ramp up our offerings across the Dream Sports portfolio. Fancode is expected to roll out exciting new features and exclusive content for sports enthusiasts. At FC Shop, we're expanding our merchandise range to give fans even more options to show their support for their favorite teams and players,” Mudaliar informs.

“Over at Dream Game Studios, we're building AAA sports games that will keep users engaged and entertained like never before. With DreamSetGo, we're committed to providing seamless and unforgettable sports travel experiences, ensuring that fans can follow their passion with ease and excitement,” he states.

“We’re gearing up for another campaign for the upcoming World Cup and look forward to building on the high-octave excitement of an elongated cricket season.”

Campaign India

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