The last two years with two strong Covid waves left the economy destabilised, affecting major businesses including the hospitality and the event industry which took the maximum hit. Stadium audiences were not allowed in India for one of the major cricket tournaments in India, The Indian Premier League (IPL).
Brands across segments wait for the IPL season every year to acquire more audience and increase their visibility. The brands as well as their media and creative agencies have already started working on IPL, which is arguably the most impactful property in India for brand building and driving sales.
“The question should not be are advertisers geared up for the season, the question should be, do the advertisers really have the muscle to spend on advertising? This is the 15th season of the IPL and every brand is interested to do something around it,” a media agency head told BestMediaInfo.com.
India’s two leading agencies GroupM and Mediabrands India buy more than 90% of IPL inventories for their clients.
Brands are gearing up for ad campaigns during this season, Bobby Pawar, Chairman and CCO, Havas Group, said, “Cricket is a passion in India and for brands, it is the perfect time to reach the majority of people with ad campaigns and engagements over digital platforms, such as social media, and even the web. People can leverage IPL and cricket fever in so many different ways in terms of moment marketing. They can play off those formats, create campaigns that really rewards the audience.”
Since the third Covid wave is not being considered as strong as the previous two, brands are preparing full-fledged ad campaigns to run over the IPL season. Mukund Olety, CCO, VMLY&R, said, “This season, I feel there will be a stronger integration of mediums and brands will lean a bit more on technology to tell newer kinds of stories. Studios are open, shoots are happening but of course, there are some limitations in terms of the number of crew members and safety protocols that we are adhering to. Some of the celebrities are still a bit wary and we have had to push the dates and campaign timelines.”
Social media strategy and ad campaigns on digital platforms are an add-on when it comes to advertising during the IPL season. Ad spending on TV is expensive compared to the digital medium. A media agency head said, “TV has an audience reach of 405 million and it reaches around 250-300 million audiences via OTT. Both the types of audiences are different and subsequently, the ad rates differ for both the mediums. TV is expensive compared to the OTT platforms, or social media. If a brand has the capacity and wants to reach the masses then TV is the option but if they have fewer resources then they can use digital media, OTT to reach the younger audience.”
“Cross-promotion over different medium is possible due to the advancement of technology and creative marketing strategies, brands can integrate various platforms and make unique marketing strategies,” Swati Sinha - Senior Marketing Manager, Factoreal, said.
BCCI has not confirmed yet whether they will be allowing an on-ground audience this season or not but speculations have been made by experts that there will be around 25-50% audience present in the stadium.
Rajeesh Rajagopalan, National Business Head, Grapes, said, “We are still not clear if the IPL will be held in a bio bubble or fans will be allowed in the stadium. We have to wait and watch. If that happens then the opportunity for brands to do campaigns are limited on the ground. If the stadiums have a full house, there will be great opportunities for brands to do promotions and experiment with on-ground events. IPL has always been the best opportunity for mass brands to create awareness and build affinity, be it online, TV or on-ground brands will go all guns blazing to get their share of voice.”
On the other hand, the agency head quoted above said, “More than 90% of advertisers advertise on air. There is not much effect drawn from the presence of the audience on the ground. Although it helps the franchises to connect to their consumers, that connection is lost amid the pandemic.”
Factoreal’s Sinha said, “With an on-ground presence of an audience, brands can plan to provide services on the stadiums. During the match, there is always a clutter of snacks and beverages, delivery apps, food brands can make it easier for the audience to have a great experience without leaving their seats and missing the game.”
While there are doubts over the allowing of the audience, a few brands came up with innovations to provide a wholesome experience while being at the comfort of homes.
“The lockdown and the constraints threw up some amazing innovations. Courtside by Michelob Ultra is a great example. Powered by Microsoft’s AI-driven Together Mode and 17-foot LED ring, the experience digitally transported fans into the NBA Bubble, from the comfort and safety of home. The experience boasted millisecond data transfers, a never-before-seen rail cam and 120 spatial contact microphones, which redefined the live watching experience. We can expect more such innovations. They won’t be restricted to just on-ground but would definitely have an online component to it,” Olety added.