How brands are leveraging sports leagues like KPL for regional reach

We spoke to experts on how marketers are targeting hyper-local areas through their native cricket heroes and local celebrities

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Aug 30, 2019 10:02 AM
Karnataka premier league

In a country where the language and culture change every 100 kilometers, maintaining consistency in brand engagement across regional pockets has always posed a challenge. The rise in popularity of regional cricket leagues like the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) provides a unique branding opportunity for advertisers.

The KPL T20, now in its eighth edition, has garnered 42.8 million unique viewers and 353.1 million average impressions, recording a growth of 17 per cent over the last season.

In its current season, which began from August 16, Xiaomi-owned Redmi is the official title naming rights partner. Other brands such as Dream 11, Cycle Pure Agarbathies, Vimal Elaichi, Star Air, TCL, Nippon Paint and LIC are key sponsors. These brands have tried to leverage hyper-local markets to acquire their next wave of customers.

“Dream11 has witnessed good traction with regional cricket leagues with our over 7 crore users. We have been partnering with sports leagues and associations at international and domestic levels. Our focus is to deeply engage sports fans with the sport they love and also connect the sport with their fans. Indian cricket fans are rapidly building an affinity towards different formats of cricket. With the ongoing success of KPL, we are sure it will resonate strongly with our users”, said a Dream11 spokesperson.

This practice of challenging the heterogeneity of India through nuanced communication is not new though. In the past, brands like Coca-Cola, Parle Agro, Byju’s and, more recently Kalyan Jewellers, have opted for dual brand endorsement strategies where a brand typically engages regional celebrities for focused hyper-local campaigning whilst also employing national level associations for PAN India campaigns.

“We believe that our partnership with KPL will contribute to increased reach for Nippon Paint in Karnataka while nurturing the cricketing talent in the state. Further, this is in line with Nippon Paint’s continued endeavour to encourage established athletes, nurture new talent and support sportsmen at every level. We look forward to a long and successful partnership.” – Mark Titus, Director of Marketing, Nippon Paint India (Decorative division), said.

Karan Shroff, Head of Brand Marketing at Xiaomi India, added, “KPL T20 has provided Xiaomi the opportunity to connect with the audience in deep regions within Karnataka and drive awareness of our offline presence in these markets.”

How have brands leveraged these regional sporting platforms for advertising?

“When a game becomes a rage everyone is on their toes to cash in. Case in point the rise in stickers and branding across the venue and the player jerseys, it is the shear presence of more real estate. Honestly more than the brands it is organisers that are juicing in the sport, they have hordes of brands lining to get their presence felt to the regional cohort”, said Sabyasachi Mitter- Founder and Managing Director at Fulcro. 

 It is becoming essentially beneficial for brands to go regional. According to Tushaar Garg, Executive Vice President of Twenty-First-Century Media (TCM), “Marketers are realizing that when it comes to appealing to the non-Hindi speaking markets, regional properties like KPL and others provide a higher return on investment and objective”.

Tuhin Mishra, Co- Founder and Managing Director at Baseline Ventures, also supported the fact by stating , "For brands which have a specific regional focus or a specific brand campaign for the region or state, these local leagues across sports can act as a great platform to connect with their consumers. Plus these can be cost effective medium too if the right association is structured and a proper activation is built around the partnership”.

Marketers have realized that when it comes to appealing to the non-Hindi speaking markets, regional properties such as KPL provide a higher return on investment. This, in addition to the growing viewership of KPL and Star Sports providing Kannada commentary, has led to positive endorsement from the sponsorship fraternity as well.

“The ROI is pretty huge because when it comes to India nothing sells better than regional patriotism. Take IPL for example, it has always pitted states against each other in support of regional team. While it’s all in a healthy spirit the enthusiasm can run pretty high and help regional brands capitalize”, stated Mitter.

Mishra added, “FMCG companies such as Coca-Cola and Horlicks have had different brand ambassadors in South Indian markets for a while. For example, Byju’s and fragrance brand Denver have both roped in Mahesh Babu as their brand ambassador, and gaming platform RummyCircle has signed on Bengali actor Prosenjit Chatterjee. These associations has led to successful ROI for the marketers”.

With the abundance of talent in KPL from cities like Hubli, Belgam and Bijapur, to name a few, brands target these hyper-local areas through their native cricket heroes and local celebrities and have gained an opportunity to increase their market share and drive new products and formats into the rural markets.

Mitter supported this by saying, “The local players have become influencers, the same is true for regional celebrities. They can help reach nooks and corners of a state.”

Mishra concluded, “A lot of brands are using influencer-marketing which is more direct and specific. And can be cost effective.”

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