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IPL 2021 dilemma - Mood of the nation Vs advertiser sentiment

The number of advertising categories in 14th edition of the Indian Premier League has gone up by 5% to 58. Fantasy sports platform Dream11 has taken top advertiser spot from handset maker OPPO that reigned just last year. The data, provided by TAM Media Research, showed that top advertisers include services marketplace JustDial, stockbroking platform Upstox, payments platform PhonePe. Digital brands like Dream11, BYJU’s, PhonePe, JustDial, Upstox, Groww, and CRED have come on board as sponsors for the cricketing league. The top advertising categories are mobile handsets, ecommerce, gaming, ed-tech, OTT, social media, and digital wallets. Why is there so much interest in the T20 tournament by digital brands?

Also read:  COVID-19 2nd wave impacts IPL 2021 reach and viewership

One of the reasons is because the second wave of COVID-19 has made the apps on mobile devices much more valuable in the consumers’ lives. Unlike the first wave, where brands were caught off-guard, this time they have made calculated bets on IPL to deliver their brand to the audiences.

The second, not-so-obvious reason is that this is a turning point for India’s earliest digital companies, many of whom are looking to list for an IPO this year. These early incumbents bet on IPL, reap the results and the next generation of start-ups are following in their footsteps.

Adgully organised a Twitter conversation on Friday, April 30, 2021 to understand ‘Why IPL is a hot property for digital brands?’, as well as get the viewpoints and strategies of the emerging and promising start-ups in India. Joining the conversation were CXOs and industry observers such as:

Arjun Mohan, CEO - India, upGrad

Ashish Mishra, Executive VP – Marketing, ACKO

Janhavi Parikh, Business Head, MX TakaTak

Lloyd Mathias, Business Consultant

Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, BangInTheMiddle

Varun Ganjoo, Marketing Director, Baazi Games

“IPL has always been a great reach medium,” noted Business Consultant Lloyd Mathias. Adding further, he said, “It is a prime sports entertainment event, providing huge reach and is viewed across age groups/ gender. It has an urban skew that works for digital brands. This year, with people staying indoors due to the pandemic, reach will increase.”

BangInTheMiddle’s Naresh Gupta remarked, “New brands cannot get a more appropriate media platform in times of lockdown and very few choices. When you are a new brand or a start-up, you need the quickest build of ad stock. IPL does that in the most strategic way. This year, with the major advertisers rolling back on spending, it became even easier for the new brands.”

UpGrad’s Arjun Mohan added here, “In a content-starved period in media, IPL has breathed life into television advertising and brands are sapping out benefits by associating with it. Digital brands are getting more visibility, focused target group and impressions, all courtesy the ad campaigns during IPL.”

At the same time, he said, “In the current situation, I am not sure the tone deaf attitude towards the mood of the nation is really helping the brands on IPL.”

Where IPL offers unparalleled reach to partner advertisers, this year a lot of advertisements caught our attention and convinced us that brands were really putting out their best work to capture the imagination of the audience. One such ad was the CRED ad featuring Rahul Dravid and the Magicpin bread ad mocking the former. The intensity of ads that are played during IPL is matching the Superbowl ads in the US that reach an audience of 100 million+.

Mathais observed, “The CRED versus Magicpin saga has been quite interesting and grabbed attention during IPL 2021. Magicpin has managed awareness at a fraction of the ad spends by latching on to CRED’s big spends with the cheeky spoof!”

UpGrad’s ad featuring a donkey is one such campaign that is drawing attention for being a little more unusual than the rest and breaking through the clutter.

Commenting on the campaign, Mohan said, “From initial strategy of building brand recall with our #KaamKiDegree campaign, we’ve now branched out to show the perks of online learning with UpGrad. We even roped in data scientists/ machine learning experts to conduct sessions around analysing patterns, methodologies for T-20 cricket predictions.”

Short video platform MX TakaTak strengthened its ties with cricket by partnering with all seven IPL franchises. Janhavi Parikh said, “We’re able to unlock additional value through player and team content on the platform. IPL teams have an engaged fan base that enjoy consuming their content. We have content from seven teams and challenges on the platform that activate fan engagement for each team.”

Read More: MX TakaTak launches campaign on back of IPL franchises

Acko’s Ashish Mishra also stressed on the importance of getting the creative strategy right as well as creating the right association with the event. He said, “Similar to last year, we have used the opportunity to increase our associations with the fans of the two teams we sponsor Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians and our #ACKOCatchTheLogo contest was a prime example of fan engagement done right.”

He further said, “Celebrities definitely help break the clutter. The trick lies in how you use them for delivering the message. We have Arshad Warsi helping us spread the message this year with #IndiaMannLo campaign for Acko Insurance and the response has been fantastic.”

For gaming brands, associating with IPL is a tried and tested strategy. Baazi Games’ Varun Ganjoo noted, “During IPL, gaming brands, especially fantasy sports gaming, witness a spike in new user acquisitions, as these companies allow users to go beyond just watching the sport.”

He said, “We have come up with a campaign called #CricketMachao, which takes the audience through the epic and funny reactions we get to see during the matches.”

While Dream11’s war chest is far greater than other fantasy gaming brands’, brands like BalleBaazi, Gamezy and others have created a unique association with the sport through partnerships with emerging cricket stars.

Gupta observed that many of the brands advertising on IPL were leveraging Ranveer Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as brand ambassadors, impacting brand recall. He noted, “Apart from CRED and Magicpin, there haven’t been many competitive ads during this IPL. The advertising has mostly been standalone brand-focused messaging.”

Mathias opined, “As long as brands take a short cut to use celebrities – without a big idea that connects with consumers – we will continue to see this. Specifically, Dhoni’s availability for shooting ads played a big factor, as having retired he was not part of the hectic India versus Australia and India versus England series.”

No matter what the level of India’s adoration for cricket is, ground realities indicate that the goodwill for the tournament may swing to the other side. Many have questioned the wisdom of continuing to hold the tournament in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19 infections across the country.

“There is already a backlash as IPL 2021 continues amidst this unprecedented pandemic crisis. This can be very harmful for brands associated with it. BCCI, the teams and sponsors need to reach out to help the many who are taking the brunt. It’s a humane thing to do,” remarked Mathias.

Mohan said, “None of us would have anticipated the current situation and brands that are associated are likely to suffer its consequences. Apart from cricket lovers, we can expect any casual watcher to probably opt out. I feel the mood of the nation is not something where customers would want to consume a carnival.”

On the other hand, Ganjoo argued, “IPL is beyond the recognition of being just a league in today’s time. Today, IPL offers a lot more than just entertainment. It is a strong employment generator by every means and ways.”

Adding further, he said, “From an entertainment perspective, during emotionally heavy and draining times like these, where we are surrounded by sad news, it is very important to keep one’s moral and sprit high, and if a little entertainment keeps that ball rolling, then there is no harm in it.”

Gupta felt that IPL is a soft target, and asked whether advertising would stop due to the pandemic. “I feel the publications should have a point of view, but activism is double-edged sword,” he remarked.

Post IPL, what will happen to the decibel levels of advertising?

Mohan said, “The situation is grim all over and we will have to see where the consumption goes. UpGrad is lucky to exist in the digital space, which is super important in today’s times. We are counting on an overall increase in social media conversations around UpGrad to do the job.”

Mishra said, “We are hoping that we as a country will be able to fight COVID-19 better in the coming months. If the situation gets worse, it will just be tone deaf to continue focusing on selling products versus directing your funds to help the people and communities.”

According to Ganjoo, “There will be a variation in the traffic and engagement post IPL depending on the category. For gaming, there has been a consistent growth over the last three-four years and also a spike witnessed last year at the beginning of the lockdown.”

Mathias remarked, “For brands that have put a disproportionate part of their ad spends on the IPL 2021 there’s bound to be a lull. However, lower cost digital and social presence may assuage this to some extent. Two brands who are big broadcast sponsors have planned this.”

“There is World Test Championship, T20 World Championship and the calendar continues. If cricket is the strategy, then there are many opportunities,” said Gupta, concluding on a positive note.

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