IPL 2021: How brands can cut through clutter with seamless IPL Hotstar integrations

Industry watchers opine that brands can tap into advertising opportunities like virtual life watching experience and interactive formats like voice, gamification, etc.

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Mar 22, 2021 8:51 AM
IPL 2021

While Star India’s streaming portal Hotstar has had some interesting integrations during the course of the IPL live stream matches in the past, last year the space seems to have only got more interesting. Various interactive features have presented brands with a gamut of ways to integrate advertisements with social media. 

These have brought to light a variety of interesting trends that brands are capitalizing on to leave viewers clean-bowled. Keeping that in mind, industry watchers give a lowdown on how brands can weave seamless IPL Hotstar integrations and trends they see brands leveraging to cut through the clutter. 

The ‘pitch’ perfect integration

Piyush Tripathi, Media Director, Dentsu Webchutney observes that consumer evolution on IPL for 2021 will be bringing the stadium home as in this edition, Hotstar will be launching watch parties on IPL, which should replicate the live watching experience virtually. 

Tripathi notes that this should be an immersive advertising opportunity for brands. “While users will be able to engage with all the concurrent live watching audiences, via comments, stickers, cheers etc., they should also be able to create virtual rooms/ groups for a more personalised experience. 

This is going to be enabled for viewers in 2021, an interactive advertising opportunity might be created for the brands soon,” he remarks. Tripathi states that expected growth in subscription this year should be approx. 20-30% and growth in watch time should be up by approx. 50-60%, this IPL. 

Last year, the trend was of social media handles of advertisers getting on board with real-time developments.

Amandeep Singh, Business Director & Branch Head, VMLY&R DELHI, opines that he is looking forward to more interactive formats like voice, gamification getting further integrated with IPL Hotstar, a space that brands could capitalise on. 

 “IPL is the biggest festival for Indians which goes beyond sports. Hotstar has been providing ad formats and integrations for brands to leverage the property. Social-led engagement is very interesting from video duets, hotshots to watch parties. Connected TV targeting has been an interesting space and it's a good way to reach out to premium consumers for brands playing in this space. Reaching the premium consumers has always been a challenge for brands, and this would be the perfect way to do it this season. We have an opportunity to create a digital equivalent of the "Superbowl" moment and tradition for cricket in India,” he says. Singh adds that brands catering to rural audiences could also continue showing great interest in Hotstar integration this year. 


Upping the ante from the previous tournaments, last year, Disney+ Hotstar VIP added new features to the interactive Watch’ N Play social feed that allows a nationwide virtual community of cricket lovers to share excitement and show support while watching the matches LIVE on the platform.

Rashid Ahmed, Head of Digital, Infectious Advertising hints that besides assessing and providing live scores on websites and apps, this year, brands could also utilize live score feeds, to run related rich-media advertising. 

He notes: “Such is the popularity of the IPL that last year, the series generated more searches than even the ongoing pandemic. The number of advertisers opting to be visible during the series was also the highest in the history of IPL, and this was significant for Disney+ Hotstar. 

"Of the various ad formats available to advertisers, brands have the opportunity to specifically target connected TV audiences, where the number of concurrent viewers might be higher. Like interactive interstitials on mobile devices for instance, which could be used this year to immediately engage users through in-media options and also get form inputs, without the user switching from their ongoing browsing activity." 

Ahmed adds that score related in-ad live polls or gamification are feasible and could see interesting innovations.

From social media handles of advertisers getting on board with real-time developments to weaving some ‘nail-biting’ integrations and creating ‘socially distanced co-viewing’ experiences, brands were seen adding a layer of social interactions to IPL 2020.

Rajeesh Rajagopalan, Business Head, Grapes Digital (a digital first agency), reveals that his favourite integration is the watch N play feature that was integrated on the platform last year, which allowed a lot of brands to connect at a personal level with their audience. 

“IPL has been a bedrock of innovative integration for brands across categories, be it brands like Swiggy and Zomato, who have not just done creative integration but also used the platform to drive sales through cash back campaigns. This was later pulled down by Google but it was an interesting approach. IPL- Hotstar offers a wide range of integrations. In a sense, it gives the brand a huge opportunity to do good real-time marketing in every match. 

For example, Be it a candy brand playing on an insight of don’t chew nails, chew the candy or Boost doing a record a ROAR campaign with CSK,” he remarked. 

Rajagopalan advised that agencies and brands will have to think differently and adopt a creative approach, coupled with technology and smart media integration. “This way it also changes the way brands advertise on IPL. Only the brands who would push the envelope, and do something creative will get the highest SOV with the consumers,” he suggested.

As a precursor to this social layer, in 2018, Hotstar had introduced a special feed that allowed viewers to post emojis while watching a match. As the initial phase of the game will not allow fans leading to pause in on-ground activations, digital activations could be the mainstay of experiential spends.

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