The Bio Bubble Finally Bursts

Marketers discuss what suspension of the IPL means for the fraternity, agreeing on some severe damages to the advertisers and market sentiment

BCCI’s recent announcement of postponing IPL 2021 indefinitely was foreseen by some but a jolt for many across industries. In an emergency meeting held by The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and BCCI yesterday, they unanimously agreed to suspend the game, with immediate effect. 

This came to effect after BCCI disapproved compromising with the health and safety of players, support staff and other stakeholders involved in the game. While the game sure brought a wave of positivity & cheer during this grim time, there’s nothing more paramount than the wellbeing of everyone. Also, it is equally essential for these players to spend time with their families in these testing times. 

In fact, in our recent chat with Anjum Chopra, cricketer & broadcaster, she admitted, “Life in a bio bubble may look glamorous, but it not the healthiest place to be in. It does reflect on the players and other associates, while may not be visible to the audience." 

Marketers’ Speak

The reverberations of calling off the game will certainly be felt in many areas. Taking in account the advertising & marketing part of it, brand & agency heads across sectors were banking heavily on this game, given its high reach and penetration. Most of these brands were young, with a primary objective to establish brand recall and growth. Their scaling-up/acquiring new customer plans will get impacted severely. 

On this note, we spoke with marketers on how they are soaking up this new development:

Ashish Bhasin, CEO APAC and Chairman India, dentsu

Given the prevailing pandemic situation, I think it is the right decision to postpone IPL for now. The health and safety of all the players and everyone involved I think is paramount and keeping in mind the situation in the country and the prevailing mood in the nation, in my view it is the right decision.

IPL is the single largest property on television in India and something that appeals to a wide target audience, across the geographies. It has unparalleled reach and has always proven to be an excellent vehicle for brands and I think that will continue to be so and that will not change.

Given the fact that several parts of the country are going into lockdown, there are emergency measures been taken in different cities and towns to curb the pandemic, the severe shortages and difficulties being experienced, lives being lost to the pandemic, I think it is more appropriate to focus on that then on commercial issues for now. I’m sure the commercial issues will get discussed and resolved in an appropriate manner.

Karan Shroff, Chief Marketing Officer, Unacademy

This is a crisis of unprecedented proportions and as an Official Partner of the IPL, we stand by any decision taken for the health and safety of the players, support staff and other participants of the tournament. The BCCI is one of the most trusted cricket boards in the world and IPL, the biggest cricketing league. If the BCCI's assessment of the situation is that it warrants a suspension of IPL 2021, then we are aligned with that decision.

Komal Mehra, Head, Sports Initiatives and Associations, Usha International

In these unprecedented times when we are all in the same situation,  we stand by the decision made by the league and the franchisees that is needed for the safety of people.

Dheeraj Sinha, CEO & Chief Strategy Officer – South Asia, Leo Burnett

We are going through one of the toughest times in modern history. The situation on the ground is so grim that even a conversation around consumption and advertising looks too flimsy. However, we need to note that a crisis brings with itself allied crisis – issues around mental health, job losses and so on. I am not sure that while we are dealing with the Covid health scare on the ground, it’s possible to suspend everything else fully. To that extent, brands and businesses which have consumer demand, will need to continue their marketing. The IPL has been one the biggest marketing platforms and always delivers the goods for the brands which invest in it. However, with the breach of the bio bubble the suspension is a timely intervention, nothing is worth putting people’s lives at stake. While the suspension will affect the media plans for brands, businesses who are witnessing an upswing on consumer demand will seek alternate platforms to continue advertising. Given the scale and magnitude of IPL, brands will look forward to the return on their investment whenever IPL is back.

Arvind Nair, Regional Director, Mirum India 

There is no playbook for what we are going through currently. A few months ago, the facts and situations were different, and it made sense for the IPL to go ahead. At the heart of it all we are all brands need to be human first, and given we are in a state of uncertainty, it needs marketers to be more agile and deal with the customer, but the customer emotion. One of the key outcomes of the crisis will be to create a mindset of marketing agility that is likely to be permanent. This includes continuous consumer listening and demand sensing, not only for the benefit of marketing but for the full company to capture the zeitgeist of consumer sentiment. That change has become all the more now as we see the unprecedented second wave impacting us.
The role of a brand does not just end at the product or service it offers, it goes beyond to the communities it impacts, the lives it touches and the belief that unifies its audience and the same holds true for the IPL. IPL, while it borders entertainment and sport, is a business at the core of it which employs about 5-6k people every year. We should be taking examples from European football leagues or Olympic qualifiers, where sports have provided many of us hope and optimism. There needs to be global learning on how such events have continued and implemented here. The sheer number of viewers to the IPL is proof that people were keen to see what was going on.
There are communities that get impacted by an event like the IPL right up to the grassroots; opportunities and livelihoods that get created so does it make sense yes it does. Brands need to be strategic about this vs being tactical, there needs to be a longer-term vision on helping communities, employees, and so on. If many of them are addressed by the IPL consumer then why not, if that becomes the vehicle to support lives and livelihood then why not.

Rikki Aggarwal, Co-Founder, Chief Business & Operating Officer, Blink Digital

Cancelling IPL mid way is a big dampener for marketers specially Dream11 and other fantasy apps as they depend on IPL for their yearly targets. Also online delivery spaces and digital payment rely on IPL for top of mind recall especially during the lockdown.

Inderjit Matharu - Founder, White Digital

IPL is a winner in India for marketers who want to establish their brand presence in no time. For brands that are digital first, and not impacted by covid (gaming, pharma, FMCG, e-commerce), advertising on IPL was a sure shot a win-win situation. The brands that belongs from sectors such as hospitality, tourism, travel, real estate already decreased their marketing spends and stayed away from IPL.

This news will have direct impact on the brands sponsoring the IPL/Franchise. They will have to pause their marketing activities and spends, IPL is super bowl of India, marketers who wanted to leverage reach for their brands will get impacted severely.