IPL: Why it's the season of acing the creativity game

Agency pros share what it takes to hit a creative sixer during the sporting extravaganza

by Noel Dsouza
Published - Feb 22, 2019 8:22 AM Updated: Feb 22, 2019 8:22 AM
ipl collage

The Indian Premier League (IPL), since its inception, has been a platform for brands to showcase their creative side. It is the Super Bowl of India where brands can leverage a lot from the sporting event. 

In terms of advertising opportunities, Super Bowl has only a day whereas the IPL lasts for a month, giving brands the power to attract their target audience with catchy ads and incite brand recall. IPL also captures a pan-India audience and so the broadcasters are backed with heavy media spends by ad agencies and brands. 

During the last IPL, Star India earned around Rs 3,000 crore. Nearly Rs 1,800 crore is estimated to have come from television and digital advertising. Needless to say it’s the season for brands to push creative boundaries with their ad communication so that it hits the nail just right. 

Exchange4media spoke to ad agencies who worked on last year’s much talked-about IPL ad campaigns. 

Lowe Lintas, the creative agency that created the Swiggy ‘gulab jamun’ ad, not only captured the audience’s attention but there was a call to action from consumers as well. Sagar Kapoor, CCO, Lowe Lintas, said, “IPL is a massive opportunity for brands and a challenge for creative agencies to stand out in the flood of brands advertising at the same time. During IPL, the shorter ad format becomes a necessity and therefore combining creativity with brevity becomes challenging. IPL is incredible for the kind of content it generates from brands, teams and the audience themselves. This generation, known for using ‘ad-blockers’, actually looks forward to ads showcased during the IPL. It stands as the most exciting platform to showcase a brand’s communication. IPL is the Super Bowl of India and may grow to become perhaps more than that.”  

Such was the draw of the Swiggy ad that the brand witnessed a 25 per cent growth in orders during IPL and there was an over 10-fold increase in consumers doing a search on the platform to order gulab jamun. A case study has proven that if a story is told well, it’s sure to sell. 

Some ads interestingly encompass the spirit of the game in the creative communication. It is no cakewalk for a creative work to shine through IPL, said Agnello Dias, Chairman and Co-Founder of Taproot Dentsu India. “IPL is both a challenge and an opportunity for advertising in a creative way. The slots are limited and stories simply have to be told in 30 seconds or less. This brings out sharply honed, pinpoint communication strategies as anything more will result in a lesser impact. The truth is, if you can break through public consciousness in the IPL, you’ve got it made because practically the whole country is watching at the same time.”

One brand that has made its presence felt during IPL since its inception is Vodafone. Speaking about how hitting creative sixers has helped brand Vodafone and Ogilvy, Kiran Anthony, Creative Director, Ogilvy said, “Through Vodafone’s Zoozoos, the Zumi song, ‘Be Super’ and the ‘Asha-Bala’ campaigns, we have always focused on business tasks and managed to engage the customers in a memorable way. Due to the reach and visibility that IPL provides, these characters and series have been etched in the minds of the audience. Therefore, they are instantly attributed to Vodafone.”

Gayatri Sriram, Digital Creative Head, FCB Ulka says some of the more creative work can be seen coming out of not the official spenders, but the brands that choose to ambush their competitors. “Vodafone’s ‘unofficial sponsor of fans’ is a good example of this. For over a decade now, IPL has been the battleground for brands, marketers and advertisers to capitalise on the colossal reach. But that’s where the similarities end, in my opinion. If you have the money, IPL is seen as a safe way to achieve some numbers. We don’t look at the event as a playground of disruptive, standard setting ideas,” she said.

It isn’t a smooth sailing job to capture the audience’s attention in 30 seconds. The brands that do their best to send across their campaign’s message within that timeframe instil brand recall and call to action for the consumers. 

In 2018, ad campaigns did their best to leverage from the sporting extravaganza. Let’s see what happens during Vivo IPL 2019, which starts on March 23. Here’s hoping that the work we witness this year pushes the envelope for innovation and leaves viewers ‘clean-bowled’.

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