It is a tournament that has raked in advertising revenues to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore in its eighth season, and may see that figure cross Rs 1200 crore this year, in its ninth edition. The mother of all sporting events in India, the Indian Premier League (IPL), broadcast by Sony Pictures Networks Private Limited, has another angle to it – Star India’s streaming app Hotstar, associating with IPL for the second year now - is emerging as a parallel on-the-move match-viewing option for this mega event.
Is Hotstar taking away Sony’s audience for IPL 9 and cannibalizing on the network’s loyal viewership base? Or is it in fact helping Sony, by creating more buzz around the game and driving viewers to watch it on TV? In any case, it’s carnival time for brands, which are clearly thriving on the high viewership and engagement around the ongoing IPL.
High appeal for brands
While IPL 9 began with a lower-than-expected turnout in stadiums, the advertiser sentiment has been rather high right from the start, with top brands and some unexpected new entrants in the industry associating themselves with the tournament.
In fact, Sony managed to sell out its entire ad inventory for 60 matches more than a month in advance, a feat which looked unachievable for nine years. According to figures provided by Sony, there has been a 15% increase in ad rates from last year - a 10-second spot this time is priced anywhere between Rs 5.5 to 6 lakh (for HD channels, it is Rs 1.5 lakh, exactly double the rates of IPL 8).
Pepsi’s exit is Vivo’s gain
The buzz around IPL 9 started when PepsiCo decided to quit as title sponsor, in the wake of spot fixing allegations. PepsiCo had bagged the IPL title sponsorship rights for five years (2013-17) for Rs 396.8 crore, which was almost double the original title sponsorship deal amount signed with DLF in 2008. The company’s premature termination of the contract was seen as a big blow to IPL, but even before the dust could settle on Pepsi’s move, Vivo, until then a little known Chinese mobile phone manufacturer, swooped in to claim the vacant spot, while Pepsi’s rival Coca-Cola was roped in as the associate sponsor.
Says Rajeev Shukla, Chairman, IPL, “The way Vivo grabbed the title sponsorship of IPL is commendable. They are really standing by their tagline – faster than faster - and have gone on to become the first Chinese company to invest in IPL.” Vivo, which made a rather late entry into the Indian mobile handset market, signed the IPL title sponsorship deal for 2016 and 2017 for Rs 160 crore last November.
PepsiCo is no longer the title sponsor, but continues its ties with IPL. As Vipul Prakash, Vice President - Beverage Category, PepsiCo India says, “We made it very clear that PepsiCo is just exiting the title sponsorship of the IPL. We are associated with it even today and have teams for which we are still the pouring partners. So, it was a very specific decision for a very specific association. Cricket will continue to be a big platform to connect with our consumers.”
Brandscape around IPL
IPL has always been fully loaded with sponsors; in fact more than 80 different brands are associated with the eight IPL teams this season. At a central league level, associate sponsors such as FreeCharge and Maruti Suzuki confirmed their association weeks prior to the IPL season.
For Maruti Suzuki, which has for the very first time fallen for the charm of IPL, being the ground sponsors for the league was like a match made in heaven. It is hard not to notice its latest offering, the Vitara Brezza, on display at every stadium hosting IPL matches. This is in addition to having the brand’s logo present in the perimeter boards, runner boards and scoreboards.
Elaborating on the tie-up with IPL, Sanjeev Handa, VP, Marketing, Maruti Suzuki says, “We noticed that from 2008 to now, the viewership of IPL has gone up by nearly 88%. They cut across all demographics. For us, the key audience, which is about 45% of the total viewer base of IPL, is in the age group of 15 to 34. It is this audience that we are looking to connect with the brand. We recently launched Vitara Brezza, a compact urban SUV, glamorous and sporty and what better sport than IPL to connect such a positioning with.”
Vodafone, which has been associated with the league since the time of its inception nine years ago, has continued its tradition of launching a new campaign with every season of the IPL.
Meanwhile, other brands like Amazon, Volini, Raymond, etc., continue their rock solid partnership with the IPL. Several of these brands, Volini for example, are very relevant to sports. Says Subodh Marwah, Business Head - Sun Pharma Global Consumer Healthcare, “IPL has become a contact sport, with people running all over the place, fielders colliding with the batsman, etc. The players have intensely strenuous activity, and need to recover from their injuries real fast. That’s why the association with Volini spray becomes important.”
Brands bank on IPL viewership
Talking about the response from brands this time, Vinit Karnik, Business Head, ESP Properties says, “IPL is a risk-free investment for advertisers, as both ratings and reach have been consistently growing year on year. The IPL connection made Vivo a household name and has fully justified the big spends involved. Also, IPL as a platform provides numerous innovative sponsorship opportunities for advertisers at the central level and a plethora of opportunities at the franchise level, including team sponsorship, licensing and merchandising and the ability to leverage multi-screen mass media experiences including broadcast, web, mobile, etc. This year, 22 new brands have invested in team sponsorships; the reasons being better bang for the buck!”
During the broadcast of IPL this time, around 60% of the airtime is reserved for sponsors and 40% for spot buys. Talking about the expected viewership on the network, Neeraj Vyas, Senior EVP and Business Head, Sony Max, says, “Last year, according to TAM, the reach of IPL was roughly around 200 million viewers. This year, BARC has mapped a lot of rural data for the first time. So, let’s wait and watch before jumping to any figures.”
Hotstar is HOT!
Hotstar is the official digital streaming partner of the IPL, and has bagged the rights for three years ending 2017. It has managed to get on board brands like Flipkart, Raymond, Axe, Volini, Lloyd, Hindware, Hero Fincorp, Airtel and Amazon. According to media reports, Ajit Mohan, President and Head, Hotstar is confident that this year they will cross 100 million viewers for IPL, up from 41 million users last year.
Elaborating on that, Vinit Karnik says, “Physical presence before a television set is no longer a necessity, courtesy video-on-demand services. Hotstar is emerging as a very promising platform to consume sport and has attracted 10 major brands this IPL season. It has become an imperative for advertisers to leverage Hotstar as a platform for advertising because it caters to the same kind of audience. Considering that this is just the second year that Hotstar has been airing IPL, the ad spends are remarkable and makes it a platform to watch out for. Moreover, with 3G getting better and 4G entering the spectrum, the infrastructure is also looking good, allowing streaming services to become more useful and efficient.”
Year of the mobile marketers
This year, the mobile handset category has emerged as the biggest spenders on IPL, easily overtaking the e-commerce category which was dominant in the past two years. Be it new Chinese players like Vivo, Oppo and LeEco or others like Lava, Micromax, LYF, Gionee, HTC, Karbonn or Intex, the increasing 4G handset thrust in the market has reflected in the sponsorship game of IPL too.