Among the many sectors that have been impacted by the suspension of the Indian Premier League (IPL) are the online fantasy gaming platforms, which have lost a great marketing opportunity. The stakeholders, however, believe that it is better for them to continue their marketing activities when the situation returns to normal.
“We believe that when the IPL comes back in a much better time, it will give us much more value. The suspension has had a short-term impact on our revenue, but in the long term, we believe it will be good for us. The overall idea of enjoying and watching together with friends will add value. For us, it is better if the IPL happens at a better time,” said Sunil Yadav, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Playerzpot.
“Earlier, when the IPL started, we believed it could give a few hours of happiness in the otherwise gloom that people were facing. But with cases becoming rampant, it is a good decision by the BCCI to prioritise the health of the stakeholders,” he added.
Varun Mahna, Founder and CEO, Dangal Games, also said that it is better to conduct the IPL in better times. “I believe that once the overall ecosystem is better, it will definitely help people to have a better sense of entertainment. So I'm sure that more people will participate once times are better. I'm in absolute favour of the league being suspended right now because there are bigger concerns than entertainment. It should happen when we are in the right condition to deliver a grand cricketing festival. Right now it’s time for the government and the people to focus on the well-being of the people and the society.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior agency leader said on that ethical grounds, these brands should not be spending huge money on marketing right now and instead use it to help people. “Irrespective of whether business wise it is good or bad, on grounds of pure ethics they should not be advertising currently. They can put their marketing money to better use rather than just profits. People are going through a tough time right now. So instead of making a pomp and show of the money that you've made from investors, you should use it to build hospitals or provide oxygen. That would be better for the brand as well,” he said.
Playerzpot had allocated around Rs 15 crore as their marketing spend for IPL, with 60% for performance activities such as user acquisition campaigns and remaining 40% on brand awareness campaigns. During the IPL, Playerzpot focussed on rebranding itself from being only in the fantasy segment to providing an overall gaming experience.
“We were just getting the kind of anticipated traction and were able to capitalise on the spend when the IPL got suspended. So we utilised just 50% of our allocated budget. However, considering the spend and the return on investment through these campaigns, we are actually in a better stage. We chose an integrated digital marketing mix for the current campaign. Since most of the activity was through digital marketing, we were able to adjust our pricing and control our spend. Compared to other companies that took the mainline approach, we were not highly affected,” Yadav said.
Playerzpot proposes to spend the remaining 50% to increase their user retention and allocate it over the year for other ongoing campaigns. “We will focus specifically on the digital medium. Owing to the pandemic, it is very difficult to understand whether we should focus on the mainline media. So we have decided to focus on a digital marketing mix as of now. Maybe when things get a bit better, we will focus more on the mainline,” he said.
Dangal Games launched their fantasy vertical just prior to the IPL. Their plan was to start slowly and progressively increase their spending. They had planned to spend around 7-8% of their marketing budget in the first few weeks, and then increase it to around 40% of their total spend.
“We realised that this was one of the best vehicles for our launch. But unfortunately we never reached the point where we could spend big. The first couple of weeks were just the testing stage where users were giving us feedback. So our expenses in the first two weeks were not too high. In the third week, we spent good money on the digital medium and planned to aggressively spend more after seeing the feedback. But with the IPL postponed, we have not spent since the third week,” Mahna said.
The suspension of the IPL is expected to create a short-term loss of around 20-25% for Playerzpot. “We will be able to recover this loss in the next couple of months. Last year was an eye-opener for us, so we have a backup plan in place. This is a short-term impact because we had anticipated that we will acquire many users during the IPL campaign. However, by the end of the financial results, we'll be able to get the revenues numbers that we have projected for us,” Yadav added.
In just a month’s time, Playerzpot registered nearly a 300% increase in their user base and a 200% growth in revenue compared to the last IPL. “We were close to achieving the last IPL’s number in the first month itself,” he said.
Fantasy Dangal had around 40,000 registrations in the first couple of weeks of their launch. “The growth story has been pretty phenomenal. We were getting very good responses in the first couple of weeks. And we were not being very aggressive with our marketing at that time,” Mahna said.
With no live matches happening, the action on these platforms have also died down. The downloads and user traction have also dwindled.
“As far as fantasy sports is concerned, cricket contributes to more than 90% in India. Fantasy sports happens because there is a live match happening and you put a dream team together. Now if the match itself is not happening, then how can you make that dream team? So with the IPL being suspended, people will not go to fantasy platforms. It is definitely going to affect them very badly,” said the agency leader.
According to an EY 2021 report, fantasy sports grew 24% in 2020 on the back of the IPL season 13. This year, it was expected that the fantasy sports user base would reach 150 million from 100 million.
The agency leader is confident that these platforms can still achieve these targets if the IPL returns later this year. However, he says that no other sporting event can provide the traction that IPL provides. “IPL is a great phenomenon for multiple reasons. It's a shorter game compared to ODIs, so you get your results in three-and-a-half hours. Also it brings all the players together, even your international favourites. And no other major tournament happens during that period. So all these platforms wait the entire year to release their ads during this time. The other events will add an incremental audience, but they will never be able to match the IPL,” he said.
These platforms are looking forward to other sporting events now. Yadav said, “Fortunately, we have other events coming up, like the T20 World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. The remaining IPL matches are also likely to be completed. So taking everything into consideration, we will probably not be able to reach the anticipated numbers this year, but by the closure of the financial year, we should be there.”
Mahna considers the target audience for fantasy sports to be around 800 million. So he believes that increasing the user base from 100 million to 150 million will be a reality in the next six months. “IPL definitely makes this growth happen in a shorter duration but with the postponement of IPL, this number may happen after the India-England series or the Asia Cup. We are also waiting for the IPL to restart. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to offering football, kabaddi and NBA on our platform. It's just a minor setback to the sector,” he said.