After receiving its lowest television ratings in its four year history last year, one of the main issues for the Indian Premier League this year was how it would attract more viewers. The fourth edition came on the back of the ICC Cricket World Cup and many believed fatigue set in, which caused viewers to look elsewhere.
Instead of soaring higher in IPL 5, the ratings dipped to a new all time low (below 3.5 GRPs) during the first week, setting off concerns on whether the format will work. As the tournament progressed, IPL 5 did manage to win back viewers, but only to be back on par with last year. It was still not touching the heights witnessed during the first and third editions of the property.
Prashant Singh, general manager, Octagon India, suggests that IPL has matured now and the ratings achieved are a sign of maturity. “It is unreal to expect that each season will outdo the previous season or season one of the tournament. IPL is now getting steady; it’s still a young property as sports properties go. Marketers will now have a good idea of what the IPL will deliver and make informed, prudent projections,” he notes.
Arif Ali, vice president and head, corporate affairs, Loop Mobile (India), agrees with Singh. He says, “The first few games saw a dip in ratings but because the matches have been close over the second half of the tournament, viewership has increased. The excitement compared to the previous IPL has been equivalent. We all thought there would be fatigue setting in, but on the contrary, it has done pretty well. Cricket and entertainment still provide entertaining content.”
Ratings may have dipped as the property has matured, but the controversies surrounding the IPL seem to be growing. While all the controversies surrounding the tournament may not be directly related to the IPL, with the property’s tag associated with them, IPL stays in the limelight.
Debraj Tripathy, managing director, MediaCom India, suggests that the controversies have tarnished the reputation of the tournament. He says, “I would say that staying in the news normally makes a positive impact on the tournament. But the kind of controversies during this year’s IPL has been extremely negative. The negativity has not made any difference to the ratings but the image of the tournament is taking an absolute battering.”
Akshay Kapnadak, executive creative director, McCann Erickson India, notes, “The IPL is not the most credible form of cricket anyway. While these controversies would make a big impact if they hit Test or ODI cricket; that would be a totally different thing.”
While viewership has seen its up and downs, online merchandising and ticketing seem to have witnessed a gain. One of the players in the space is KyaZoonga.com.
Neetu Bhatia, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer, KyaZoonga, explains, “We have attracted more teams this season, so our merchandise sales were bound to increase. Even after taking into account the increase in number of teams, on average sales of online merchandise this season has risen by 10 to 15 per cent.” KyaZoonga sells merchandise online for Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
There is consensus that the tournament could be leveraged better by brands, and franchisees themselves.
Looking ahead to IPL 6, Singh says, “Except for a couple, to some extent, franchisees haven’t done enough to create, maintain, enthuse and grow a fan base. Franchisees need to rope in brand-partners, but IPL and the franchises themselves need to ensure longer relevance for their (team) brands. In addition, brands need to sit with their communication partners and come out with original, sports-related marketing ideas. There is endless opportunity here. Brands need to spend a lot more to activate their sponsorship, they need to engage with their consumer at every touch point. Sponsorship activation is the key to sustained ROI.”
Prashant Singh, general manager, Octagon India
“Spot fixing is a cricket issue, SRK’s brush is a case of an individual losing his temper, the molestation charge is one that relates to the behaviour of an individual in his private capacity. Media finds it an advantage to tag ‘IPL’ to such incidents, much as the English press tags club names to any incident involving EPL players off the field as well. If John Terry had an affair, what, really, does it have to do with his football or with Chelsea? But that’s the way it works, it’s the era of tabloid journalism.”
Akshay Kapnadak, executive creative director, McCann Erickson India
“The IPL is not the most credible form of cricket. These controversies would make a big impact if they hit Test or ODI cricket; that would be a totally different thing. The IPL is more like a reality show and these controversies hardly make any difference to serious cricket followers. Conversations are generated as everyone ends up discussing whether Shah Rukh was right or not with his actions. Social media gets buzzing too, but none of this makes an impact to the true cricket fan.”
Debraj Triphathy, managing director, MediaCom India
“Just advertising on the IPL doesn’t work. It’s a basic TV property and brands are not using the inherent strength that the brand (IPL) has. It should be a combination of merchandising, sponsorships and advertising. No brand has used the IPL effectively. Right now, the platform has been used like a high-rated TV program targeted towards men and the youth. Only when everything comes together, will it work properly for a brand.”
Arif Ali, vice president and head, corporate affairs, Loop Mobile (India)
“The controversies benefit the IPL. I think all the controversies serve to keep the IPL in the limelight. People will be as tuned in if not more for the matches. It’s just another tamaasha that keeps it in the media, and the IPL benefits with this.”
Neetu Bhatia, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer, KyaZoonga
“Last year, we were coming off the World Cup and there was a cricket overkill for people, but we still had a decent turnout. This year the interest has risen again and we have seen a 10 to 15 per cent increase in our numbers for merchandising. Overall, the IPL seems to be gaining eyeballs again this year.”
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