IPL 2021: Will Vivo’s re-entry take away the spotlight from edtech & fantasy categories?

While title sponsorship brings in its own surround sound and buzz, some experts believe that there is enough and more that IPL offers leaving almost no scope for any sponsor to feel sidelined

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Mar 15, 2021 8:22 AM

IPL 2020 was a surprise not just in terms of being a spectacle for TV sans audience, but it even packed a surprise punch on the sponsorship front.

First was the dislodging of big sponsors—Vivo, Future Group etc— by relatively newer categories like e-sports/gaming and ed-tech players that collectively shelled out over Rs 450 crore in sponsorships.

Such big spends by relatively newer players ensured that the spotlight remained on these brands. If we look at the IPL sponsorship narrative over the last seven-plus months, it is categories like ed-tech and fantasy sports that managed top-of-mind recall.

Vivo’s surprise re-entry

A few weeks back, there were reports that Chinese smartphone brand Vivo was considering “exit from the IPL deal because of too much political pressure.”  However, soon after the recent announcement of IPL dates came another big news—the re-entry of Vivo as the title sponsor.

In an interview with PTI, Nipun Marya, Director-Brand Strategy, Vivo, confirmed this development and put all speculations to rest. He was quoted as saying, “Vivo is back as the title sponsor of IPL and that is very encouraging and exciting for us because IPL is the biggest property in India and is a perfect amalgamation of sports and entertainment, so we are looking forward to the 9th of April, when IPL begins.”

Marya’s announcement means that Vivo will hog the sponsorship spotlight given its Rs 440 crore annual spend on the league. This may leave last year’s title sponsors sidelined and there are questions looming about their share of spotlight in this changed IPL landscape.

According to some insiders, who are watching this turn of sponsorship tables, BCCI could not have asked for more as the return of Vivo will spike sponsorship money by almost Rs 200 crore, which even a new bid would not have achieved.

“Both Unacademy and Dream11 tried to buy out the title sponsorship slot from Vivo but the price points were not agreeable. Vivo’s coming back definitely shifts the spotlight, but it is agreeable as long as the league and its stakeholders are benefitting,” said a source close to BCCI.

While title sponsorship brings in its own surround sound and buzz, some experts believe that there is enough and more that IPL offers leaving almost no scope for any sponsor to feel sidelined.

“The demarcation of sponsorship and deliverables are defined. Now with original title sponsor back, they will get the visibility as per the defined norms,” said an expert on condition of anonymity.

Talking about the apprehensions, one of the top sponsors that spends upwards of Rs 100 crore on the game said that they would now rely on innovation to ensure there is no sidelining of sorts compared to last season.

“There is no doubt that the title sponsorship gets you great naming and placement rights, but ultimately what you do with it is what matters. So brands that are innovative with their IPL campaigns/integrations, will appeal to customers more than others,” said the spokesperson.

The upcoming season of IPL will begin in Chennai on April 9 and will be played across six venues, initially without spectators. If the spectators do not return this season too, sponsors will once again have to grapple to unleash the full impact that IPL as a franchise is capable of.

However, for now all eyes are on BCCI secretary Jay Shah’s recent statement in which he said that a call on allowing spectators will be taken at a later stage of the tournament.


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