The first edition of Indian Badminton League is set to begin on 14 August 2013. IBL will feature six-city based teams: namely Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Lucknow. The teams will compete for 18 days vying for USD 1 million in prize money. IBL is a joint initiative of Badminton Association of India and Sporty Solutionz, the commercial rights holders of the League for multiple years. IBL has tied up with ESPN Star Sports 2 as broadcast partner, while Radio Mirchi is the radio partner.
While the League managed to create buzz, some of it was for the wrong reasons. That said, there are expectations from the audience and brands, with the sport gaining popularity in recent times with star players such as Saina Nehwal contributing in good measure.
Vijay Rajput, COO, ESPN Software India, views badminton as an opportunity. He says,”The IBL fits in well with our overall strategy of building multi-sport viewership. We see huge potential for a product like IBL much like we saw value in a Hockey India League. The Indian sport fan is maturing and is ready to sample other sports as well.”
GG Jayanta, national marketing head, Radio Mirchi, opines, “Cricket took 50 years (it happened only after the 1983 World Cup win) to move into the nation’s conscious and then another 10 to 15 years before the big bucks began to flow. So, the IBL will take time.”
Concurring, Sanjay Tripathy, senior EVP - head marketing, products and direct channels, HDFC Life, says, “If you look at badminton, the sport has limited viewership - in few countries in Asia such as Vietnam, China, India etc. and some parts of Europe. Due to some players like Jwala Gutta and Saina Nehwal, it has got some attention in India.”
Satyajit Sen, CEO, Zenith Optimedia, however, thinks that IBL is a step in the right direction. He says, “With more money, more eyeballs, more players, I do not see a reason why it should join the ranks of famous sports.”
But as Tripathy points out, “The main challenge would be to market IBL in a way that it creates connect with kids and the youth, and if it can, the game can join the big league of sports like IPL did. Also, the attractiveness for badminton players is anyway lesser than tennis or cricket players.”
“Purely from a marketing point of view, the IBL has all the attributes of a brand that has a fair chance of success – the product is strong (world class players like Saina Nehwal), fast-paced game. It presents glamour with endorsements from Deepika Padukone, and Nagarjuna and Sunil Gavaskar as owners of the Mumbai franchise, photogenic players, foreigners to bring world class entertainment, and no competition from cricket in the August 14 to 31 window,” adds Jayanta.
Advertisers, according to Sen and Tripathy, are going to play cautious and wait-and-watch before they come on board. Manish Kumar, VP - PR and event, Sporty Solutionz, differs. He says, “Badminton is supported by a niche audience that has big spending power in India. The sport is on an upswing currently. I am sure advertisers understand this. Also, with our marketing efforts that will span all media vehicles, we hope to strike the right chord among advertisers.”
On whether the badminton players will be able to crack endorsement deals on the back of IBL, Sen says, “Yes, as players get more recognised, and viewership multiplies, the players should be able to crack fair number of deals.”
Vijay Rajput, COO, ESPN Software India\
“We strongly believe that Indian fans would love to consume non-cricket sports as well if the product is packaged well, communicated and presented in an interesting manner.”
GG Jayanta, national marketing head, Radio Mirchi
“IBL should attract premium brands. The mass brands will take time to come in and advertise, as they will await the ratings or the buzz.”
Manish Kumar, VP - PR and Event, Sporty Solutionz
“IBL will be a big platform for badminton players. Since badminton players like Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Popanna and PV Sindhu are already creating waves with their performance, IBL could be a catalyst to speed the process of badminton players cracking the big endorsement deals.”
Satyajit Sen, CEO, Zenith Optimedia
“I am sure some advertisers are exploring this opportunity and will come on board for this league. Of course, there will be a gestation period before they start advertising since badminton is not as popular like cricket, which already has an established format.”
Sanjay Tripathy, senior EVP- head marketing, products and direct channels, HDFC Life
“If the players and the game become a household name, the players might be able to crack good endorsement deals. As a marketer, I am not advertising in this edition of the Indian Badminton League. I would like to wait and watch.”