Amid COVID-19 surge, are brands getting the maximum bang for their buck this IPL?
India has today become the epicentre of COVID-19 in the second wave of infections – the country reported almost 3.8 lakh new cases in the last 24 hours. Several states have introduced strict protocols again, including lockdowns and curfews.
It goes without saying that the current pandemic situation has cast its shadow on the ongoing Season 14 of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Some players have withdrawn from the tournament citing the COVID-19 situation. So far, the BCCI has reiterated that the tournament will continue amid the bio-bubble created and sans any crowds in the stadiums. As per various industry reports, the advertiser interest in IPL has not waned and there is a strong sponsor presence for the individual IPL franchise teams as well.
But will the tournament garner the same following and viewership in Season 14? IPL 2021 has now entered the third week and the matches now move to Ahmedabad after Chennai and Mumbai. The second wave of COVID-19 in India has jolted people out of their complacency. Daily news reports on the aggressive nature of the mutated virus, the heartbreaking stories of sufferings and deaths due to shortage of oxygen and hospitals beds and the horrific images from crematoriums, mostly in North India, have had a sobering effect on the people.
IPL tournament includes several overseas players, and this year is no different. However, given the latest pandemic situation in the country, a few of these overseas players, as well as a couple of India players have withdrawn from the tournament. These include mostly Australians Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson, Josh Hazelwood, Josh Philippe and Mitchell Marsh, as well as England’s Liam Livingstone and India’s R Ashwin. The latest to withdraw are two umpires – Australia’s Paul Reiffel and India’s Nitin Menon, whose mother and wife have tested COVID positive. These withdrawals are a significant blow to this mega tournament.
One wonders about the state of the IPL matches to be played in Delhi, where the situation in quite grim. Ahmedabad will be the host of the next round of the tournament, and the situation there, too, is not so great. Moreover, even the overall performance of some of the teams has not been consistent. Is the strain of playing amid COVID-19 protocols and without the support of loudly cheering fans beginning to take a toll on the players?
As per various reports, the IPL viewership in states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala has seen a dip. Even Maharashtra, which normally report high IP viewerships, has seen a drop in viewership ratings. Maharashtra is currently under lockdown, which has been extended till May 15. It remains to be seen how brands plan to address this situation. Several start-up brands and some Edutech brands and financial brands have a heavy presence in IPL. The situation will be clearer in the coming days, as the massive drive to vaccinate the 18+ population gets underway from May 1, 2021 across the country. While the brands’ investments are huge, but life is equally precious and important for everyone in these times.
Looking at the current situation and how the tournament is going to shape up as we move to the third week of IPL Adgully, spoke to some few industry leaders on how IPL is likely to get impacted due to the current situation.
Speaking to Adgully Rajiv Gopinath, CCO, Starcom shared his observations by saying that the First 7 matches average in 2021 is 4.6 TVRs which is 18% lower than 2020 (which was 5.6 TVRs and 6% lower than 2019 (which was 4.9 TVRs). Adding further he remarked that it was expected that 2021 will be lower than 2020, but was expecting more like a 10% drop.In 2020, there was an anticipation with a long hiatus of cricket, unlike 2021 which had a continuous season of cricket starting from IPL 2020, Ind - Aus, Ind-Eng. It is expected that there will be a counter balancing trend with the curfew/ lockdown,but we need to wait for next week ratings to draw a clearer picture. The states where the ratings dropped highest were WB, TN and Kerala. Maharashtra was also impacted with the lockdown in this rating, and saw a drop.Even teams corresponding to state ratings need a longer series of matches to draw some conclusion he said.
The viewership of IPL 2021 so far has been about 10-15% below IPL 2020, which was held late last year said Mr. Shailesh Kapoor, The Founder & CEO, Ormax Media. Continuing further he commented that a minor drop is understandable for two reasons: Last IPL came after a 1.5 years gap, and after a long lockdown, during which fans were starved of their favourite sport (cricket).Generally, we have seen that IPL viewership trends begin to settle by the second or the third week. Hence, we don't expect any major growth or drop in average viewership of this season. It's safe to say this season will end about 10-15% below the last season on percentage ratings. But since BARC India has updated the TV universe in India, the absolute numbers won't show a drop at all.IPL is a tournament of twists and turns, and it usually gets close by the end of it and we can still expect some surprises.
Kapoor concluded by saying that IPL always gets good ROIs for brands, though this year, some brands may have to deal with criticism of supporting IPL, which some people believe should not be held in midst of the current public health crisis. With the lockdown being enforced by many states we may see a dip in many product categories.