IPL 2020: Pitching empathy; why sports marketing needs to look beyond driving sales

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August 20, 2020 10:24 AM

With the pandemic plaguing the world, why brands need to be extra cautious in their communication in the upcoming season of IPL

Brands have realised that their relevance in the life of the consumer goes beyond the product or service they provide.Brands have realised that their relevance in the life of the consumer goes beyond the product or service they provide.

Even as live sports is gradually returning with much restrictions — brands have rather opted for a cautious approach when it comes to attaching themselves to such events. For instance, Nike’s ‘Play for the World’ campaign, created by Wieden + Kennedy, urged people to remain indoor. In fact another campaign, ‘You Can’t Stop Us’, features popular athletes such as LeBron James, volleyball player Sara Huges, among regular people who are shown working out at different locations at their homes. Meanwhile, in England, English Premier League players have launched a “collective initiative” to help generate funds for the National Health Service. The initiative called, #PlayersTogether – has been set up to, “help NHS frontline workers”. “Branding is undergoing a paradigm shift due to the pandemic. Brands have realised that their relevance in the life of the consumer goes beyond the product or service they provide,” Ajit Ravindran, co-founder and MD, Meraki Sport and Entertainment, said.

Back at home, the much awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) starts from September 19, and as brands queue up to be part of this sporting blitzkrieg — the messaging will play a crucial role. Industry observers believe that bands can use this time to move closer to consumers, by being empathetic. “Brands need to show sensitivity to the context in which we are passing through. Even if they are making financial commitments in terms of sponsorships, there has to be an element of acknowledgment to the pandemic and not a standard brand endorsement,” Dip Sengupta, chief growth officer and region head north, Creativeland Asia, opined.

For industry experts, brands can leverage the power of sport not only to enhance their share of voice, but more importantly, score sentiment victories, a metric that will be essential, in a post pandemic world. Interestingly, some believe that while brands need to show their support for the fight against Covid-19, they also need to get their businesses back on track. For Lloyd Mathias, angel investor and business strategist, in the early stages of the pandemic brands understandably felt the need to ensure they did not focus on advancing their business through ongoing commercial and brand building activity in the middle of a pandemic. However, now that things have settled down slightly, companies will go back to brand building activity. “The need for sensitivity from brands is paramount now. Trying to cash in on the pandemic is a big no-no. However for brands to spend on sports sponsorships and buying commercial time on popular sporting events, is perfectly ok,” he stated.

Talking of how sports stand for positivity and normalcy, Sengupta highlighted that sports gives people hope and certain commitment to a better future. Hence for brands to align itself with sports is equivalent to aligning with commitment towards hope for a better future. “Amidst the gloom and uncertainty around Covid, there is a big need to uplift spirits through positive diversions, and live sport can provide that,” Mathias commented.

Read Also: At Rs 222 crore, BCCI’s dream shatters with a loss of 30-40% in central pool revenue

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