Is IPL a good pitch for brands to hit it off with women customers?

Advertisement for women-centric categories increased by 57% in IPL 13 (38 matches) compared to IPL 12

e4m by Sonam Saini
Published: Mar 25, 2021 8:38 AM  | 5 min read

Since its inception in 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has emerged as one of the most sought-after sports properties for marketers. Last year, the 13th edition of the tournament was shifted to September-November instead of its regular schedule of April- May due to the Covid pandemic, but despite all the challenges, the cricketing extravaganza saw a 23% increase in viewership versus 2019.

Interestingly, along with the growth in overall viewership, the twenty20 league has been seeing a growth in popularity among the women audiences as well. As per the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India data, women viewership of IPL 13 grew 23% over 2019. In 2019, this growth was only 10%. IPL 13 registered 171 billion viewing minutes (female) in 2020, while in 2019, it registered 139 billion viewing minutes (female). The male viewership of IPL 13 grew 22%.

According to Sanjog Gupta, Head – Sports, Star India, it is their initiatives such as giving opportunities to female commentators and presenters and making the game more accessible through regional broadcast, that has made IPL viewing more inclusive.

"We, at Star Sports, have been focussed on growing IPL by attracting new viewers and widening its audience base. Programming initiatives such as Super Funday, shows like Unplugged and Countdown along with special segments on Cricket Live (pre & post shows) have supported this objective. We also believe that viewers like seeing reflections of themselves on the broadcast, and providing opportunities to female commentators and presenters have served to make our presentation more inclusive. These initiatives, combined with our regionalisation strategy that enables wider access for the game, has resulted in the growth of women viewership for IPL 2020," he shares.

So as IPL continues to attract women audiences, are brands watching the trend?

"Brands consider IPL a great platform to speak to a diverse set of audiences, including women, as no other property can. Our research also suggests that women are much more engaged while watching live sport than they are while watching other forms of media," says Gupta.

As per the TAM AdEx data, advertisement for women-centric categories increased by 57% in IPL13 compared to IPL 12 (38 matches). As per the data, from the women-centric categories, six advertisers (Reckitt Benckiser India, HUL, Procter & Gamble Home Products, Titan Company, ITC and BSH Home Appliances) were present in IPL 13. In IPL 12, there were five advertisers.

There were only two common women-centric categories in IPL 13 and IPL 12-- washing powder/liquid and dishwasher. Ad volumes for washing powder/liquid surged by 3.7 times and dishwasher by 2 times in IPL 13 compared to IPL 12. 

Jigar Rambhia, National Director-Sports, Wavemaker India, says that female viewership has been growing ever since the start of the IPL, though it may have become more evident in the last two-three years.  According to him, one of the factors driving this growth is the marketing strategy adopted by the BCCI and the broadcaster.

“IPL has always been pitched as a family entertainment property or a 'tyohaar' (festival). Also, when cricket is connected with entertainment, it tends to attract female viewers too,” he remarks.

"India as a country has been doing well in cricket over the past many years. I am not at all surprised that women too are watching. Nowadays, women are following sports, particularly cricket. In fact, it's not co-viewing, but women are watching cricket out of interest," adds Rambhia. 

Speaking about the advertisers’ interest, Rambhia feels that more women-centric brands should advertise in IPL. "It's high time brands realised that IPL is also an opportunity to target women. Brands are waking up to the fact that cricket can be used to target women, and I would like to see more women-centric brands advertising in IPL. Though it is increasing, but not at the same pace as the increase in viewership."

Experts, meanwhile, also believe that the higher women viewership of IPL in 2020 was an impact of the pandemic as the postponement of the tournament had led to a gap of 1.5 years, compared to the usual one year. This led to more excitement around IPL resulting in family viewing, especially because the tournament happened during the semi-lockdown period. "This reflects in female viewership growth,” says Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media.

But, according to him, even otherwise, though IPL's core TG is men, interest of women in the tournament has been increasing over time because of the entertainment factor that it offers.

Kapoor further explains, "Since IPL entails major investments, decisions related to it are taken by brands by seeing a trend over two-three seasons. We can definitely expect more female-targeted brands to come on board in future if the 2021 season too shows a strong female viewership component.”

“Having said that, viewership data does not tell us who decided to turn on IPL on the TV. It is safe to assume that the primary influencer of IPL in Indian families is still a man, though women are now more open to watch along than insist on watching something else, such as GECs, at that time," he reasons.

Sharing a similar thought, Deepak Sharma, Managing Director, North-Starcom MediaVest Group, explains that the increase in viewership last year was primarily because people were at home. “Also, IPL 13 was the first mega event post lockdown, even in sports and entertainment. People were looking forward to watch something, and that's how IPL got a higher women viewership. A similar trend will continue this year since many people are still working from home. There will be no surprise if this season too witnesses a higher growth in women viewership," he says.

But Sharma argues that women-centric brands might not advertise on IPL since these brands are mostly from the FMCG segment. "FMCG brands, with primary TG are women, doesn't work on CPRP or GRPs. Also entry-level cost in IPL is very high, whereas in Hindi GECs, a top-rated show is available at much lesser cost than IPL," argues Sharma.

However, he adds that some exceptions are always there.


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