Battling the odds

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Updated: Apr 22 2014, 10:31am hrs
With controversies dogging the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the run-up to the seventh season, the eight franchises have been scrambling for sponsors. But with 20 out of the total 40 matches being played in India, the franchises are hopeful that they will not lose their loyal fan base in India as the tourney will return to India from United Arab Emirates on May 2 with a high-profile clash between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders in Ranchi. Five franchises tell FE BrandWagons Anushree Bhattacharyya about their plans for IPL 7. Edited excerpts:

Chennai Super Kings

On the impact of the negative sentiments surrounding IPL 7

Compared to last year, which was the best year for IPL so far, this year is not going to be that good. The uncertainties regarding the dates of the tourney and the controversies made it a little difficult initially to rope in sponsors. However, once everything was in place, the tourney was back in action, with advertisers ready to back the teams. With Chennai Super Kings (CSK) being a strong team, there was not much of an issue.

On sponsors

CSK has three news sponsorsOrbit Cables, GST Global and Orient Fansall of whom are big brands in the southern part of the country. We have seen a marginal jump of 5-10% in sponsorship revenue, with minute changes in the deals. For example, this year Aircel has opted for only one spot. Last year, it had three spots on the team gear. GST Global has taken two spotsone on leading arm and helmet. Orient Fans too has opted for a spot on the helmet and Orbit Cables, the principal sponsor, has taken a place on the team jersey. Last years sponsors who continue to partner us include real estate brand VGN and Gulf Air besides mobile services provider Aircel. We have tied up with Amazon India for merchandise sales. Last year we earned R1.25 crore from merchandise sales and expect a 40-50% increase this year. Our overall revenue last year was R170 crore and that included revenue from sale of merchandise, gate tickets, sponsorships, and central pool receipts. This year we expect a 5-10% increase in overall revenue.

On creating buzz through digital and on-ground activities

We have launched two on-ground properties. First, Junior Super Kingsan inter school competitionwhere around 120 schools across Tamil Nadu participate in the cricket league. We build a team of 25 players after selecting the best player from each team. That team is then coached by cricketers and popular coaches. The second on-ground activity is called Corporate Super Cup, where top companies participate in eight different sports. The activity allows us to directly target the corporates who actually buy the tickets.

Kolkata Knight Riders

On the impact of the negative sentiments surrounding IPL 7

IPL has courted controversies since Day One and every year the tourney has emerged as a winner. While we have had a slow start this year, we expect things

to change for better once the tourney

kicks off.

On sponsors

We have got three new sponsors this year technology partner SAP, apparel brand US Polo and electronics brand Sansui, apart from our existing sponsorsNokia, Seiko Watches, Manyavar, Emta (a brand from eastern India) and Royal Stag. All our deals are generally inked for a period of three years. This is to ensure that both partners are able to get better value from the association. The delay in announcement of the venue and the controversies surrounding IPL has actually hampered this years business. Also, as some of the matches will be played in Dubai, this has lessened the scope of promotion and on-ground activation for local sponsors such as Manyavar.

On creating buzz through on-ground activities

This year we aim to earn around R3.5 crore from the sale of KKR merchandise. Instead of outsourcing the manufacturing of KKR apparel, we will be manufacturing it. We have also tied up with Amazon as our official partner. Apart from introducing apparels, we will be launching Knight Club Kita collectable for members of the Knight Club.

We have also tied up with Vishal Garments to make affordable team apparels which can be sold to consumers. We also plan to launch a range of perfume and deodorants apart from launching other accessories such as mobile cover, car stickers, etc.

On leveraging digital media

Digital will be a big area of focus for us. From mobile value added services to mobile apps to various other services such as widgets which provide live score of KKR matches and Launcher which when downloaded on a mobile phone changes the regular icons and wallpapers to KKR branded icons and wallpapers, we are ready with a host of services. We have created a digital character called Tutulda and plan to launch a comic strip series featuring this character apart from launching a service called Twitter Mirror which will have a lot of selfies of the KKR cricketers in addition to live chats. Additionally, we will provide value added services on the mobile. For example, a viewer who gives a missed call to our toll-free number will receive a call from Gautam Gambhir or Shah Rukh Khan thanking her for supporting the team, in case KKR wins the match. After the call, the viewer will receive a host of VAS services on her mobile. We also plan to install a Twitter billboard in Kolkata, which will provide match updates, pictures from the matches, etc. We are in talks with several brands for digital sponsorships. We expect to earn R50-75 lakh as revenue through sponsorship on the digital media.

Rajasthan Royals

On the impact of the negative sentiments surrounding IPL 7

The IPL is a well-established and strong brand and has always attracted audiences and has seen year-on-year growth during the first six editions. The seventh edition is no different and we see good participation from both brands and fans. While the first leg of IPL7 will be played outside the country, stakeholders have shown the same level of enthusiasm for the tournament as they have shown in previous seasons.

On sponsors

Rajasthan Royals has always enjoyed

a good relationship with all its partners

and they continue to support us this season too. The sponsors that continue from last year include Ultratech, Rupa, Supertech, Amity, TCS, Garnier Men, Kingfisher, Pepsi, ICE X, My Heroes and Kooh Sports, while Integriti, and Deakin University have joined us this year. As a matter of fact, Mitashi, which was associated with Rajasthan Royals in 2011 and 2012, has come back this year.

Delhi Daredevils

On the impact of the negative sentiments surrounding IPL 7

This year has been tough and there is no doubt about it. However, IPL still remains

very popular among its fans who still want to watch a good game of cricket, especially Twenty20 cricket, and this I know because

of the posts by fans that we receive on our

social media pages.

On sponsors

With the general elections being held this year, a lot of money is being spent by corporates as donations. Also, the uncertainty over the venue and the match-fixing controversy has added to our problems. It has been a tough year in terms of getting sponsors on board. Despite the hurdles, we have managed to sell 10 spots on the team gear without compromising much on the rates.

While e-commerce portal Quikr is our principal sponsor, Just Dial (featuring on the right chest), Idea (on the back of the jersey), Delhi Duty Free (on the lead arm), RBL & Intuit Quick Books (on the non-lead arm), Manyavar (on the lead helmet), Amity University (on the back of the helmet), McDowells No. 1 (on the lead leg) and Kama Sutra Deodorant (on the non-lead arm) are the other sponsors.

On UAE versus South Africa as an

IPL venue

Logistics-wise, UAE is a better choice than South Africa as it is easier to return to India from there and complete the tourney in India. Had we gone to South Africa we would have to play the entire series there as in 2009.

Also, UAE has a large South Asian population who too are diehard fans of cricket. With 33% of matches being

played in Dubai it will help in creating a stronger association with the expat community there. In fact, tickets for

most of the matches are already sold out which also proves that it was a good decision.

On election distracting IPL fans

Overall, the tourney will be watched by cricket fans. However, with the IPL being held in the middle of the general election, we may see audiences moving away. Nonetheless, we want fans to watch the games, irrespective of the medium. So even if they watch the games on the internet, it would still mean that they are watching IPL.

On creating buzz through digital and on-ground initiatives

We will once again launch Apne Munde!, our regular contest. Apart from this we have created a mobile application and have organised hangouts on Google. We also plan to convert our digital assets such as videos into value added services which will be distributed by Idea Cellular, which is one of our sponsors.

Kings XI Punjab

On the impact of the negative sentiments surrounding IPL 7

While consumer sentiment remains strong towards the brand, in terms of business this is a bad year with zero growth. With the general election, the controversies surrounding IPL and the uncertainties about the dates of the tourney it has been difficult to get

sponsors on board.

On sponsors

We have managed to renew our sponsorship deals with two brandsUnited Spirits Ltd and TK Sports and are in conversation with a couple of other brands. This year has been bad for sponsorship with clients wary of signing deals. As of now, 60% of our inventory remains unsold. Moreover, it is difficult to sell your merchandise when the team lacks a famous cricketer such as Sachin Tendulkar or MS Dhoni. Ever since we lost Yuvraj Singh it has been a bit difficult for us. The sale of merchandise depends on the teams performance as well. We hope to perform well this year with Virender Sehwag. We hope to earn R30 lakh as revenue from merchandise.

On creating buzz through digital and on-ground initiatives

We have launched an initiative called Balle Army on social media. As per this we provide rankings based on Army rankings to our fans and followers who either post or watch videos or upload pictures. We have ranks starting from a footman to the general. Users are then provided with free team merchandise. Next, we have join hands with Google to launch an initiative called Indias coolest job. As per this we will select a blogger, videographer and a photographer from the array of content posted on Google Plus. The winners will accompany the team to various destinations. So while one will blog about the experience, the other will take photos and the videographer will upload team videos.