With the arrest of three players of the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise team Rajasthan Royals – S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila – on spot-fixing charges, the tournament has come under intense scrutiny.
IPL has been holding firm in television ratings even as online viewership has been steadily on the rise, with a Times Internet report pegging the online viewership figure at 52 per cent for IPL season 6. Brands have a lot riding on the tournament, with almost all major brands in some form of association with the tournament or the teams.
A question doing the rounds of the industry is how much of a setback will the latest controversy be for the T20 tournament. Will brands rethink their association with IPL?
A conversation with some of the advertisers at IPL 6 reveals that brands still have faith in the tournament, though they are concerned about the long term impact.
As presenting sponsor for IPL6, Pepsi has invested close to Rs 400 crore and has a five-year association with the tournament. When asked whether the beverage brand considers IPL as a risky bet in light of the spot-fixing episode, a PepsiCo India spokesperson said, “The matter is under investigation and we are confident that BCCI and the IPL Governing Council will take appropriate action. We believe in the spirit of fair play in sports and remain committed to the property.”
Though Indian viewers are used to controversies like this but in IPl this is the first time spot fixing is highlighted. Viewership is must as it’s the key growth driver for advertisers. Advertisers from different genre are paying large chunk of money to gain maximum eyeballs in the space.
Pravin Kulkarni, General Manger Marketing, Parle Products feels that though spot-fixing is an important matter, this controversy will not lead to a drastic fall in IPL viewership.
When asked whether the controversy will affect Parle’s association as a brand, he replied, “It will not affect our sponsorship ties. Such incidents do happen, but do not usually have any significant impact. However, if they are repeated on a regular basis which impacts fair play and sees foreign players staying away, then viewership might go down. For us, if viewership is affected, then we will rethink about association in the long term.”
“We are more or less happy with the association with this edition of IPL and have been getting good response. The good part is that reach via the online platform has also grown 27 per cent this time,” he added.
Micromax has been associated with IPL for most of the seasons. Shubhodip Pal, CMO, Micromax noted that Indian viewers have witnessed cricket controversies such as match-fixing and spot-fixing earlier as well due to which there shouldn’t be much impact on brand IPL. He added, “This time it depends on the seriousness of the matter and what the outcome will be.”
When asked about Micromax’s continued association with IPL, Pal replied, “There is relevance that we are advertising and maybe there will be some impact.”
He added, “If this controversy results in foreign players staying away from the tournament, then it will take away a lot of the charm. It is a known fact that foreign players add a lot of glamour and also take ahead the ratings. If the absence of foreign players in the long run affects the TVRs, then IPL will be not in my advertisement plan.”
“I think the last three seasons had been extremely fruitful and we got what we wanted pretty well,” Pal further said.
While stating that he got to know about the spot-fixing incident from some media reports and did not have much information about it, T Gangadhar, Managing Director, MEC remarked, “If such a thing has happened, it could potentially damage the brand.”
Meanwhile, taking this matter seriously, Jitendra Singh, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, has spoken to IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla on the issue and impressed upon him to take urgent steps to put in place a mechanism to prevent such unethical activities and ensure clean sports in the country.
Rajasthan Royals has also released a formal statement saying, “We have been informed that three of our players have been called in for investigation on spot-fixing in matches. We are completely taken by surprise. We do not have the full facts at this point and are unable to confirm anything. We are in touch with the BCCI on this matter. We will fully cooperate with the authorities to ensure a thorough investigation. The management at Rajasthan Royals has a zero-tolerance approach to anything that is against the spirit of the game.”