Dealer gratification, consumer activation, consistent ratings, continued conversations, relevance across consumer segments, brand imagery Ė the Indian Premier League offers all these and more to brands that bet on it. No wonder, not just cricket fans but advertisers too are hooked onto this annual jamboree
Before 2008, the months of April and May were the unnoticed months on the cricket calendar, coming at the end of the Indian domestic season. The Indian domestic seasonís flagship tournament was the Ranji Trophy which found mention only in a handful of print or electronic media.
An ordinary cricket fan, by and large, wasnít aware and, in some cases, wasnít concerned about what was happening in his own backyard. It was the Indian teamís performance that mattered to him.
In 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) happened. City based franchises were sold, players were auctioned, International cricket stars queued up to play in India and Indian cricket got its first international sports league. Broadcast rights, central and team sponsorships, gate receipts and merchandise sales soon saw Indian cricket in the pink of its financial health.
The IPL-triggered smiles weren't limited to players, administrators and fans only. IPL was a property a lot of brands were seeking out. The more than 70 matches over a period of 50 days, celebrated international and Indian cricketers turning out to play everyday and content that kept the viewers tuning in day in and day out were just what brands had all along been waiting for. Brands showed their confidence and from approximately 25 to 30 brands in 2008 riding on IPL, the number went up to 70-75 brands in 2012. In terms of money pumped in by these brands, it went up from around R220 crore in 2008 to about R300 crore in 2012.
So why should brands consider this phenomenon called IPL? Reasons are manifold.
* IPL has a fixed calendar every summer. This provides brands an opportunity to plan their marketing campaigns much in advance. For brands sponsoring teams or IPL centrally, visibility is ensured with high impact on the ground all through the duration of the tournament.
* IPL allows national as well as regional activation. While DLF got pan-India awareness through title sponsorship, Ram Bandhu Masale effectively used Rajasthan Royalsí association to their advantage in the region of Rajasthan.
* Visibility and reach apart, brands get an opportunity to activate their association by gratifying key stakeholders through meet-and-greets, using player imagery, being part of award presentation ceremonies, networking with key decision-makers, to name a few.
* IPL is the single largest impact property consistently delivering above 3.5 ratings (all-India cable and satellite, 4 years-plus) year-on-year across India. IPL enables convergence of entertainment and sports by reaching out to a larger audience across age groups and gender. IPL matches are viewed by the entire family, advertising spot rates confirm this story. In 2008, Set Max tested the waters with an ad rate of R2 lakh for a 10-second slot. In contrast, it commanded a confident R4 lakh for a 10-second spot in 2012.
* The digital media ecosystem also thrives on the passion point of Indians. IPLís official website received 25.2 million unique visits and 80 million page views in the 2012 season alone. The IPL mobile site had 4.5 million unique visitors and 20.3 million page views. Altogether, 7.5 million tweets were recorded in the 2012 season.
These impressions and conversations are too big to be ignored.
But what truly makes IPL unique and noteworthy is its accommodating nature. Whether itís a central title sponsor paying around R79 crore per year for a title deal or a team sponsor paying about R50 lakh per year for a partnership deal, IPL has space for everyone. The sheer range of investment opportunities that IPL provides makes it relevant to brands across categories. More than 30 categories have invested in IPL till 2012. These include the usual suspects such as telecom and mobile handset brands to categories such as IT/ITeS, deodorants and hospitality who had previously refrained from associating with cricket.
Dealer gratification, consumer activation, pan-India as well as regional reach, fixed calendar, consistent ratings, continued conversations, relevance across consumer segments, brand imagery Ė all these can be found in three letters: IPL. If a brand wants to utilise true rights of their association, it is their right to brag.
Thatís what IPL does to brands.
The writer is national director, GroupM ESP, Sports & Live Events