Ahead of IPL 2018, media experts expect a paisa vasool season for brands & fans

With just four days to go for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018, the campaign trail kicks into high gear. Individual IPL franchise teams have also rolled out high decibel campaigns and engagement initiatives to create buzz. Quite a few changes have been made in the tournament as IPL now switches to Star Sports from Sony Pictures Networks. 

After bagging the IPL global media rights for a whopping Rs 16,347.15 crore in September last year, Star India re-imagined IPL 2018 with an aim to reach out to over 700 million fans. IPL 2018 will be telecast on 10 Star Sports channels and in 6 languages. 

Star has roped in 80 brands and 8 associate sponsors for IPL 2018, with more expected to join in as the tournament progresses. 

According to a Duff & Phelps report, the overall value of IPL as a business increased to $5.3 billion in 2017 from $4.2 billion in 2016, representing a three-year CAGR of 13.9 per cent. The report further stated that Sony’s ad revenues crossed Rs 1,300 crore in 2017, while Hotstar’s ad revenues from IPL rose to Rs 120 crore, more than double the previous year. Television viewership also ascended to new heights, with nearly 45 per cent of viewership coming from rural India, evidence of the reach and pull of the IPL. Meanwhile, the brand values of the individual teams have risen 34 per cent on average in 2017 compared to 2016. 

As per a Maxus Mesh report, Season 10 of IPL was the most buzziest ever, with more than 6 million mentions around the event. This was more than 2X as compared to the 2016 buzz levels. Among the advertisers, Vivo emerged as the most buzziest brand due to title sponsorship. Apart from the official sponsors, the Amazon Chonkpur Cheetah ads were the most watched ad on digital in IPL Season 10. 

Given such compelling performance in the last 10 years, media experts are obviously bullish on the tournament keeping up to its expectations in Season 11. They have described IPL as “game-changer”, “great opportunity for branding”, and “most impactful media property” whose “popularity remains undimmed”.

N Chandramouli
N Chandramouli

Describing IPL 2018 as a game-changer in many ways, N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, observed, “Not only has the investment in the sponsorship gone up manifold, so have the expectations.” At the same time, he remarked that with a few other sports leagues beginning to gain some ground, IPL will have to prove its value and ROI to advertisers at the current prices. “This is at a time when advertising budgets of brands are really not dramatically different from what they have been over the years,” he added. 

Sunil Alagh
Sunil Alagh

Sounding more upbeat, Sunil Alagh, Founder and Chairman of SKA Advisors, remarked, “IPL 2018 is a great opportunity for branding and selling products. Cricket and films continue to be the major source of entertainment in India and, therefore, the eyeballs they attract are huge. Whilst it’s an opportunity for all products, it’s more so for products that have a skewed seasonal demand like ice creams, soft drinks, et al. Even films are likely to take a back seat to the IPL.” 

An ardent believer of IPL as a lucrative property, Sanjay Tripathy, Co-Founder and CEO at Agilio, said, “IPL has always lived up to its promise of being the most impactful media property, and there is the added attraction of the return of two popular teams this year. It still remains the single media property which can appeal to demographics across geographies. Already 34 brands have come on board for Vivo IPL 2018. Star has developed a very strong marketing plan with the combined power of TV and Digital with multiple screens and multiple languages to broaden the reach and the engagement. For the first time, Vivo IPL 2018 proposes to connect with Indians in no less than six different languages – Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Bengali. With technology and vernacular offering, this IPL will provide a very different experience for the viewers and unique packages for the marketers. For the first time, a single entity owns both digital and TV rights.” 

Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon

“In a decade of its existence, the IPL has taken firm root. Its popularity remains undimmed. If anything, the League has become more attractive for fans with the return of two original franchises – CSK and Rajasthan Royals,” said ace sports writer Ayaz Memon

Highlighting the viewership clout of the tournament, N Chandramouli noted, “This cricket league has been growing in viewership year on year, with women now constituting nearly 35+ per cent of the viewers.” At the same time he felt that progressively increasing viewership dramatically on the traditional TV channel would be tough. Though, the digital viewership is still likely to see a substantial jump over the next few years. 

With Star India re-imagining brand IPL this year, the tournament would be a grand spectacle that will be enjoyed by more than 600 million fans across geographies this year, remarked Sunil Alagh. He further said, “The player auction and manic bidding between the Indian cricketers and overseas have set high expectations for viewers on what they would get to witness in the upcoming season. The auction itself saw over Rs 400 crore being spent by the 8 franchises and had also gained a high TRP for IPL Season 11. I am not sure about the numerical values, but yes, the return of two good teams, Dhoni’s return as captain and Star Sports gaining the broadcast rights will certainly increase the numerical value this year.” 

Sanjay Tripathy
Sanjay Tripathy

Sanjay Tripathy, too, pointed out that for the first time ever IPL 2018 will be broadcast on multiple TV channels and live-streamed on Hotstar. He added, “This will be one of the first few leagues in the world which proposes to use virtual reality and to bring live action from the stadium to fans’ homes. This immersive VR experience would make it possible for fans to come closer to the high-octane matches from the comfort of their homes. IPL 2018 is the biggest content property on TV and OTT, and it will target to reach an additional 20-25 per cent people as compared to last year through six live language feeds on TV along with live streaming on Hotstar.” 

Tripathy informed, “The 10th season of IPL had got the nation hooked with 1.25 billion impressions for the 59 matches played between April 5 and May 21, 2017, a 22.5 per cent jump over the previous edition. With the return of CSK and RR, I expect the viewership to go up by at least 15-20 per cent this year.” 

Ayaz Memon, too, believes that since the IPL broadcast has changed hands, Star Sports’ endeavour would be to scale up the League further, making it more appealing to fans, sponsors, et al, which should impact viewership and hence, TRPs. 

The clout wielded by IPL can be gauged by the fact that it is watched even more than international sports events like the Super Bowl, as per various reports. According to Chandramouli, “The IPL brand already saw its zenith a year back. It was a highly trusted brand even in the Brand Trust Reports. I see it stable over the next couple of years, if nothing untoward happens to the advertising sales outlook.” 

Alagh feels no differently and believes that in its 11th year, IPL has developed a strong base of team loyalties like the football leagues abroad. It stretches across all income groups and urban/ rural consumers. He affirmed, “This brand should now be extended to a greater number of accessories. It has also become a superb platform for players who wish to represent India and provide them with a substantial income at the same time.” 

Memon too felt that the brand value of IPL has already zoomed with the price paid by Star for the TV and digital rights. Other sports are also coming into the reckoning, which is good for the country, however IPL’s position remains unassailed. 

As far as revenue expectations from Season 11 of IPL are concerned, Chandramouli thinks one needs to wait and watch. “Very few predictions are possible. If successful, it will set a new precedent; if not, then it may shake up the IPL sponsorships in the future,” he remarked. 

On the other hand, Sunil Alagh said, “In the world of sports, IPL has offered brands an opportunity to aggressively market and advertise their products. Brands consider IPL as one of the preferred platforms to launch a new product while the existing brands use the same platform to recall and strengthen their brand image. BCCI has a robust revenue distribution model. We can predict that there can be quantum jump in the broadcasting revenues this year, in spite of it being the most expensive sporting league in the world over a short exposure period.” 

Keeping the faith alive in the spirit of the tournament and its brand value, Sanjay Tripathy added here, “The valuation of brand IPL and its sub-brands (team brands) will continue to grow in this edition. Most of the teams have new exciting players and the audience will be hooked on to support their favourite team. Besides, CSK and RR will bring on emotional support. I expect the combined offering will help to get minimum 25 per cent revenue growth for the broadcaster.” 

Supporting the argument, Ayaz Memon also believes that since Star india had made a hefty bid, one would assume they would make robust efforts to optimise revenues.

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