As the inaugural DLF IPL T20 culminated on June 1, 2008, Ravi Shastri said in the final presentation ceremony that ‘the script couldn’t be better’. The statement holds true for the Indian Premier League (IPL) as a format per se, especially from the advertiser’s point of view. Whether it was the non-stop and constant marketing done around the event or the crisp 20-20 format, the IPL series has rated much higher than what most had expected.
At the start of the series, many industry observers, including Multi Screen Media’s CEO Kunal Dasgupta, had stated that they expected a smile curve to set in IPL, which implied that the series would begin and end on high ratings but would see a dip in between. Yet another school of thought was that weekends would perform better than the weekdays. The strongest argument that many made against the IPL was that India watched India play; when the nation was not involved, who would watch.
From the ratings point of view, everyone was wrong.
DLF IPL T20 maintains good numbers through and through
TAM Media Research shows that for the target C&S 15+ in the all India market, the worst rated matches on the IPL series had clocked close to 3. So far, TAM Media Research has released data for 49 matches, and of these, there are in all four matches that have rated around the 3 TRP mark. The highest rated matches have scored 6+ to 7+, and there are 13 matches that have rated in that bracket. The rest have been above 4 and 5 TRPs.
Giving some perspective to these numbers, Mona Jain, EVP, India Media Exchange (IMX), said, “These numbers are much better than what anyone had expected. The advertisers who got on the game early are smiling all the way. We surely are, and we had placed Rs 50 crore to Rs 55 crore on the IPL.” Busting myth number one that IPL would see a smile curve, Jain asserted, “There were some matches that saw a blip, but there was no smile curve that set in. The DLF IPL T20 maintained its ratings throughout.”
The second assumption – of weekends performing better than weekdays – also did not turn out to be true. The matches played on April 23 and April 24 between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, and then Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals, threw ratings of more than 6 on Wednesday and Thursday. The match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians on the following Tuesday rated 6.71. All matches from May 13 to May 16 (weekdays) rated close to the 7 TRP mark.
Lodestar Universal’s COO Nandini Dias explained, “Most of the matches have done really well. The T20 format has worked well. The unpredictable nature of the format and the sense that the game can go any way even at the nth hour has that excitement to it.”
Team Popularity vs Team Loyalty: The Miracles of Marketing
Almost a month and a half back, when the IPL had just begun, many advertisers and other industry leaders were quoted as saying that for IPL to be a success on the lines of the English Premier League, team loyalties were mandatory, only then would other forms of revenues, like merchandising, kick in. The industry observers had also stated then that there might still be time before IPL franchisees saw a fan following.
Ratings again suggest that the fan following has begun. Teams like Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils have seen a very healthy ratings count for almost all of their matches. Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI, too, have seen their shares of highs. Jain explained, “Some of the advertisers, in fact, have been very clear that they want to be present on the matches when teams like the Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians would be playing.”
Industry observers state that there is more of team popularity seen than city-wise team loyalty. One point to remember here also is that so far there are only eight IPL franchisees/cities, and the whole nation watches cricket. It is not necessary that a team is chosen on the basis of the city. “You can just like the people playing in a team,” explained Ajit Varghese, MD, Maxus India. He said, “IPL truly has busted many myths. We had all thought that there would be some fatigue in the second leg, but there was no such thing. The ratings have been consistent. People have loved the game. One indication of that is that the stadiums have been full despite Mumbai not playing.”
Some of the franchisees of the DLF IPL T20 2008 have taught marketers a lesson or two on how to keep the buzz going. Needless to say that Shah Rukh Khan was leading the charge there. Reports stating that many Mumbai and Delhi residents were supporting Kolkata just vindicate how well Kolkata Knight Riders had marketed themselves. “Very clearly Kolkata Knight Riders was a great launch for the IPL. In all, the PR with the celebrities, the news channels reporting on nothing but IPL and the interim controversies have upped the scores for the format and got the high ratings,” observed Jain.
Agreeing with her, Varghese said, “Marketing has helped Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI, too, for that matter. Even in the case of Mumbai and Delhi, you can easily feel that the marketing has helped.”
IPL T20 2009
Most industry watchers are already excited about next year. “It would perform the same if not better. The consumers are charged and the interest would be higher next year,” said Varghese. As more teams get added in the third and the fifth years, there would be even more buzz around the format.
“We didn’t expect this year to be so good, and really that is where the danger lies,” cautioned Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar. She said, “Very clearly, the T20 format has caught on, but the very nature of this format is unpredictable. Look at the semi-final matches this year itself – there was no fight or nail biting finish. The thing about the format is that you never know which way it goes. Also, we have to see whether the teams remain and are established as teams. So, there is a lot that have to be seen first.”
Industry experts cite the example of Rajasthan Royals to reiterate the uncertainty of the game. They explained that the Jaipur franchise owners were trying hard to sell the team, but at that point in time no one really gave it a chance, and it was the Rajasthan Royals that walked away with the diamond-studded trophy in the inaugural year. From the team players’ point of view, this was the cheapest team accentuating the uncertain nature of the game.
Most industry heads are expecting IPL T20 2009 to be a real fight – from a buying point that is. But until then, irrespective of the reasons, the IPL format has been a success.