'Digital, TV advertising & sponsorships contribute to nearly 100% of our marketing spends'

Dream Sports & Dream11 Chief Marketing Officer Vikrant Mudaliar shared that they have invested in strong multimedia campaigns across various platforms that feature curated content for cricket fans

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Apr 20, 2021 9:34 AM
Vikrant Mudaliar

Indian sports fantasy platform Dream11 is spending heavily on Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021. The platform has tasted success through its continued association with IPL in different forms. In 2020, the sports brand became the title sponsor of IPL by forking out Rs 222 crore. Riding the IPL wave, Dream11 crossed the 100 million registered users mark during IPL 2020.

The platform has further deepened its association with the property this year. Not only has it become the official partner of IPL but also partnered with several IPL teams including SunRisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings, Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals, and Chennai Super Kings. Dream11 has forked out a large amount of money to become the co-presenting sponsor on both Star Sports and Disney+ Hotstar.

Dream11 has been on a high with its parent company Dream Sports raising $400 million at a valuation of $5 billion. Dream Sports & Dream11 Chief Marketing Officer Vikrant Mudaliar spoke to exchange4media about the platform's marketing strategy for IPL 2021.

Excerpts:
Dream11 has made heavy investments in IPL by becoming the official on-ground partner of BCCI besides taking the co-presenting sponsorships on Star Sports and Disney+ Hotstar in addition to sponsoring several IPL teams. Can you elaborate as to what is your marketing strategy for IPL 2021?

Dream11 is a proud homegrown Indian brand created for Indian sports fans and Indian sports fans. It is now the world’s largest online fantasy sports platform with 100+ Million users. We understand sports fans’ love for their favourite sports and thus, strategically partner and associate with other sports-centric entities.

The inception of Dream11 was inspired by the launch of the IPL. It is one of India’s most important events that define the country’s love for cricket and sports - a factor that resonates strongly with our brand and, thus, partnering with a great sports property such as the IPL was the obvious choice for us. Not only is Dream11 an Official Partner of IPL, but we also power the Official Fantasy Game of IPL. In addition to this, Dream11 continues to be an Official Partner with several IPL teams and has implemented joint marketing promotions with them.

We are also engaging with our users and sports fans through ads with our broadcast and live streaming sponsorship with Star Sports and Hotstar respectively. For this year's IPL, we have launched two new and exciting ad campaigns to connect with Indian cricket fans- ‘Team Hai Toh Mazaa Hai’ and ‘Dream11 Pe Dimaag’. In addition to our on-ground activations and branding, we have invested in a strong multi-media campaign across TV, digital and social media channels that feature curated content for cricket fans. We already see great traction and growth in response to our efforts!

How do you plan to leverage your partnerships with BCCI and IPL franchises since on-ground activations are not possible due to pandemic-related restrictions?

Dream11 has always kept the fan at the heart of everything it does - whether on the product with new features or engagement initiatives for users across various touchpoints. In IPL 2019 and several other tournaments sponsored by Dream11, we had memorable VIP experiences for two fans selected to attend each match and be part of the post-match presentation to felicitate the ‘Dream11 GameChanger of the Match’ Award to the winning player. Given that we are currently playing IPL in lockdown, all our engagement efforts had to shift online and within the LIVE game. We have been focusing our efforts to provide a richer fantasy sports experience to our users. With the help of the league, we have integrated key information broadcast on screen, such as the Top Fantasy Selected Players of the match (in the first few overs of the match), the leading Fantasy scorers in the match at the last quarter of the match (real-time data is produced and shown live to viewers) as well as a weekly round-up of the Commentator’s League being played by those on-air. We have given fans the opportunity to virtually be part of the live matches by sending us their videos which are played out on the stadium’s giant screens. Every day, one top user receives a personalised message from the Dream11 GameChanger of the Match, acknowledging their skills on Dream11.

Star Sports and Disney+ Hotstar have multiple sponsors and spot buyers. What is your campaign strategy to get the maximum bang for the buck?

Our ad campaign is one of the most important assets in our association with Star Sports and Hotstar. As a category creator and the world’s largest fantasy sports platform, Dream11 understands Indian sports fans and shares their passion for sports. We wanted to celebrate their love for their favourite sports and communicate with them in highly relatable ways.

For our ad campaign, we took a strategic two-pronged approach to reach our audience with the brand’s storytelling. We are strengthening our user traction and saliency with ‘Team Hai Toh Mazza Hai’ - a series of six spirited and wholesome films of 25 seconds each, featuring our brand ambassadors MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, and Shreyas Iyer as they play gully cricket in neighbourhoods with their local squads. We wanted to reiterate that sports are enjoyed best when played with a team. ‘’Dream11 Pe Dimaag Lagao’ - is another series of six witty films, of 15 seconds each, that are based on a functional, call-to-action approach, encouraging our users to use their skills and be smart selectors to build the best team on the Dream11 App. It features MS Dhoni as he prompts people to use their expert skills and knowledge to play fantasy sports on the Dream11 App instead of using their skills to artfully avoid mundane situations in their day-to-day lives.  The initial response to our campaign has been very positive. We are confident that the campaign will resonate with cricket fans and our users across the country, stirring memories of their experiences with the sport and making it even more enjoyable.

Dream11 being a digital business, we are naturally heavily invested first in our digital engagement and acquisition of users. The compounding effect of our digital focus and ATL consolidation efforts is what will bring the massive response we aim for from this IPL season.

How has Dream11 benefitted from IPL in growing the platform?

While Dream11 has been associated with the IPL for the last few seasons through broadcast and on-ground sponsorships, the 2020 edition allowed us to raise the ante by becoming the Title Sponsor. It was also the first time that an Indian sports brand took on the title sponsorship of the IPL. While the visibility as the title sponsors was unprecedented, it also provided us with the opportunity to integrate into the game more deeply with both on-ground and on-air integrations. As online fantasy sports is entirely based on live sporting events, it was a good opportunity for us to be visible at different fan touchpoints. Pitch report, toss, giving the ‘Dream11 GameChanger of the Match’ to the cricketer with the most fantasy sports points, and so on were some richly organic moments where fans connected and interacted with our brand.

During Dream11 IPL 2020, Dream11 crossed the 100 million mark of the total registered users and we are confident of increasing this number by the end of this year’s season.

Dream11 is a heavy ad spender on sports in general and cricket in particular. What drives you to invest so much in sports and cricket?

Fantasy Sports is a digital sports engagement platform that is completely dependent on live sporting events. Fantasy sports also help in increasing sports consumption as it deeply engages fans with the sport they love. Clearly, sports is the most important and organic destination for Dream11 to not only advertise but also support its growth. We have always evaluated non-sports properties to build a dialogue with users but our biggest efforts and value realisation have always come from LIVE sports due to their synergy with our brand.

An extension of the above relevance is cricket in our country. While several sports are played in India, and fantasy sports for 11 sports are available on Dream11, none have reached the popularity and adulation that cricket has among Indian sports fans. We see validation of that consistently in user participation and engagement on Dream11, as compared to our several sports offerings. Naturally, we are inclined to invest and advertise more significantly in cricket than in other sports as that’s where the largest sports fans are present.

What portion of your marketing budget goes into sports/cricket?

Digital and TV advertising along with sponsorships contribute to nearly 100% of our marketing spends. Almost all of these spends are focused on sports-based properties.

What are some new product features that have been introduced to the Dream11 app for IPL 2021?

As a digital product, we constantly test and introduce new features that improve the user experience in terms of gameplay and engagement on Dream11. Over time, we have built live ball-by-ball match commentary, dynamic scorecards as well as detailed statistics on player performance and their fantasy scores. The ‘Groups’ feature now allows users to form groups with their friends from their contact list, create customised contests and track their group competition for a tournament on a customised leaderboard.

We have also introduced ‘Flexible’ private contests which allow users to create contests with any number of users, without the pressure of having to ensure complete participation. While our standard game is the daily fantasy sports format, Dream11 also powers the Season Long Official Fantasy game of the IPL. This year we have integrated this format into the Dream11 app and now users can access both the season-long and the daily format within the Dream11 app.

Additionally, we have also introduced a one-on-one chat feature that supports static / non-static digital images such as emojis, stickers, and GIFs, so users can easily communicate with their fellow fantasy sports enthusiasts.

As a fantasy sports platform, what kind of user growth are you expecting from IPL 2021?

The Dream11 IPL 2020 partnership was a significant milestone for Dream11. Besides crossing the 100 million user mark, Dream11 achieved notable technology benchmarks for successfully managing over 5.5 million user concurrency and serving more than 80 million requests per minute. Dream11 experienced a surge of 44.4% traffic volume as against that of the IPL 2019 final match. Even for IPL 2021, we expect Dream11 to strengthen its market leadership in the Fantasy Sports industry while garnering a significant increase in the number of users and also engagement on the app.

According to you, what role has IPL and Cricket played in growing the fantasy sports industry?

In a country where cricket is religion, the IPL has become an incredibly important part of the modern social-cultural movement. It is also currently one of the world’s biggest sports tournaments, drawing over 400 million viewers worldwide. This kind of opportunity is rare to find in today’s world, especially for sports-specific brands when viewers have so many options for entertainment. However, the IPL season is also the time when almost every Indian sports fan is engaged with sports through a single league and thus, is a great catalyst for the growth of the fantasy sports industry.

Fantasy sports platforms actively connect fans with the sport they enjoy and love. They are completely dependent on real-time, live sporting events and users can only build their virtual teams based on their sports knowledge and skill, with no simulation whatsoever. In fact, several user surveys have also proven that sports fans participating in fantasy sports tend to watch more sports matches across categories to track the players they picked in their fantasy sports team/s, which makes their experience far more interactive than before and grows the entire sports ecosystem.

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