Perspective | How brand partnerships scored in IPL 2014
The mega sporting event IPL is in its 7th season this year. Held between two nations high on cricket, IPL through its years of conception to existence has taught businesses across sectors to up their marketing and branding related games. The biggest brands in telecom, F&B, technology etc have learnt it well and set examples of branding, brand associations, brand engagement, marketing activities etc.
However, if one may observe, this is year, only few brands which built relationship right at the start of the League have held on. Some brands have shifted bases from one team to another, while some teams have standalone associations with certain brands. Also, cricket fans across the country are of the opinion that IPL season 7 is a bit 'thanda'
In Adgully Perspective this time, we spoke to industry personnel to get answers to our queries. Our panel consisted of Harish Bijoor, CEO at Harish Bijoor Consults Inc (HBCI), Sujit Sanyal, Veteran Adman, Vinit Karnik, National Director, Sports and Live Events, GroupM ESP and Pranay Chulet, Founder and CEO of Quikr.com.
We asked them, what could be the possible reasons for shifting allegiance from one team to another, yet remaining on the overall platter of marketers in IPL; responding to this Bijoor said, “This is IPL-hedging strategy at its best. There are some brands which are locked into the game due to long-term commitments; these brands can do precious little to extricate themselves. Instead, these brands have negotiated hard this time round, and have extricated better on-ground deals. Other brands which do not have a long term lock in have got good deals due to the fact that the game is not in India this year in entirety. Secondly, better rates have gone their way where new brands that look at the cricket-diaspora markets of the world have entered in, at rates that look better than an over-heated IPL-6”. According to him, some brands have switched allegiances, keeping in mind their regionality and at times betting on brand visibility norms that could be better by backing a team that is touted to be the biggie this year in terms of reaching the finals. “A lot has surely happened in marketing terms over IPL this season, even before the first ball was bowled”, he said.
According to Sanyal, when IPL started, it had Indian players who were declared as "icon" of the teams; for example, Kolkata had Saurav Ganguli, Mumbai had Sachin Tendulkar, Delhi had Virendar Sehwag and Punjab had Yuvraj Singh, except for Rajasthan and Chennai who did have ‘local heros’ of the game. “Along with these many players were also locals, like Dinda, Wriddhiman. In time all that changed and so loyalties shifted. Today, except Chennai, we just have teams and you pick the one you think is the best. For marketers it does not make much of a difference as long as they get eye balls”, he stated.
Karnik is of the opinion that most brands are using IPL team sponsorship tactically, therefore the reason for some brands to shift teams is purely is function of cost. “Sponsorship of any given slot on the team jersey roughly delivers the same value. Hence association with a team depends on buyer’s ability to negotiate well and seller’s ability to hold on to the price. Having said that, there are examples of brands using team sponsorship strategically and have stuck with the same team over multiple years. Long term associations have delivered positive results in terms consumer recall, driving saliency and strengthening association. Ultimately it boils down to the brand objective in the short, medium and long term and how they see the sponsorship helping them achieve desired results”, he said.
Sharing the basic reason / rationale for associating itself with a property like IPL, Chulet said, “Cricket in India has been and will always be a religion and we are proud to be associated with it through the IPL. Quikr and the format of IPL have a lot in common - much like our business, T20 games are all about succeeding at speed. Our very name is Quikr, and in T20, the idea is to score quikr and win quikr so the association is a natural fit”.
With other major national events occurring simultaneously, a lot of resources of marketers have been engaged in these activities. This, however, experts say should not or has not affected the traction IPL possess for marketers / sponsors. Sharing his thoughts on the same Bijoor said, “The league is 'thanda' only because of the fact that the first set of matches in April are all being played in the UAE. Distance makes the heart go 'thanda' in the case of IPL! Once the game returns to the Indian soil, expect the euphoria to return. Further, in terms of television viewership, remember there are two big games on this season, one is IPL 7 and the together is the great Big Indian General Elections. One is bringing out 864 million people out to vote, and the other is getting 850 million eyeballs fixed onto it as a passion. Clutter causes a 'thanda' feeling for IPL”.
Karnik believes that IPL is a huge property and the buzz around the league along with brand engagement and entertainment, is amplified. He said that for the last six seasons, the IPL has occupied a spot in the heart and mind of every Indian. However, this year he says, the General Election is a subject of national importance and interest as it reaches out to masses across cross-section of society, regardless of socio-economic class and interest levels. He believes that brands will continue to associate with the IPL in its seventh season too. “One also needs to consider that this year most of the franchisee deals were up for renewal, hence a greater supply of inventory is expected. With election related content hogging majority air-time, especially on news channels, brands would be looking at more ground-level activations and promotion through the digital medium to reach out to and engage their audience”, he stated. He is also of the opinion that Indians are definitely excited about both the IPL and the elections. “This year, the parties have utilised sections all mediums - print, hoardings, TV, radio, digital. They are all abuzz with various campaigns and this definitely does improve overall advertising spends”, he added.
According to Sanyal, the Election fever is dying out while IPL is like an addiction which people will watch as before. “Cricket as a game is a good time pass and so I guess brand partnering will work. In any case most brands have a long term deal with the franchisees and new ones are coming up. It is a money spinner so brands will definitely encash it.
Speaking on how partnering with a property like this help the brand itself, Chulet said, “We don’t think it is a zero sum game between elections and IPL when it comes to the TV audience. One is a matter of national governance while the other is about entertainment. Both are getting their fair share of TV audience and we are present in both places at a healthy, cost effective level”. Speaking of the degree of financial resources incorporated in this association and how they have managed to reach the ROI and ROV mark, Chulet said, “Being associated with IPL as a principal sponsor of a team has far-reaching positives for our brand. We definitely expect it to further add to our brand equity as well as engagement. We are in a happy place in terms of return on our investment”.
Currently, Quikr is associated with one team – Delhi Daredevil. Sharing his thoughts in how do they plan their association charts going ahead, Chulet states that they look at this relationship as a long term mutually beneficial one. “In general, we've had a strong association with the sport of cricket pretty much since the time we started investing in brand building. We believe it offers great opportunities to young brands that are looking to connect with consumers. In our case, the connection is even stronger because our brand stands for speed and the newer formats of the game are also all about making things happen fast. In a way, both Quikr and IPL celebrate the impatience of the new India”.
In a country where the game is beyond just a game, investors will certainly look at the property to gain optimum attention. While viewers look for mere entertainment and elections rule television news programming, wavered viewership would mean a changing investment policy for advertisers. But a cricket crazy nations, India or elsewhere, elections or no elections, cricket is ought to attract viewers or advertisers alike.