This is going to be the biggest IPL ever: Gautam Thakar, Star Sports

In a conversation with exchange4media, Thakar, the CEO of Star Sports, says he is confident that Dream11 IPL 2020 will be the property’s biggest season in terms of both viewership and revenue

e4m by Simran Sabherwal & Dipali Banka
Published: Sep 15, 2020 8:17 AM  | 8 min read
Gautam Thakar

When Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians step out on the cricket field this Saturday, i.e. September 19, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, millions of cricket enthusiasts are expected to tune in to see last year’s finalists take on each other in yet another blockbuster encounter. While we will have to wait to see which team takes home the Dream11 IPL 2020 trophy, what’s certain is that it will be the game of cricket and the sports-starved viewers who will be the ultimate winners.

For Gautam Thakar, CEO – Star Sports, pulling off the telecast of one of the biggest sporting spectacles in 2020 – in just six weeks during an ongoing pandemic and a lot of uncertainties – one would say would have been challenging but Thakar calls it a different experience.

He is confident that Dream11 IPL 2020 will be the biggest ever - in revenue and viewership - because of the response from both advertisers and viewers.

Edited excerpts:

Media reports indicate that Star Sports may match or marginally exceed last year’s revenue of Rs 2,000 crore as IPL this time coincides with the festive season. What are your ad revenue projections for this season?

This is going to be the biggest IPL ever, both in terms of viewership and revenue. We have sold 95% of our inventory and have 18 sponsors onboard for the show so far. This is the highest number of sponsors we have ever had. Brands had allotted spends for IPL, Asia Cup and T20 World Cup, and now with Dream11 IPL being the only cricket property for 2020 plus it being a festive season, it has become the obvious choice for brands to make.

The matches start earlier at 7:30 pm, there are fewer double headers and this should translate to higher ratings as there is a pent-up demand and people are confined at home. Overall, it’s been a strong season in the run up to the IPL and closer to Diwali we expect to see more interest. It's not as if we hold back inventory and if people are willing to buy at the price, we will sell it.

What would the premium for spot buys be for last-minute advertisers?

At this point we haven't increased the rates. We'll take stock and see if there is a need to increase. If the demand remains as high as it is now, we might increase it but at this point we have nothing to say.

What is the overall sentiment of advertisers towards IPL and the upcoming festive season?

IPL is normally scheduled at the end of March and we actively start selling in October, which gives us over five months to sell the inventory. This year, when the dates were announced, we had about six weeks to do so. The advertiser response has been tremendous and this is a sign of both what Star can do to make this property big and the appetite for the festive season. In addition to IPL, two other big ticket cricket properties, Asia Cup and ICC Men’s T20 World Cup were scheduled in September and October respectively. Advertisers would have budgeted for all three and now only one event is happening. Also, many advertisers have been quiet for the last four months and are looking at Diwali.

There has been a lot more interest this year than in the past from the FMCG category. P&G, Unilever, ITC, Mondelez, RB and Nestle are brands that don't necessarily advertise on IPL and sports but this year they are all advertising. The online categories – education, finance and e-commerce – are going strong. Individually, auto players are spending less but there are more players spending, so in aggregate we will be at or above where we thought we would be. Coca Cola has been a regular on IPL and they might spend less due to the seasonality but they are still at it. Categories like air conditioners will be missing out because the season is not conducive for them. There'll be some pluses and minuses but in balance its more pluses than minuses as the new categories have more than made up.

Looking at the pre and post-wrap-up shows, what has been the increase in ad rates vis-à-vis last year?

Obviously the rates for the pre and post programming are much lower than the live matches. Pricing wise, across all categories of products that we have, we have taken up the price in similar ratios. But relatively speaking, for advertisers the pre and post programming is much cheaper than being live, many advertisers see value as the outlays are lower. BYJU’S is the title sponsor for pre and post programming shows. Even though this programming doesn’t get the same volume of audience as the live matches, the audience levels are very high.

With four regional sports channels telecasting IPL, are you tapping the regional local retail clients?

We sell inventory only nationally for IPL. From an advertising perspective, the value proposition of IPL is that it is the largest aggregator. You can’t have a better vehicle than the IPL on Star to achieve the reach goals that you have. So, we don’t see any value splitting it up by regional channels.

Our idea of launching regional channels was not to have regional advertising but to give consumers an experience in the language they are most comfortable in and to maximize total reach. Earlier, in Tamil Nadu 90% of IPL consumption was in English. Last year, with Star Sports Tamil 92% of the consumption is in Tamil. The local audiences connect with the commentators and experts speaking the local language and the tonality is different. This drives engagement and gets more people interested in watching cricket and IPL.

Any challenges?

No, it's just been a different experience. We have created our own bubble in the office for the commentators and the crew. So, for the seven-week period of IPL, they will be ferried from the hotel to the office and back as we don’t want them to have any exposure.  A lot of thinking and planning has gone into how to keep people safe and secure, put them in a bubble to prevent exposure and minimize the risk of COVID-19. There’s a deep protocol as people are tested before they enter the bubble, then quarantined, then tested again before being allowed in the bubble. I wouldn't necessarily call it a challenge but it's something that the world hasn’t had to deal with earlier.

What are your expectations from IPL, particularly on the revenue front?

We will get clarity on the revenue numbers in a few days. We already know that this will be the biggest IPL ever. Whether it is the media agencies, clients or the general public everybody expects this IPL to be big from a viewership perspective.  It will be hard to put a number right now; we will just have to wait to see the numbers.

Star has used the might of its network for IPL for reach. Which network channels will telecast IPL?

A learning over the years is that the opening day/weekend is important. If you get a big opening day/weekend you capture everybody's attention for the rest of the tournament. This IPL too we will use our regional channels on the opening day. We are still working out which channels but we will utilize at least one channel in each of the key markets - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Bengal.

For the Hindi-speaking markets, we will use Star Gold. We will make sure that there is mass awareness and availability of IPL on the opening day or weekend because once the tournament kicks in, it takes over. Our job is to get everybody excited and aware about IPL and ensure it is available so that audiences will watch the game. In addition to the opening weekend, we will use the network channels on Sundays which is a family day. This year the final is scheduled for a Tuesday. We generally don’t like to disrupt the regional programming on weekdays as this is a daily habit for viewers.  

With Digital consumption at a high, will Hotstar impact TV viewership?

IPL will be massive for Star as a group. We are less worried about where people watch. One of the metrics we measure internally is - ‘billion minutes of consumption’ - and the aggregate billion minutes between Hotstar and TV is what we really look at. For us that means the viewership has grown and people are watching. Many watch digital on the go and this may be high this year. Digital consumption is also prevalent in single TV homes. With people confined to staying at home without live content, IPL will bring in some cheer and a sense of normalcy in a disrupted world.

If all goes well, six months later, IPL will be back. But will there be fatigue?

The short answer is who knows, but I feel optimistic. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup was originally scheduled during this time, so it’s not as if suddenly there are two big cricket events. Also, IPL will be back in India and hopefully with a vaccine we will have people back in the stadiums bringing back excitement and on-ground sponsorship. We hope that by March next year the macro-economic situation is better, things improve and we can all benefit from it.

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Clear Premium Water ropes in Hrithik Roshan as brand ambassador

The packaged water brand seeks to elevate itself as a brand with this association

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 2:13 PM   |   1 min read


Clear, the packaged drinking water company, has roped in Hrithik Roshan as their brand ambassador.

"Clear is already a well-established national brand, but I am confident that the association with Hrithik Roshan will boost our aspirations to emerge as a pre-eminent brand," said Nayan Shah, Founder and CEO of CLEAR PREMIUM WATER.

Commenting on the association, the actor said, "I am excited to join CLEAR, one of the country's most preferred and premium water brands, in its journey to encourage people to drink safe and mineral-rich water. Together, we will promote a healthy lifestyle with CLEAR's premium products while working towards greater concerns like sustainability and environmental conservation."

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Parimatch Sports brings in Dinesh Karthik as brand ambassador

The cricketer will collaborate with the brand for creating an apparel line

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:42 PM   |   1 min read

Dinesh Karthik

Parimatch Sports has announced that Dinesh Karthik will be its brand ambassador. The wicketkeeper-batter, who plays for the Bangalore`s team in the IPL, will collaborate with Parimatch Sports to create an exclusive line of apparel for the Indian market, to be tentatively launched during the competition.

Commenting on being appointed brand ambassador, Karthik said, “I’m thrilled to be associated with Parimatch Sports, which I am confident will soon be sharing space with the known names in sports attire. Because it’s an upcoming and youthful brand, it’s the perfect fit for me, for I feel I still have a lot to offer the game and to my team-mates. I can’t wait to be in the dugout again for The Premier League, and to show others that age is only a number.”

The Parimatch Sports is a sportswear brand dedicated to all sports enthusiasts passionate about top–quality athletic clothes. Those who strive to take their sports experience to the next level and express their champion identity through clothes Parimatch Sports brand that represents unparalleled style, exceptional comfort, and strong winning spirit.

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PUMA has always had a digital strategy much before COVID: Abhishek Ganguly

Ganguly, Managing Director, PUMA India, and South East Asia, lets us in on the sportswear company's strategy to ahead in the time of digital disruption

By Tanzila Shaikh | Mar 20, 2023 1:38 PM   |   4 min read


PUMA entered the Indian market in 2006, much later than competitors like Nike and Adidas did. However, within a decade, the sportswear brand captured the market, giving rivals a run for their money. 

In the digital era, when brands are pulling out all stops to stay relevant, PUMA is also trying out different marketing tactics to cater to the shifting needs of the new-age consumers, especially those hailing from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In an exclusive chat with e4m, Abhishek Ganguly, Managing Director, PUMA India, and South East Asia spoke about staying ahead in the time of digital disruption.

The edited excerpts from the interview 

How has Puma been keeping its business relevant?

There is not one answer to this. There are various ways to keep up with the relevancy. First and foremost is the marketing funnel, one needs to appeal to the consumers in a language that they find relevant, and the time of putting the product in front of the consumer to buy has gone. One needs to have a story and a narrative around the brand. We have not come up with a campaign that is just copy-pasted because we are a global brand, as connecting with the Indian audience always requires the language that they understand. 

To be relatable, the channels also play a very important role whether you walk into our stores or it is online. Digital is not just a convenience medium today it's quite so that one needs to create the right experience for the consumer. 

How is PUMA connecting with the GenZs?

Every generation comes with different expectations or behaviour, their approach is very different. The young audience wants to express and be a part of a community, brands that are able to provide a platform where consumers can come in and exchange an expression and connect and build community, and in that process and delivering a message works well with the younger audience.

This audience is are also looking for a purpose around social causes our environment resonates a lot with young audiences. Convenience is also one of the factors today The E-Commerce mechanism as well as the payment mechanism has made life so much easier and young audiences today are starting with convenience. So Genz consumers seek relatability, being a part of the community, are inclined towards purpose-driven brands, and expect convenience.

With Anushka Sharma and now Harmanpreet Kaur as brand ambassadors, what is the messaging that PUMA wants to convey?

We are very focused on having the right kind of opinion leaders, especially women opinion leaders associated with us like a partnership with Mary Kom. Off late we’ve signed up more as a brand which is becoming larger we are trying to stay relevant with the various consumer segment. We want to provide a platform for women to come and express especially in India, for example, in our campaign Proper Lady well women came and expressed themselves breaking gender stereotypes. For years cricket has been called a gentleman's game and now it is changing, we are trying to enable this change to become faster. 

How did PUMA navigate the post-covid era in terms of business?

Before Covid, we have been in India for as long as 13 years. In the last three years including Covid time, we have doubled the sales seen during pre-covid times. We have always had a digital strategy not just during Covid times but for the last 5-7 years. 

How are you leveraging the tier 2 and 3 markets?

We are opening more stores and we will continue to do that for accessibility. e-commerce is obviously helping us to penetrate the market. In the last 3 years, we have grown about 4% point of our share from the non-tier 1 markets. We have almost 490 stores and a lot of them are in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

How much is the online and offline business in these figures - segregation in percentage?

56% of the business comes from physical stores, whereas 44% comes from various digital platforms.

Who has been more impactful for PUMA --  micro or macro influencers?

The truth lies in between as both are very important; it also depends upon your business scale. A very solid influencer strategy other than the selection and execution and the kind of content that goes out is to check credibility. Credibility should be really standing what your brand stands for. 

What's the marketing strategy lined up for the year?

Our choice of channel will be digital and given the kind of demographic profile of our market, it is very important for us to be there. We are going to every channel which is relevant right from search platforms to OTT platforms even news platforms, and sports platforms.

Check out more by clicking here to watch what Ganguly said about Indian audiences and sports.

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Infectious Advertising appoints Ashish Naik as Executive Creative Director

Naik has earlier worked with agencies like Ogilvy, FCB Ulka, and Saatchi & Saatchi  

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:32 PM   |   1 min read


Ashish Naik has joined Infectious Advertising as Executive Creative Director. He has spent a large part of his career with Ogilvy, Mumbai. He has also had stints at FCB ULKA, Everest, Contract and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Naik has created campaigns for brands like Cadbury, Perfetti Van Melle, Fevicol, Amul Macho, Gujarat Tourism, Hindustan Pencils, Fiat, Castrol, Franklin Templeton, Essar, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Hindustan Times, among others.

Speaking on his appointment, Naik said: “I look forward to creating some spectacular work with Ramanuj, Nisha and the team. I believe I will be working with the best at Infectious.”

“Acquiring top talent is the simplest growth hack. We are fortunate to get a creative leader like Ashish in our team. Apart from being a super talent, Ashish is an affable and warm personality who shall surely create work that will be Infectious. We wish him every success at Infectious,” added Ramanuj Shastry, Nisha Singhania and Siddhartha Singh - Managing Partners of Infectious Advertising. 

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PNG Jewellers signs Madhuri Dixit as brand ambassador

The actor will be with the brand for two years and feature in the brand’s ad campaigns, starting with Gudhi Padwa

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:13 PM   |   2 min read


PNG Jewellers has announced the signing of Madhuri Dixit as its brand ambassador for the next two years. Madhuri will represent the brand globally and across India. She was previously the brand ambassador for PNG Jewellers for a two-year period.

Madhuri will feature in PNG Jewellers' upcoming advertising campaigns, social media content, and other brand promotional activities, starting with the Gudhi Padwa campaign.

"We are delighted to have Madhuri Dixit as our brand ambassador, and we look forward to working with her over the next two years," said Saurabh Gadgil, Chairman and Managing Director of PNG Jewellers.” Our association with Madhuri goes back a long way. She and her family have been our customers for many years. She is still India’s sweetheart and a dancing diva beyond competition. Her values are aligned to ours as well. This association will help us to strengthen our brand's image and consolidate our position in the Indian and global jewellery market. Her presence in our ecosystem is an invaluable asset as we move into the next phase of growth. PNG Jewellers will be launching at least 5 more stores in the next financial year."

Madhuri Dixit said, "I am honoured to be associated with PNG Jewellers, a brand that is synonymous with craftsmanship, tradition, and elegance. I have always admired PNG Jewellers' stunning jewellery collections, and I am excited to be part of their journey once again. I look forward to representing the brand and connecting with PNG Jewellers' customers worldwide!"

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Tata AIG hands over social media mandate to Social Panga

The Mumbai unit of the agency will be handling the social media management for Tata AIG

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:04 PM   |   1 min read


Social Panga has won the integrated marketing mandate for Tata AIG.

The agency will be handling the creative communication for social media for the Tata AIG brand.

Riaan Rodrigues, Senior Vice President - Digital Business & Marketing, at Tata AIG said “As a company, we understand it’s important to have an insurance cover to mitigate one’s risks. We believe that creating a deep engagement with our customers over the digital platform is vital to ensure they understand the various insurance solutions that we offer. We want to strengthen our positioning while emphasizing on creative standards and have found a good fit with the Social Panga team. We are confident that our partnership will help us both create a positive, long-lasting brand image for us in the coming years.”

“There is so much scope to make Insurance as a category an interesting one & we are going to make an attempt towards the same. Super excited to work with Tata AIG to make the conversations around insurance a little more fun and impactful for people. While keeping ourselves aligned with Tata AIG's tone, Social Panga will work to make content in a more fun and palatable way.” said Himanshu Arora, Co-Founder, Social Panga.

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Yatra says 'Bindas plan kar' in new campaign with Delhi Capitals stars

The digital marketing campaign will include 3 digital video commercials featuring popular faces of the Delhi Capital – Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Taniya Bhatia, Alice Capsey and Tara Norris

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 12:15 PM   |   2 min read


Yatra Online Limited ("Yatra") has rolled out their latest campaign - 'Jab Yatra hai toh kaahe ka dar, #BindaasPlanKar' to offer stress-free travel to its customers. The campaign is focused on the cancellation protection feature available on which ensures a smooth yatra for travelers despite any pesky disruptions or unconfirmed plans. Cancellation protection is an insurance policy offered by ‘Liberty General Insurance Ltd’ for the customers of Yatra booking flight tickets on Yatra’s website, mobile site, and mobile app. This product facilitates customers to claim the reimbursement of flight ticket cost applied in the event of cancellation of the flight ticket.

To back this latest offering and drive adoption, this digital marketing campaign will include 3 digital video commercials (DVCs) featuring popular faces of the Delhi Capital – Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Taniya Bhatia, Alice Capsey and Tara Norris. All three DVCs focus on apprehensions that travelers have in booking their travel in advance and how the feature of cancellation protection addresses the concern.

Travel planning can be stressful, especially with the unpredictability of circumstances. Yatra Online Ltd aims to address this pain point by offering a solution that allows travellers to plan their trips without worrying about end-moment cancellations.

Commenting on the cancellation protection feature and the digital films, Dhruv Shringi, Whole-time Director and Chief Executive Officer, Yatra Online Limited said, “We understand that travellers want to explore the world, but unforeseen circumstances can lead to cancellations. With a cancellation protection feature and #bindassplankar, we aim to provide a safety net for our customers, ensuring that they can travel with confidence. The expression of our campaign is a portrayal of our continued dedication to offering a carefree experience to our consumers. Travellers have evolved preferences and we are excited to introduce a flexible, comfortable, and cost-effective feature for their travel planning.”

The #bindassplankar campaign can be a game-changer for the travel industry, providing customers with a unique and valuable feature that has the potential to set apart from its competitors. The cancellation protection feature is available on for all domestic flights. The #bindassplankar campaign intends to make travel planning stress-free and convenient for all Y

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