Here's why digital should be the focus for marketers this IPL

The IPL, which is in its 12th year this year, is expected to deliver greater numbers in 2019 on the back of stronger infrastructure, affordable data costs, and an engaging experience on Hotstar.

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Published: Mar 4, 2019 8:51 AM  | 4 min read

In 2018, more than 200 million viewers tuned in to watch the Vivo Indian Premier League on the video streaming platform Hotstar. According to data provided by Hotstar, the online viewership of the 60-day premier sporting event more than doubled in 2018. Hotstar even achieved a world record of a peak viewership of 10.3 million with a sustained steady concurrency of 8.3 million viewers. 

The media property which is in its 12th year this year is expected to deliver greater numbers in 2019 on the back of stronger infrastructure, affordable data costs, and engaging experience on Hotstar. “India is experiencing digital transformation, which also means that viewing on digital has increased in part due to the proliferation of smartphones. In fact, a surge is expected in data consumption in tier II and III cities since mobile penetration in those parts is higher. Brands will also want to capitalise on this newly-digitised ‘last mile’ during IPL 2019,” says Sahil Shah, VP- Operations & Media (West & South), WATConsult

It is worth noting that in 2018 television viewership of IPL increased by only 11 per cent whereas digital viewership doubled. “The number of TV viewers did not grow much while digital viewership grew phenomenally. Therefore, from the perspective of a media planner, the thought process would be to put money on a medium that is seeing growth,” said Siddharth Hegde, Managing Director - Ethinos Digital Marketing.  

Hotstar, which would have earned about Rs 300 crore, is continuing to be a favourite among brands, given the new and innovative ad formats that it is introducing this year. “In 2018, the availability of Hotstar on Jio Phone, the timely launch of a dedicated sports subscription plan, and the app’s ‘Watch’NPlay’ feature were responsible for an increase in digital viewership,” says Shah.

This year Hotstar is adding a social media feed to the watching experience on the platform. Digital marketing experts expect that the newly introduced social media feed will help take the engagement a notch higher this year. This feed will lend itself to many new engaging and interactive ad formats. “The inventory offered this year is not just videos, its banners, interactive polls, coupons, mini-games, etc. These will give brands more Opportunity To See for a targeted set of audiences,” says Nishant Singh Didawat, Business Head - Media, Social Kinnect. 

Both Didawat and Shah are expecting a 15-20% increase in ad spend on the streaming platform this year. Advertising on Hotstar will continue to be dominated by e-commerce platforms experts say. “Brands that have their business operating through an app or that have a heavy influence of digital onto their offline sales will benefit the most by advertising on Hotstar. For e.g. Swiggy's video creative with an IPL specific offer on free delivery banner will get drive awarenesses, consideration and a possible purchase too. Or a high digitally influenced category such as Automobile that will target 24 cohorts available at scale will drive maximum consideration lift for the brand,” Shah says. 

Didawat’s one piece of advice to brands is that they should ensure to try to increase and reach by limiting frequency and reduce duplication across all channels of advertising (digital + TV) and measure it too. The combination of the ICC World Cup and IPL would mean that brands would need to choose to spend on one platform versus the other this year, or split spends optimally between the two. “Brands should evaluate how to divide their spend between these events, and whether it makes sense to invest heavily on advertising during the IPL in the first place,” says Shah. 

Brands that choose to advertise on digital should take the omnichannel approach, says Didawat. “Brands should now take an omnichannel approach - fully connecting the online, mobile and in-person experience. While a wide range of brands should consider advertising on digital, the ones who should invest the most are those trying to cater to the millennial audience,” he says.

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