Can India-Australia cricket series replicate IPL 2020’s blockbuster success?

Despite being held amid COVID conditions, the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was a roaring success as viewership zoomed and recorded an all-time high. As per industry sources, broadcaster Star Sports raked in revenues of Rs 3,100 crore, which is 30% higher than the last year. Several brands leveraged this opportunity, especially the start-up companies who invested heavily in IPL and earned a good ROI for their brands. The prime reason why most brands joined the IPL this year was that it coincided with the festive season. Brands found the perfect high-decibel platform to create engagement and buzz.

Will the momentum continue?

Coming on the back of the IPL 2020 is the India-Australia series, which is the first major international tournament featuring Team India. The two are fierce competitors and the matches have always garnered tremendous traction. So, it will be interesting to see whether the IPL momentum will continue for the India-Australia series.

Also read:  IPL 2020 overall viewership up 23%; records 400 bn minutes of consumption

There should not be much fatigue as there is a good three weeks’ gap after the IPL finals. The series is being watched by the world as Australia need to avenge their defeat that they suffered in the hands of India when India last toured Australia. With still no major live events happening and with IPL receiving good response even though it was played on an empty stadium should get good traction as two best teams are competing. According some media reports, major part of the ad inventory for the T-20 series is booked and may be some brands might enter late after looking at results of the initial matches.

In all, there will be over 26 days of action-packed cricket, which consists of ODIs, T-20 and the 4 Test matches. And one of the Test matches, which will be played in a day and night schedule with the pink ball, may garner more viewership due to favourable timings. Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN) is the official broadcaster of the series starting November 27, 2020, which will be aired live on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Six channels.

Heightened advertiser interest

Ajay Kakar, Chief Marketing Officer, Aditya Birla Capital, is quite bullish on the India-Australia series. According to him, “Cricket is always a big undisputed draw for Indians. And it’s as if we just can’t get enough of it. Now, contextualise it with an audience who has been torn between the desire to be out of home and the need to remain within. Cricket gives them a reason to want to stay home and gorge on the nation’s favourite sport. So, it’s no surprise that the IPL was a major success. And the India-Australia series will also have every reason to be a success.”

Kakar further said, “For advertisers, who have chosen to hold on to their spends till the consumer world started opening up, they are sure to back the game to make up for the lost time and lost viewership. And the under-utilised budgets beckon. It’s surely a sellers’ market for good content. And since cricket fits the bill, and how, the advertisers will be happy to loosen their purse strings with possibly a lesser fight than one would expect.”

Vaishali Verma, CEO, Initiative India, is equally optimistic, saying, “I definitely see the India-Australia series also being a success. This is the first time this year that a bilateral series is happening. IPL is a different format and occupies our living room viewership completely for 60 days. This bilateral series with Australia has been a sought-after series because two of the best teams from the cricketing world compete.”

Verma believed that there will be a much higher viewership than any other bilateral series, seeing that people are working from home. The same principle will apply as was the case with IPL.

IPL does get a wider set of advertisers since it cuts across age groups and demographics. There were 35 new advertisers that came on IPL this year. According to Verma, “The India-Australia series will see a lot of IPL advertisers like edu-tech, online gaming, payments, auto, FMCG, and BFSI. A lot of the advertisers who will come here might have gone to IPL. IPL 2020 saw almost 20-25% growth in viewership over the last IPL. India-Australia would witness about 10-15% better viewership than the previous bilateral series. It might not do as well as the IPL because the structure and format of the game is very different. We’ve not seen a huge deviation in rates. There is a certain amount of inflation Y-O-Y and so that amount was built in. Apart from that there is no premium on the rates.”

Ajit Gurnani, Chief Client Officer, Zenith, too, expects good viewership growth for the bilateral India-Australia series, especially for the ODI/T20 part of the engagement, given the continued World From Home situation. “This, combined with the obvious interest in one of cricket’s fiercest rivalries coming after a gap of almost 9 months, will lead to higher than usual advertiser interest. The ed-tech, fintech, auto (2W, 4W, EV) triumvirate will look to leverage the opportunity and the interest in the unlock phase of the economy which despite signs of COVID infection surge also has the positive news of the impending vaccines that are likely to be available in H1 2021,” he added.

Gurnani further said, “The other interesting part of the viewership pattern will be how streaming video platforms will compete with linear TV, given the accelerated growth in OTT subscribers that the video landscape is experiencing. It will be critical to see how SonyLIV leverages the interest and growth created by its iconic show ‘Scam 1992’ to add paid subscribers as well as leverage AVOD opportunities. All in all, I expect an interesting feast for fans, viewers and advertisers across TV and streaming platforms.”

“Advertisers will not let go this opportunity easily,” stated Gaurav Gemini, Business Director, Carat, adding, “IPL indeed was a big hit, with most individuals working from home/ staying indoors due to COVID, video (TV & OTT) and specialty sports was a welcome respite. The viewers were smitten that their favourite sport IPL was back and despite a no spectators on the ground, the rollout it did was fantastic for the platforms (TV & OTT).”

Gemini further observed, “With second wave of COVID underway and another high traction series happening, I do feel viewers will be hooked onto their favourite game, after all it’s a religion in India. The India-Australia series is top notch, where you will see the best of players in action and we haven’t seen them for a while now. And I don’t think that advertisers will let go this opportunity so easily, specially after a pleasant experience with IPL. Moreover, this series has all the right attributes to attract eyeballs, and a lot will depend on the field performance of the men in blue.”

Commenting on the success story carved by IPL 2020, Santosh N, Managing Partner, D and P Advisory LLP and external advisor, Duff & Phelps, said, “IPL 2020 was a real success. Certain factors like lack of content, lack of entertainment options and limited live cricket this year helped the case, but that should not take away the fact that IPL is one of the hottest sport properties. As per media reports, advertisement revenue this season was in excess of Rs 3,000 crore, which is an astonishing growth of more than 30% in a period where the entire world is staring at an economic downturn due to the pandemic.”

India-Australia is the first major bilateral international cricket tour this year. As such, the interest levels will be quite high. However, the late evening slot worked well for IPL unlike the early morning starts for Australia series, which might not attract the same viewership numbers. “Cricket is always an advertisers’ dream and as such, we expect FMCG companies to leverage on the India-Australia tour and be very active. However, interest levels from consumer electronics brands might come down considering the festive season got over just recently,” Santosh added. 

Speaking on brands’ participation and the expected ad spends on the India-Australia series, Manoj Malkani, Executive Director, Concept Communication, remarked, “The momentum in viewership and advertising during the forthcoming months are going to continue. Most campaigns/ brands look at tentpole properties for association to garner eyeballs and visibility for generating traction. While IPL was huge success owing to the largest property in the country, India-Australia should garner around Rs 200-250 crore revenues inclusive of FCT/ Sponsorships/ Subscriptions. 7-8 partners for both TV and OTT are easily mandated. The good thing about cricket is that it is clean, entertaining and played with passion, unlike News, which is fuzzy. The likely suitors are Youth/ digital and male TG brands (auto, tyre, lubes, batteries, shaving, etc.), telecom, cola, Ed-Tech brands are a no brainer, and with the impact of COVID, healthcare brands will continue to advertise. MRF, Dream 11, Dettol, SBI Mutual Fund are some of the sponsors.”


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