Fantasy sports platforms bat big with aggressive marketing for IPL

Industry players outline their strategies to drive user growth during the tournament

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Apr 23, 2021 8:30 AM
IPL

Fantasy sports platforms have gone into a marketing overdrive during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 in order to grab a larger share of the pie. Apart from biggies like Dream11 and Mobile Premier League (MPL), which are spending top advertising dollars on the IPL, the new emerging platforms are also making themselves heard through tactical digital advertising.
Flush with funds, Dream11, the poster boy of Indian fantasy sports, is by far the biggest spender on the IPL in the category. Dream11's marketing investments for IPL 2021 include official on-ground partnership of IPL, co-presenting sponsorships on Star Sports & Disney+ Hotstar, and sponsorship of several IPL teams.

In a recent interaction with exchange4media, Dream11 CMO Vikrant Mudaliar had explained the platform's marketing objectives behind associating with the IPL. "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."

He added, "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!

For the IPL 2021, Dream11 is testing and has introduced new product features to improve the user experience in terms of gameplay and engagement. "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."

Apart from this, Dream11 has 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, Dream11 has 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. It claims to be the world’s largest online fantasy sports platform with 100+ million users.

MPL SVP Growth and Marketing Abhishek Madhavan said that the IPL is a massive platform that helps in building brands. He also stated that fantasy cricket touches newer heights when the IPL is on and every app wants to capitalise on the cricketing fever. Being a full gaming platform, MPL is promoting its other esports and gaming titles during the IPL apart from fantasy sports.

The gaming platform is looking at spending upwards of 40% of its total marketing budget on the IPL. Besides partnerships with KKR and RCB, MPL is also advertising on TV and YouTube during the tournament. It has launched the ‘HaiAkalKheloMPL’ campaign, which has a total of 7 films and has already gone live on television and digital channels.

Talking about the IPL marketing strategy, Madhavan said that the platform's short-term strategy is to onboard new users and retain old ones. He also said that the association with KKR and RCB will ensure that its brand will get a great recall value in the country as well as abroad.

"That being said, this year, we are focusing on our newly launched ‘HaiAkalKheloMPL campaign where we reiterate that anyone with skill and knowledge of Cricket can play Fantasy Cricket on MPL. The initial response to this campaign has been great. We will also be advertising on TV on IPL networks as well as on YouTube for our digital audience. We have some very exciting celeb meet-and-greets planned for our gamers and Fantasy users as well as in-app engagement. This presents a fantastic opportunity for brands like us to market themselves and grab eyeballs," Madhavan stated.

Currently, MPL has garnered 7 crore+ users in India within two years and aims to increase the user base to over 10 crore in India by the end of the IPL 2021. "The number of daily app installs increased by 100 percent compared to pre-IPL times, last year during IPL 2020. The number of fantasy gamers increased by more than 7x compared to before the IPL. We have witnessed a steady increase in the number of games played on our platform, with some of our popular titles seeing a 400% uptick in 2020. We have 60+ games on the platform, and as we add more users and onboard new games, it is rewarding to see our users actively engage with our offerings. We expect our users to increase by over 3 crore, this IPL."

PlayerzPot Media CEO Sunil Yadav is expecting a two-fold increase in its fantasy gaming platform PlayerzPot's user base accompanied by 3x growth in revenue. PlayerzPot is increasing its user engagement during these two months with new in-app features, sign-up bonuses, and contests.

The platform had recently undergone a brand revamp with a new logo and tagline. PlayerzPot has mounted an integrated marketing campaign with a focus on the overall funnel metrics. It has allocated almost 40% of its revenue to create an impactful rebranding and the rest is focused on the bottom of funnel metrics.

"It's an ideal mix for sustainable growth. So we went ahead with a mix of digital assets with an aim to boost our social media campaigns, digital campaigns, and buying OTT airtime during select matches. We blended our affiliate campaigns with influencer-based campaigns which proved to be instrumental in boosting our marketing activities. We have recently launched our digital video commercial which presents a rap anthem performed by KaamBhaari (real name, Kunal Pandagale), and features him in the video alongside our brand ambassadors; our own Indian cricketers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Smriti Mandhana in never-seen-before glam avatars," Yadav said.

The fact that the IPL is being played before empty stands is an opportunity for online fantasy gaming platforms to engross the cricket fans through the innumerous offerings it provides as a source of entertainment as well as the opportunity to win prizes. "With almost everyone rejoicing their favorite teams compete against others it’s a given that IPL is a high exposure period. IPL certainly increases the eyeballs and engagement on fantasy platforms. As a brand, it's important to leverage this crucial period for brand building and to create brand recall in the process," Yadav said.

Baazi Games Marketing Director Varun Ganjoo said that the platform is looking at 50% growth in userbase during the IPL season over the 6 million customer base that it currently has. BaaziGames' strategy is to capture users through high-octane digital campaigns along with building a strong base through strategic tie-ups. "Once the users are onboarded, we have a spectrum of offerings to keep the users engaged for the entire tournament duration and beyond. We have also enhanced our referral programs from where we expect a good quality user influx."

He also said that the platform has come up with new features like Tournament and Weekly Fantasy, along with a new Innings Fantasy format to allow users to make their teams for the second innings, and Private League that gives users a chance to earn 50% hosting profit while having a fun banter with their friends and family.

The platform has launched the #CricketMachao campaign featuring Bollywood actor Divyenndu who is seen showing his fun side as a cricket fan. "We feel our users will be able to connect very well with the emotions of the campaign and enjoy their experience of playing leagues on BalleBaazi. Additionally, we are also partnering with a popular eCommerce website to promote BalleBaazi’s experience during this IPL season. We are yet to make an announcement on the same," Ganjoo said.

Xeta Networks, the company that owns games like Poker Dangal and Rummy Dangal, has ventured into fantasy sports with Fantasy Dangal. The launch of the game coincided with the IPL 2021. Dangal Games CEO & Founder Varun Mahna had told exchange4media that there is a huge potential in the Indian fantasy gaming space. He expects the number of fantasy game users to grow from 10 crore to 80 crore in the next two to three years.

"We are coming out with our first product in non-card space which is Fantasy Dangal. We believe that there is huge potential for fantasy sports in India. Everyone knows fantasy sports due to the rise of Dream11 and the kind of funding they have been able to raise. But as a sector, it is still very niche and too young," he had said.

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