Will Coronavirus be a dampener to IPL 2020?

While some IPL sponsors have said footfalls will be affected, others say with about two weeks left for the tournament the impact could still be controlled

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Mar 11, 2020 9:18 AM
IPL 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) threat, which has already disrupted major events across industries, is now looming large over the country’s biggest sporting extravaganza – Indian Premier League.

For the last few years, IPL has been the biggest festival in terms of sponsorships. Marketers across categories reserve top dollars for this cricketing league because it delivers ROI like no other platform.

Instead of the usual euphoria, this year coronavirus has led to sponsors being concerned about the panic having an impact on the footfall.

The IPL organisers have so far reiterated that the games will be held as per schedule, even though several other events scheduled for this month have already been postponed.

In our attempt to gauge the sentiment around the game this year, we spoke to some IPL sponsors to understand the intensity of the COVID-19 worry.

A top IPL sponsor, on the condition of anonymity, stated that the recent health advisory by the government has further heightened the concerns.

“We are certainly very concerned about the IPL, both as a sponsor and a viewer. Some football games are being played in empty stands. This can happen to IPL too. Imagine IPL without spectators. This will also have an impact on the ratings. With all health advisories asking people to avoid big crowds, we may see very low footfalls and this in turn will impact the franchise, broadcasters and even advertisers,” the source said.

“However, we still have around two weeks for IPL and we are sincerely hoping the epidemic is controlled and things fall back into place,” the source further said.

Another top sponsor, associated with IPL right from its first season and considered amongst the biggest spenders on the game, said: “IPL organisers are urging the government not to cancel the event in the wake of the coronavirus scare. While the BCCI President has reiterated that the matches will be held as per the schedule, the coming days will be crucial. Also, the fact is that IPL 2020 is yet to get to the revenue numbers it is aiming for. While we are talking about a 15 per cent hike in ad spots, in some cases sponsors are now negotiating for ad spots that are 20 per cent lower than even last year.”

According to Anil Singh, MD of Procam International, which hosts top marathons across the country including the Tata Mumbai Marathon and Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, says postponing the IPL will be close to impossible at this stage. In his view, there is always the option of playing all matches in fewer venues.

“When you add the T20 World Cup to an already packed calendar, postponing the IPL will be close to impossible. Even if an alternate date was pushed through, given India's clout many IPL teams would lose their crunch players, lessening the tournament’s sheen. Also, given India's current exposure to coronavirus, I see no reason whatsoever to either cancel or postpone the games. Constant vigilance is critical and there is always an option of playing all matches in fewer venues. In case that happens, the BCCI should make good the average gate receipts that a franchise earns in a season. I think they can financially afford that impact,” Singh explained.

Team owners and team managements, too, have chosen to adopt the wait-and-watch approach. According to Satish Menon, CEO, Kings XI Punjab, “We'll take whatever precaution possible, whatever is within our reach. We have already been working on all this. Otherwise, we'll be governed by whatever BCCI tells us. We leave these decisions to the BCCI.”

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