Will the 5-month break in IPL 2021 affect the momentum for brands?
After suspending Season 14 of the Indian Premier League (IPL) mid-way in early May this year due to rising number COVID-19 cases among the players and staff, BCCI has now confirmed that the remainder of IPL Season 14 matches will be played in the UAE in September-October 2021. The decision was taken at a Special General Meeting (SGM) held virtually, where members unanimously agreed to resume IPL. The BCCI SGM further authorised the Office Bearers to seek an extension of time from the ICC to take an appropriate call on the hosting of ICC T20 World Cup 2021. The BCCI is also working hard and coordinating with other important cricket playing nations like England and Australia to get all clearances to complete the balance matches.
Some of the cricketing boards already indicated earlier that they might not be able release their national players because of their commitment to playing for the country. Pat Cummins has already announced that he will not available for the remaining part of IPL 2021. That will be a huge blow for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) team as he is one of the star performers for the franchisee. At this point of time, it is very difficult to know which of the overseas players will be available for the balance part of the IPL matches. There will be some clarity sometime soon, but in the meantime the BCCI has told the franchisees that they will be permitted to bring in new players as substitutes for those players who are not able to make it for the remaining part of the IPL matches.
If some of the key players are missing, some of the brands might think of revisiting their spends and presence in IPL 2021 for the remainder matches.
A total of 29 matches have been played as of May 2, 2021, before IPL 2021 was suspended. Star India stated that the network had garnered a cumulative reach of 352 million in the first 26 matches of IPL 2021, compared to 349 million cumulative reach in the corresponding number of matches in IPL 2020 (BARC TG: 2+U+R).
As per TAM AdEx data for all the 29 matches played during IPL 2021, the average Ad Volumes grew by 2%, compared to IPL 2020. Over 30 new categories appeared in 29 matches of IPL 14, compared to IPL 13. The tally of categories grew by 7%, whereas count of advertisers and brands decreased by 4% and 10%, respectively, in IPL 2021, compared to IPL 2020.
For brands, the key question is whether this long break between the two tranches of IPL 2021 will lead to a loss of interest among the consumers. Viewership had been on a decline in the first tranche of IPL 2021, amid the more devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections, which has greatly dampened consumer sentiments across the country.
However, the good news is that the second tranche of the tournament will coincide with the start of the festive season in India and the pre-Dussehra and pre-Diwali period, where consumer as well as brand sentiments are usually high.
The SOP for the remainder of the matches will be very similar to what was followed for the 2020 IPL matches in the UAE. It is too early to say whether viewers will be allowed into the stands this year. It will depend on the COVID-19 situation four months from now.
Speaking to Adgully, Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and former Marketing Head of HP, Asia, commented, “The 5-month break will certainly affect the momentum of the IPL, though it made perfect sense for the tournament to be suspended in April. For the brands associated, splitting their spends was not part of the plan, so this will be a bit off. However, I am sure most brands will welcome the opportunity to be back on air on live cricket after the forced break. It will help businesses regain traction.”
On the other hand, Ambi Parameswaran, Brand Strategist and Founder of Brand-Building.com, felt that the break in IPL was a welcome relief for brands who were seeing a drop in consumer sentiment. “Now that IPL is going to be played in the crucial pre-Diwali period, I would imagine there will be many takers for the ad slots,” he added.
Mathias further said, “The viewership of the IPL will be good even though players from a few nations will be missing, given their national commitments. The appetite for live cricket never diminishes and the two wonderful series between India & Australia last winter and India vs England earlier proved it adequately.”
(Edited and additional inputs by Shanta Saikia)