Opinion: To be, or not to be, on IPL: that’s the question...

Navin Khemka is managing partner of ZenithOptimedia

Apr 10, 2013 06:44:00 PM | Article | Navin Khemka

Come April, and billions of cricket fans will be glued onto their screen or at their favourite venue to watch the excitement unfold over eight weeks. The cumulative reach of IPL has grown steadily from 101 mn in 2008 to 164 mn in 2012. TV ratings have, however, gone down from 4.8 in 2008 to 3.5 in 2012. IPL has had its ups and downs, but it is important to acknowledge its impact on cricket and marketers.

The last edition of IPL saw over 100 advertisers with over 170 brands on air. In addition, there were at least a dozen endorsements for each of the nine IPL teams on ground. Not to forget advertisers who buy on ground rights from BCCI. It would be fair to estimate that over 200 advertisers with over 300 brands make their way into the IPL band wagon in 2013, up by 40 per cent increase from the first edition.

With increasing clutter, there are questions in the minds of marketers. Should my brand be on IPL? Will it get the desired RoI?

Given that we are now entering IPL’s sixth year, there are clear directions that have emerged for stakeholders on the various options available.

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 would pretty much exhaust within the top 50 advertisers in India. Recently, Pepsi has got the title rights for the next five years @ INR 396 cr. Clearly, these investments are only for advertisers with deep pockets. Some new local mobile phone brands have used it very effectively in India over the last five years, to generate instant awareness and acceptability.

On Teams: IPL teams are under tremendous pressure to make the RoI they do, and it shows. 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 principal team sponsor and some other associations, the other options are only adding to the clutter. 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. Investment of over Rs 19 cr (approx.) gives a brand a minimum threshold presence of 60 seconds on every match. This option gets ruled out for most advertisers on TV. Brands who have campaigns in this period and with limited budgets need to evaluate what they expect IPL to deliver - impact, continuity, reach or frequency.  They should then 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.

On Surround: A lot of brands also use the surround options available like news channels, sports pages in 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 no competitive brand can come and take 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.

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 who 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 (The author is managing partner, ZenithOptimedia. Views expressed are personal. This is an edited version of the article.)