Of late, Nike launched a new ad campaign featuring Tiger Woods with the slogan ‘Winning takes care of everything’. It followed Woods’ return to the No. 1 in the world golf ranking for the first time since October, 2010. When a company as big as Nike can come back with Tiger Woods after the controversy, IPL sponsors could make a far less effort in renouncing (if they do) and accepting IPL all over again.
A famous cricket analyst mentioned that from the players, umpires and team owners who were found guilty in one way or the other in spot fixing in IPL were justifying the fact that IPL is a right tournament where ‘talent meets opportunity’.
With news of international boards thinking of recalling their players from the league, the question which is pertinently being asked is whether IPL 7 would still be a hit?
Experts maintain a firm yes. Amin Shekhar, Media Analyst said, “The reason for IPL to stay is cricket and nothing else. It is too early for any advertiser to decide over their association though. Earlier the menace was only confined to three players, now it is evolving from umpires to team owners to small time Bollywood actors, so nobody knows how big the nexus is. As far as the advertisers are concerned, the mood is speculative as the craze for the tournament among the audience is still high. Spirits are high and people (at least from Mumbai and Chennai) were still glued to their TV screens on the final match. Although the trust factor has hugely gone down and people view every failure on the field with suspicion, there is huge reach and viewership of the tournament.”
As Shekhar indicated, if the audience is glued to the IPL, then why woudn’t an advertiser come on board? Market sentiment which has rated IPL as ‘fixed’ is only confined to people who have a global taste for sports. People who watch EPL, and other premier leagues of various sports across the globe have definitely moved on from IPL; but hardcore cricket lovers and regionally biased cricket lovers will still be a hit with IPL.
A consensus which is being evolved is the hype and buzz the audience has generated during the final match of IPL. People stayed back home to watch match of their favourite team! On one hand, where news of CSK CEO being arrested is flashed, on the other, it is easy to see people asking for the score. News of havans and poojas being done to support their team was also received. So the passion is high.
Shimit Anand, Sports Analyst mentioned, “Our audiences have an emotional attachment towards cricket. News of spot fixing might affect people who are affluent, and news-savvy. But there is a range of other people who watch cricket like an obsession. They don’t care about fixing allegations and other factors. For them, it is important to see their teams winning matches.”
Short format and regionalization has really worked for IPL. People are more concerned about their regional teams winning than the quality of the game. And number of such audiences is huge. They are the ones who are still thriving and sustaining IPL spark till now.
How will the advertisers respond?
Mayank Shah, Group Manager, Parle Products said, “Our future association with IPL would depend upon how things are planned up and come out in the future. As a news came out that the spot fixing money in IPL is linked to funding terror activities across the globe, there is no possibility that any corporate would associate themselves with the tournament. Controversies keep on happening and betting in cricket is a very old ritual. But a development like such (linking of terror activities with the brand) is extreme. If BCCI sorts out the issue well, then it is fine; otherwise, if it comes out to be true, then we would discontinue our support to IPL.”
Shireesh Joshi, COO, Strategic Marketing, Godrej, another leading advertiser in IPL mentioned, “Our association with IPL, as a media property has always been contextual. Advertisers did not stop associating themselves with Race-Cycling when Lance Armstrong was found guilty of doping. So it does not matter. If the controversies sustain and the nexus appears to be more than what meets the eye, then we would not associate ourselves with the tournament. But having said this, this would be an extreme case!”
A leading advertiser of the RR franchisee, whose three players have been arrested mentioned, “We have had a very fruitful association with RR. We would not like to terminate our contract on fixing allegations. Just because of three tainted players, we would not like our association to suffer. We would take our relationship ahead in the future as well. There is a huge chunk of people who watch the format. Our business is to watch people see us. If we are able to carry our objective, there is no reason for us to quit our association.”
It is very evident that the recent controversy has encouraged many people to stop watching matches. But there are many other people who still watch the games, citing their regional and cricket passion factors. It would be interesting to see how the future developments turn up. Although the trust bond has significantly gone down, there is a large number of people who still rely on the USP of the IPL ‘Entertainment’.