When IPL debuted in 2008, it created a furore among cricket fans. Being able to root and support your local teams, witness the feel and excitement akin to a global championship of sorts propelled the property instantaneously to magnanimous propositions. Come 2017, advertising and marketing calendars are built around IPL while brand revenue spends are orchestrated to match its surging connect with audiences.
The butterfly effect
IPL brought with it not only excitement and the unflinching loyalty of fans, but it also awakened a sense of confidence — that, yes, constructing and executing a league is a possible affair in India despite the burgeoning lack of market space left by cricket; 2011-2012 onwards we saw a steady mushrooming of other sports leagues and by 2013-15, eight major leagues were in existence — with ISL and PKL leading the pack with their steady rise. But these two put together still fall short by a fair margin in comparison to their elder sibling — IPL.
The imitation game
What IPL provided was significant from a ‘game changer’ perspective. However, one trope remained unflaggingly constant — that a connection to the audiences’ hearts has to be constantly maintained. There was always something more in terms of a new brand association, a newer engagement platform or the ability to actively build fan pockets. Imitation being the best form of flattery, the non-cricket leagues began to ape big daddy IPL in their social media constructs as well as sponsorship and endorsement tactics.
Brave new world
While the sporting ecosystem is still dominated by IPL and its apex predator presence, other leagues are contributing enough to build, drive and thrive in a market savagely led by revenue and revenue alone. The year 2016 saw a breakthrough in non-cricket leagues that had long been in the offing. There were two seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) as well as the Kabaddi World Cup — kabaddi sponsorship alone increased by 154% over the previous year. Since 2016 was also an Olympic year, there was a surge in non-cricket athlete endorsements too. Brands have jumped on the bandwagon, targeting specific groups.
While IPL continues to be the undisputed king of the jungle and cricketers are still the sporting world’s movers and shakers; tennis, badminton, wrestling and boxing are moving up the proverbial ladder to headline overall sports advertising numbers. The sports industry may keenly analyse the share of sponsorship between cricket and non-cricket but both categories held their own despite ups and downs, collectively contributing to an increase in numbers. Comprehensive sports sponsorship grew across the board in 2016 to $941 million, a big jump from $825 million in 2015.
The theory of everything
We are in a new-age sports experience economy and while IPL pioneered a lot of engagements that we are currently witnessing across all platforms, sports as a whole with all leagues currently in existence and in the future, have opened themselves to the priceless value of game-driven data. Localised, fan-cued and loyalty-tuned digital content is providing sporting organisations the ability to leverage mobile, social, in stadia and fan park channels. Leagues are now focussing on creating a fluid fan-based lifestyle. With Star India winning the global media rights bid for IPL for the next five years, 2018-22, at a whopping Rs 16,346.5 crore, IPL is set to become bigger than it already is. Theoretically and on paper, this bodes positively well for growth in non-cricket sports as well. This can be deduced purely because tried and tested marketing tactics can be adapted to monetise creative packages for non-cricket sports better.
Vinit Karnik, business head, ESP Properties