The Changing Face Of Cricket: Is it Just Frenzy Or Mega Marketing Festival?

With the changing dynamics, the cost per rating point (CPRP) has become more competitive, making it feasible for brands of varying sizes to participate in these tournaments without breaking the bank, writes Yatnesh Pandey

Even as the Cricket World Cup unfolds, it's clear that in the last ten years, the way this sport is presented and marketed has gone through a revolution. This is mainly due to the exciting changes in the game's formats and the growing influence of the digital world in connecting with fans. Cricket, India's favourite pastime and second only to Bollywood in popularity, has thus also been at the forefront of the marketing revolution around the sport. And rightly so! The ongoing ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 has already broken viewership records, registering a combined watch time of 123.8 billion minutes for the first 18 matches, which is a whopping 43% jump from the ICC World Cup 2019!

With such a rapid evolution and far-fetched reach, it is vital to understand the journey, and identify and acknowledge the emerging set of new audiences, the newer platforms and digital reach, and the new game formats to effectively understand how marketing efforts can be made more impactful!

Here are some key highlights that will help understand the new marketing transformation and what this means for brands and marketers.

The changing audience and reach

Cricket has been traditionally perceived as a male-centric sport, however, with the new formats, it now appeals to a much wider demographic. The advent of the IPL, with its entertainment-packed format, helped cricket transcend its sporting roots to become a dynamic entertainment platform, drawing in a broader and more diverse audience.

The 2023 IPL telecasted on the Star Sports Network, registered 505 million viewers as per the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. The Hindi-speaking markets contributed the most to the viewership, with 334 million viewers, up 47 per cent from last year. The viewership watch time also stood at an impressive 427.1 billion minutes, as per reports. It is not a surprise then, that what was once a gentleman’s game, today caters to a family audience and has female anchors providing in-depth insights into the game, making cricket an inclusive family viewing experience for all.

This evolution means that marketing strategies need to cater to a broader audience with varied interests, and age groups. Additionally, with the wider audience, came enhanced reach. The 2020 IPL achieved a viewership of over 400 million, with a significant portion of it coming from non-traditional cricket fans. The recent ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup match between India and New Zealand alone recorded a peak concurrency of 4.3 Crore viewers by online streaming platform, Disney Hotstar!

The Medium and the digital revolution

Media consumption has seen a seismic shift in the past decade, with digital platforms dominating the landscape. Cricket fans are no exception. From National radio and TV channels to Cable TV, online platforms, connected TV and OTT platforms, to now mobile phones, cricket has taken over every traditional and modern entertainment touchpoint for consumers. Furthermore, the proliferation of internet-connected devices has expanded the reach of digital marketing, improving the cost per rating point or the basic cost for advertising, thus making it easier even for smaller brands to garner visibility. The IPL 2023, for example, recorded that out of the half a billion viewers, 73 per cent of them watch the IPL on digital platforms and only 27 per cent of viewers watch IPL via cable/DTH.

As per the International Cricket Council (ICC), the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 saw 6.58 billion video views across all ICC platforms, surpassing the Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 record by 65% and making it the most digitally engaged ICC event ever. According to another report by BARC India, India had 25.3 million concurrent livestream, digital viewers for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. While traditional TV still holds sway, the sheer number of net-connected devices (600 million and counting) and connected TVs has created an alternate channel for reaching the audience.

Marketing evolution

The evolving landscape of Cricket, from the standpoint of audiences, the medium, and reach, has brought significant advantages for brands and marketers. They now have the tools to engage in more precise targeting due to the rich data and analytical capabilities available in the digital universe. Brands can create cohorts and tailor their messages to specific segments of the audience, resulting in a more focused and efficient marketing strategy.

Additionally, in the past, events like the IPL were typically seen as high-cost impact mediums suitable for launching mega campaigns. However, with the changing dynamics, the cost per rating point (CPRP) has become more competitive, making it feasible for brands of varying sizes to participate in these tournaments without breaking the bank. There is an increasing trend of new brand variants also being launched during the IPL and the ICC Cricket World Cup, highlighting once again, how big a marketing event Cricket has become!

To conclude, we can say that cricket has undergone a significant transformation in the past decade, with first the T20 and then the IPL being the major turning points, transforming the game into a fusion of sports and entertainment. This shift has expanded the target audience, revolutionised media consumption, and provided new avenues for marketers to engage with their audiences. As a marketing expert, recognising these new changes and adapting strategies to this evolving landscape is essential for successfully reaching and influencing consumers in this new era of sports marketing. Cricket's journey from sport to entertainment has created a wealth of opportunities for brands to score big in the ever-changing world of sports marketing.

(Yatnesh Pandey is the VP Marketing of GreenPly Industries)

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