Will edtech’s big ad blitz at IPL pay off?

Industry observers note that for ed-tech brands' big bet at IPL to pay off, their offer needs to be sufficiently differentiated with a strong value proposition in their communication

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Apr 29, 2021 8:18 AM  | 4 min read

The flavour of this IPL season seems to be the digital-first players, especially edtech that is betting on the game to work its magic on them. With educational institutions shut, no wonder these players are investing heavily in advertising during the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) to drive user acquisitions. From GradeUp, Great Learning to official partner of IPL- Unacademy, these platforms are splurging big on the cricketing extravaganza as they rope in big celebrities and invest heavily in TV spots, digital and more to woo the consumer. But will edtech’s big ad blitz at IPL pay off?

Game On

While it is clear that several of these brands have burnt a lot of cash to execute their ad campaigns, are they really on their way to become household names like decades-old companies with high turnovers?

Brand strategist Ambi M G Parameswaran observes that edtech’s strategy is to do digital performance marketing and run numerous experiments to perfect the acquisition costs. “These edtech brands see IPL as a way of building salience. Byju's is a living example. So all these brands feel that they too can become a Byju's by going on IPL. If their offer is sufficiently differentiated with a strong value proposition, they too may be able to build brand credibility and salience. There could also be some VC push to ensure that they improve awareness and app downloads or some such metric,” he notes.

The rise of digital-first companies as big sponsors in this IPL season has also to do with the ongoing market sentiment, where digital-first is also the approach adopted by consumers across categories.

Dr Sandeep Goyal, Chief Mentor, Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) feels that edtech’s blitz will pay off because of the sheer enormity of eyeballs and the universal coverage of the IPL. “38% of IPL audiences are below 21 years of age. It is just very ironic that most of the stars who endorse these edtech platforms have themselves rarely gone past school! They are the ones that actually need to enrol, not endorse,” Goyal remarks.

The Perfect Match?

Riding on celebrity endorsements, these companies are leveraging A-listers like Shah Rukh Khan, Kartik Aaryan (GradeUp), Virat Kohli (Great Learning) among others for better recall and reach through their IPL ads. 

But is it the ‘best' use of their advertising spends in the long run? Samit Sinha, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting observes that most brand ambassadors that have been roped in by edtech brands don’t seem to have anything to do with the category themselves which is where the flaw in the strategy lies. “edtech, and to an extent, health-tech is being seen as the next big thing and the two sectors for big investors to invest in. Many of the firms, especially in edtech, where large investments have been made in recent times, have been very aggressive in their marketing and advertising, more for the purpose of pushing up their valuation, than anything else. That seems to be the main reason behind the choice of celebrities or the conspicuous presence in IPL too. Neither Virat Kohli nor Kartik Aryan has anything to do with education and therefore I don’t see any strategic fit from a pure long term marketing perspective,” says Sinha.

If the recent data analysed by TAM Media Research is anything to go by,  these new-age edtech platforms comprised more than 15% share of the ad volumes this IPL.

Indrajeet Mookerjee, President-South, dentsumcgarrybowen India argues that while a plethora of edtech brands is employing celebrity endorsements and riding on high decibel media campaigns to reach a large audience base, the campaign execution of some of these brands should be more engaging especially with a celebrity driving the brand message. “The pandemic has introduced 'Learn from Home' as the new way to learn and the hence category has seen an unprecedented number of players make an entry into this lucrative space. Amongst the brands, the one that struck a chord was the campaign from Great Learning, a nice thoughtful insight of 'Seekhte Raho' or Keep Learning. A universal truth that learning should never stop,” Mookerjee asserts.

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