Can We Tout IPL As 'The Indian Marketing League'?

Marketing lessons from India’s hottest event, the Indian Premiere League (IPL)

This year marks the 14th season of the India Premiere League. And who would know in 2008 that we would be witnessing it become a prodigious event not just in India, but across the globe too.  

From being the most-attended cricket league in the world to being the first sporting event in the world to be broadcast live on YouTube to contributing massively to the GDP of the Indian economy, IPL can be safely called as the North Star of all leagues. Bestowed with an enriching communal experience, unmatched opportunity and creating fans for life, the power of the game and marketing during its telecast, has significantly changed the sports marketing landscape in the country. On the federation front, it has taught how monetising sports and sportspersons can reap hefty profits and popularity to them.

Naturally, its global traction and marketability reasons for high stakes and expectations that stakeholders have from the game.   

From a brand managers’s perspective, Vaishali Verma, CEO, Initiative highlights the rationale behind brands wanting to be a part of this game, in search of better visibility & ROI. “IPL serves as an ultimate leveller. Its spirit is not just represented by Dhoni or Virat, but players across socio-economic strata. IPL has made cricket available to all. 

In terms of impact, it helps big brands consolidate their presence and new brands to generate impact. It sure delivers on imagery, penetration, sales, attention, ROI, etc. We have seen brands increase to 7x. While it was primarily a male-dominated sport, we are now witnessing 50% viewership of women as well,” she says. 

In fact, IPL garnered a 1.8x higher female viewer attention compared to traditionally female viewer centric shows on GEC, as per TVision reports. Interestingly, the 2020 season recorded a 21% growth in female viewership. 

Divyanshu Singh, Head- Sales & Marketing, JSW Sports gives a more practical insight, agreeing that the viewership is high amongst females and kids, because they are a part of the TV watching process. “Since 80% of our country is a single-TV family, cricket becomes more of a family activity. It is no more for purist, but a great catalyst for family bonding,” he adds. 

Coming from her first-hand experience & association with the game, Anjum Chopra, Cricketer & Broadcaster poses an important question here, “If the viewership is women dominated, why is there a less women audience in the grounds and limited number of women cricket teams?” 

On the advertiser front, brands have extensively made use of cricket to reach out to masses. Explaining whether advertisers look for relevance or perhaps, a stamp of authority, Vivek Srivatsa, Head – Marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors points, “There is no doubt about its relevance. IPL has achieved a broad-based appeal each year. We need to realise that broadcast has done well regional-wise. It helped it get deep in country. Hence, the reach is unmatched. 

Overall, IPL offers a perfect combination of snackable content, cross-demographic appeal, reach and regional penetration.”

Srivatsa believes that the perception of audiences about Tata Motors has changes post their association with the game. “Consumer awareness and relevance for the brand has evolved, especially amongst younger audience. IPL also provides an additional benefit of rubbing shoulders with new age brands. We feel at home with this kind of overlap with customers,” he comments. 

The new-age gaming platforms have come up to monopolise the air-time. Representing the fantasy sports genre, Saurabh Chopra, CEO, BalleBaazi explains how this has changed in the past years and how he sees IPL as a platform. “IPL is ‘the’ platform for all. When we plan our budgets, it does get a special place in it. Running a sports platform, it is important to understand where your core audience lies. One reason why we have been able to stand tall is because our focus has been on the truest of sports enthusiasts, creating a loyal user base. IPL is the time when we innovate, find engaging communication strategies, work on inventories and much more,” he states.

Last but not the least, staying relevant to the surroundings is equally essential today, given the crisis we are grappling with. From a league/ board's perspective, shouldn't a platform like IPL be used as an awareness medium?

Anjum expresses here, "The message has been going consciously by moderators to wash hands, wear masks, maintain social distancing, etc. This, in fact, comes from all the people involved in the coverage. We intend to focus on our job and bring some amount of distraction to households during this time. We are staying clear on any information that may become a punching bag. 

Also, 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." 

This IPL Special session of the Marketer's Control Room was moderated by Raman Bhanot, sports commentator, anchor and columnist.