On-ground IPL sponsorship consistently growing by 15%-20%: GroupM's Vinit Karnik

In an interview with, Karnik highlighted that when considering sports consumption on TV versus digital, it's crucial not to favour one over the other for advertisers deciding where to allocate resources for cricket. Instead, the decision should be based on your product category and target audience

Sakshi Sharma
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On-ground IPL sponsorship consistently growing by 15%-20%: GroupM's Vinit Karnik

Vinit Karnik

When discussing the rise of sports sponsorship in India, Vinit Karnik, Head of Sports, Esports, and Entertainment at GroupM South Asia, pointed out that there has been steady growth, around 15% to 20%, in on-ground sponsorship for the Indian Premier League (IPL) and this underscores cricket's dominant position in sponsorship deals in India.

He believes that cricket attracts significant sponsorships due to its large audience, which directly influences the sponsorship potential of the sport.

While explaining GroupM’s ‘This Year Next Year’ report’s contribution to the industry’s understanding and adaptation to evolving trends, Karnik explained, “TYNY is one of our initiatives where we bring together various focal points. We discussed 12 trends that provide valuable insights from a marketing perspective for the current year. These trends cover attention span, e-commerce, content and AI in sports, all of which are significant in the global landscape and are likely to impact India this year.”

“It's crucial for the industry and ecosystem to understand GroupM's perspective on advertising and marketing. Hence, we aim to encompass various aspects of our business in advertising and marketing within these trends,” he added.

Furthermore, he emphasised that when we talk about sports consumption on TV versus digital, the key is not to take sides when it comes to advertisers’ choice to allocate resources between the two mediums in terms of cricket.

“The key is understanding your target audience and how you want to connect with them. Whether it's TV or digital, both have their merits. Reports show that TV is still on the rise but the choice between the two depends on your product category and who you are trying to reach. That's what determines which medium is the best fit for your message,” he said.

While speaking about the growth of sports sponsorship in India, Karnik highlighted that we all have noticed the IPL title sponsorship cost increasing from Rs 440 crore to Rs 500 crore, indicating significant momentum from the title sponsor.

“Additionally, there has been consistent growth, approximately 15% to 20%, in on-ground sponsorship, which is owned, controlled and sold by the BCCI for all aspects of the event,” Karnik added.

He said that in the previous year, cricket accounted for 87% of the overall sporting sponsorship while emerging sports made up the remaining 13%. This ratio highlights the dominance of cricket in sponsorship deals. It will be interesting to observe how this trend evolves in 2024.

While cricket dominates the sports landscape, claiming the largest share of the pie, Karnik envisions football securing the second position. 

“Right now, Kabaddi stands as the second most popular sport in Idia, being a homegrown favourite. However, when considering potential, football holds my preference due to its global appeal and simplicity. I notice that the younger generation, particularly Gen Z, is increasingly involved in football, whether by playing or following it. Therefore, if I had to choose between the two, I would opt for football,” he said.

He also mentioned, “Today, the platform doesn't matter much. We have seen countless examples where it's the content that attracts the audience, not the platform itself. People follow what they enjoy, regardless of where it's available. So, whether it's cricket or any other content, it will draw viewers no matter where it's hosted.”

On being asked how he sees marketers’ interest in gaming, live streaming and esports growing, Karnik explained that today, there's an abundance of streaming available 24/7 on platforms like YouTube and Twitch 24/7, attracting large audiences. Gaming tournaments are now prevalent on platforms like Disney, Sony and Jio. This surge in gaming content is met with a significant demand from audiences.

“However, a notable challenge persists: The parental concern over balancing gaming and studying. Nevertheless, the younger generation demonstrates adeptness in managing these priorities, leading to the rise of gaming superstars and influencers. Gaming content flourishes on platforms like YouTube, specifically tailored for such content, indicating its success in the current landscape,” Karnik said.

Esports in India is poised for full-scale development, which hasn't fully materialised yet. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the progression of the gaming industry significantly, he added.

Furthermore, he went on to say, “Presently, there's a considerable audience base and numerous players actively engaged in gaming. I believe that the next significant phase of expansion will be driven by esports.”

While taking the sports route, Karnik discussed the kind of mistakes advertisers make.

“One aspect we admire in developed sports markets is their early investment by advertisers or marketers. Their strategy is to engage with sports at a young age and nurture growth from there. This bottom-up approach contrasts with the safer, cricket-centric approach often seen in India. Shifting towards investing in emerging sports is a journey we should embark on,” he added.

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