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IPL 11: Star India’s regional play sans regional advertisers

Broadcast of IPL on four regional channels of Star India was supposed to attract ads from top brands hailing from respective regions, a move that would have expanded the base of advertisers. But experts say Star decided to play safe and sold a bundled inventory to national players without waiting for regional players to come aboard

Despite the four exclusive regional feeds of Indian Premier League season 11, not many regional advertisers have been able to hop on to the prestigious IPL bandwagon. Star India is telecasting IPL on 10 channels, including four regional ones – Star Sports Tamil, Suvarna Plus, Jalsha Movies and Maa Movies. These channels have separate regional feeds.

While everyone is talking about how viewership of the tournament has gone down in the HSM and national markets, there is a huge jump in the number of people who have come to IPL 11 from the Southern markets. The four regional feeds have definitely been able to bring in extra viewers but no extra advertisers, it seems.

Star India started off with selling ad spots on IPL 11 through bundling deals, which meant that any advertiser who showed interest had to buy the whole package of 10 TV channels and the Hotstar stream too. In an earlier story titled ‘IPL 11: Are advertisers getting the bang for their buck?’, BestMediaInfo reported how the national advertisers had paid huge amounts to get their presence on the tournament. The bundled deals were mostly grabbed by the national advertisers, even though they took their time to negotiate and a few of them came aboard hours before the start of the opening ceremony. Media experts suggest that this decision of bundling might have come out of a risk of not being able to get a lot of regional advertisers and then, it would have been too difficult to demand higher rates from the national advertisers too.

“However, despite Star’s initial plan to get a string of regional advertisers, only the national advertisers are visible flashing their brands during the matches on the TV screens because probably the bundles were either not offered to the regional players or they found it too expensive. The individual regional feeds would have made more sense to the regional advertisers, but there was possibly not much inventory left for Star to split and sell,” said a senior industry expert.

There are about 100-110 advertisers on board IPL 11. All of these are national advertisers and the placement of ads is the same in all six feeds – Hindi, English, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Bengali. Despite a huge regional play by Star India, so much so that each of the markets had its own brand ambassador for the tourney, the inclusion of the new category of advertisers did not happen.

A senior media observer suggested that the initial game plan of Star India included pitching the property to regional advertisers and to have a considerable amount of advertising from these players. “However, the inventories possibly got filled with the national advertisers sooner than the negotiations with the regional advertisers started. Knowing how Star India started off with the ad sales, the bundling of 10 channels and the digital platform would not have got them any regional/local advertisers.”

While a few planners said that there are a handful of, may be two to three, regional advertisers, they are also running their ads on the national level across all the 10 channels. Even last year, in IPL 10, the number of regional advertisers was not substantial. While a lot of not-so-big advertisers are now visible on the IPL platform, including the likes of Sri Sri Ayurveda, Hyderabad Industries, Nuvoco Cements and Allen Career Institute, all of these have been running ads nationally.

As Vidhu Sagar or Lintas MediaHub puts it, “If one compares the top five advertisers’ list for IPL 10 and 11, only Vivo and Jio are the two consistent entrants in those lists. The presence of newer advertisers just signifies that advertisers are still seeing value in IPL and are ready to spend big monies. It proves that even the unheard-of brands, new marketers, start-ups and regional smaller brands are having the gumption and tenacity/resolve to make it to the big scale.”

But a lot of media planners and buyers said no geo-targeting is being done on the Hindi and English feeds either.

Continuing to explain his point on how impactful IPL can be, Sagar pointed out an example of quite a known brand, albeit new. He said, “A smaller brand like ‘Too Yumm’ that is running aston bands on the live matches is getting an amazing visibility, which even signing Virat Kohli as the brand ambassador might not have offered.”

Star India has been able to grab advertisers from a wide range of categories with the top five advertisers being Jio, Coca Cola, Vishnu Packaging and Parle Biscuits.

“While all of these are national advertisers, one interesting thing is that a lot of these brands are running specially made regional language TVCs on the four regional feeds of IPL, something that was not possible till last year. The flavour of regional has definitely entered the association of brands and IPL, though Star India could have opened the gates for the new set of advertisers, which is regional players,” said a media planner.

Explaining why possibly the regional brands might not have grabbed the ‘package deal’ that was offered initially, Dinesh Rathore of Madison said, “Why will a regional brand put so much money? Though it’s just few weeks into the tournament and more spot buys will happen in the coming days, the package of all 10 channels and Hotstar was expensive from regional advertising standards. Also, a lot of people were waiting to watch and see the reach and performance of IPL.”

He continued saying, “Star India had not started split feed for sale earlier. Now, because they know the expected trend of the viewership, they are selling the spot-buys as and when there’s an opportunity. Maybe now there would be more regional brands that might be able to strike deals for the regional feeds.”

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