Why is Tata on the IPL pitch?

The decision to get associated with IPL as the title sponsor, experts say, is a logical next step in the company’s attempt to become a modern, new-age, consumer-facing business

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Updated: Jan 12, 2022 9:32 AM
tata

In 2015, the CEOs of Tata Group Companies were reportedly being made to read ‘Decoding the New Consumer Mind’, a book written by award-winning consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, by then chairperson Cyrus Mistry to gather insights into the motivations and behaviours of shoppers. It was because the legacy conglomerate was trying to reform its DNA from being more inclined towards sourcing technology to heeding to consumer feedback and getting closer to the end-user. And while the then chairperson was controversially ousted from the company a year later, the efforts continued. The next and current chairperson Natarajan Chandrasekaran also emphasised making the group a future-ready enterprise and increased investments in digital entities, especially after Covid.

While all of this was happening within company structures and investments were being made in new-age businesses like Big Basket, 1 MG and Curefit despite the continuing losses the company was making, the group has now made its aspirations to become a modern consumer-facing business even more direct by picking up the sponsorship deal for the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Business strategist & former marketer at HP Asia Pacific, Motorola and PepsiCo, Lloyd Mathias says, “The decision to buy the title sponsorship of IPL is a great move by the Tatas. IPL is one of the largest events in India’s calendar and past two years’ experience has shown us how the tournament continues to attract huge television viewership despite the pandemic. For Tata Group, which has significantly increased its consumer play with recent acquisitions like Big Basket; Cure Fit, 1 MG and even Air India, this is an unparalleled opportunity to communicate and reach out to consumers across the country.”

Brand-Nomics MD Viren Razdan feels that it is a big flex of muscle from Tata Group to associate with IPL. “They have been associated with cricket, but to take on the IPL title sponsorship is a big shift in its brand presence. The group has a solid arsenal (when it comes to brands and categories under its wing) to make a shift into the big game.”

IPL is surely one of the biggest media vehicles for any brand in the country. Not just the sponsors but even the advertisers have famously managed to create a lot of brand affinity and relevancy during the tournament. For example, outgoing title sponsor vivo, which was launched in India in 2014 and got associated with the tournament in 2016, became one of the top smartphone brands in the country riding on the popularity of the tournament.

The same year, talking about the association, then vivo CMO Vivek Zhang had told exchange4media’s Impact, “As a young brand, it is imperative to create a bond with existing and potential customers. That was the idea behind the IPL title sponsorship. The association proved extremely fruitful. Being the title sponsor helped us gain a huge brand recall across the country and connect with the youth. As per a recent report by research agency Ipsos, vivo was the highest recalled brand during the IPL season. We also received an excellent response from our TVC campaign launched during the IPL season with our brand ambassador Ranveer Singh. All these catapulted the brand recall of vivo to an all-time high in India, resulting in increased interest in and sales of our products.”

The opportunity, therefore, is great for Tata Group too, which, according to a company insider, is “getting very serious towards being a new-age company and a strong consumer-centric entity, willing to get out of its legacy framework not just internally but in its marketing communications too”.

To achieve this, Tata Group has already made public its intent to launch an umbrella app enabling access to all its consumer businesses, increase investments in digital platforms, and revamp the fashion and make-up businesses to attract young consumers.

Communication consultant Karthik Srinivasan elaborates, “Given Tata Group's super-app ambitions, and considering the fact that they have been acquiring companies to add to their existing portfolio of products and services to augment that ambition, I see this as a great opportunity.”

Rediffusion MD Sandeep Goyal adds, “In keeping with the general aversion to the Chinese, the coming in of Tatas is a welcome step. With Tatas getting into ‘young-ifying’ the brand through so much more action in digital, the title sponsorship will do well for them.”

The brand experts also feel that the opportunity is ripe for the group to also strongly position its new acquisitions, especially Air India, and increase consumer affinity. It also looks like a much-needed chance to pull out its auto business from continuing losses.

A brand analyst, on the conditions of anonymity, says, “Tata Group is a strong force in the share market but everyone knows how most of its businesses are running into losses for the past several years. And Covid has certainly not helped the situation. The conglomerate is in desperate need of a revival in its account books and has been making quite some strides by investing in future-focussed digital businesses and health startups. Investing in IPL seems like the next logical move in this direction to increase consumer awareness and build affinity. It will be quite interesting to see how a legacy brand utilises this opportunity of being the title sponsors for a dynamic league like this and what impact it will have on their businesses.”

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