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In-depth: Has IPL become an overcrowded Kumbh for brands? 

Brands are willing to shell out any amount to be visible during IPL matches. But does the high cost justify the cluttered visibility for brands? BestMediaInfo.com explores 

Brands say they are paying anything between 30% and 40% more to advertise during Indian Premier League (IPL) matches now compared to the 2019 season of the cricketing extravaganza.

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Almost every big brand is advertising during IPL either through direct association or through the team sponsor route. Given the names of brands, do the cluttered visibility and below par creatives deliver a strong ROI for them? Some brands believe that the tournament does what other properties do not.

Explaining the sponsorships deals, Deba Ghoshal, Vice-President and Head of Marketing, Voltas, said that while brand associations come in different formats, the ones that are big are advertisements during television telecast, digital presence on online telecast formats, team sponsorships, social media engagements and on-ground sponsorships.

“With the on-going pandemic, activation opportunities are limited for a ground sponsor. However, the perimeter branding, which is an entitlement of a ground sponsor, gets wide coverage. In addition, there are certain related properties like the IPL fan-park which we feel hold a future potential,” he said.

The sponsorship rates for associate sponsorship for telecast as well as for on-ground partnership are more or less the same, he said. This is followed by team sponsorships.

“Our assessment of the opportunities is that on-ground sponsorship works as a reminder whereas telecast sponsorship helps to launch campaigns and ideas,” he said.

An ITW Consulting (the agency behind the association of Bodycare Creations with Punjab Kings as its official partner) spokesperson said that associations can happen at the league or franchise levels. The league has its own title sponsor as well as official partners, which are central deals.

The other types are franchise-level deals where a brand signs up with a franchise or multiple franchises and could involve being a title or associate sponsor or a particular designated partner for a specific category. At the franchise level, a sponsor slot like on the front of the shirt is the most expensive but there are usually slots available for practically every budget. They can go from Rs 50-75 lakh a season to Rs 20-25 crore per season depending on the team and slot.

While the IPL ecosystem’s value decreased by 3.6% to Rs 45,800 crore in 2020 from Rs 47,500 crore in 2019, this year it is expected to grow on the back of increased viewership and ad revenues.

But given that there are innumerable brands that associate with teams’ accessories, what kind of visibility do they get and how do the rates differ here?

The ITW spokesperson said that naturally the rates vary depending on the slot. A presence on the front of the jersey is different from one on the non-leading trouser leg in terms of visibility. It’s a common misconception that the sponsor slots appear to be clouded (because of too many brands on the jersey) to assume that recall of the brands would be very low.

“However, often associations are backed by activations (like player events, customised content, focused campaigns) linked to that association to make a deeper connection. Those efforts end up making the association effective in terms of what the brand wants out of it as an outcome. Recall is usually a small part of the overall picture. A sponsorship association provides a springboard and brands have to make the jump,” he said.

Abhishek Madhavan, SVP, Growth and Marketing, MPL, (the platform renewed its partnership with KKR and RCB for a period of two years) said that being on the front of the KKR jersey does give the brand a lot of visibility and salience, given how during the last IPL the number of its daily app installs increased by 100% compared to pre-IPL times.

Brands have used IPL to their advantage and made incremental gains through consistent partnerships—whether being on the front or back of the jersey or on helmets or bats.

However, if one treats the IPL as a billboard, the brand is missing the opportunity completely, said Ghoshal.
“Whenever we have used the tournament, we have used it to launch something new and fresh, and we use it to create a story around our brand. The moment you treat the IPL as a static opportunity for a billboard, or just a passive logo on somebody’s chest, it may not work for you. You will get lost in a clutter of brands, either on the attire, or in the stadium. However, brands should build a unique opportunity for engaging with consumers directly, both on-ground and off-ground, and make it more engaging,” he said.

Mark Titus, Director Marketing, Nippon Paint India, said standard rates are applicable based on the deliverables offered. The brand is the associate sponsor and the official paint partner of two teams —Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Its logo is present in the non-leading arm of the jersey of players for CSK and behind the helmet/cap for RCB.

“The sponsorship rates differ based on the partnership asset we take, the placement, the size and the estimated visibility of the particular asset that is taken. For instance, the centre chest of the jersey goes for the main sponsor and the sponsorship rate would be the highest. Regarding the recall value for audiences, we don’t believe it is misspending as we can target specific target audiences with regional focus,” he said.

For instance, CSK is extremely close to the people of Tamil Nadu who are very passionate about sports, especially cricket. The brand has associated with CSK for the fourth time this year, and has become an integral part of brand CSK over the years. He believes it is not just about the ratings that are generated during the IPL, but whatever is carried forward over and beyond.

Have rates changed for this year?

IPL is like a staple diet for cricket fans in India and they need it every summer. However, it’s getting expensive for many marketers as the rates have been increasing year-on-year for every type of sponsorship opportunity.

According to Ghoshal, the telecast sponsorship rates have gone up by almost 35% between 2019 and 2021, which makes it difficult for many brands to consider. However, IPL has been a consistent property throughout many years, and it is only going to build up in terms of reach, innovation and engagement. This gives marketers the confidence to invest in it to receive the kind of viewership they are seeking, even during these unprecedented times.

The sponsorship rates are linked with the viewership of the property (IPL). The viewership rates are soaring with each season and even in 2020, it increased significantly. Keeping this in mind, the sponsorship rates are also bound to increase.

However, Titus said that in case of multi-year partnership deals, the rates are already locked in for the period.

Nitin Khanna, Director Brand Marketing at Acko, said on an average he has seen an approx. 8-10% increase in rates for this year.

This year, the pent-up demand and the return of the IPL to India made these slots sell out faster than usual and at rates that are anywhere between 20-40% higher on an average as compared to the last season, said the ITW spokesperson.

Gaurav Bhola, GM, Sales and Marketing, Studds Accessories, which is associated with Rajasthan Royals, said there is a lot more interest from mini-brands in terms of partnering with IPL teams. He said last year, a lot of brands had cut down their media budgets and there was a 50% drop in terms of sponsorship rate, but this year it has reached somewhere near the pre-Covid levels.

Considering the viewership of IPL, along with the fact that the property cuts across multiple consumer segments, brands leverage the tournament to the maximum extent possible.

But what works better for a brand?

Television and digital certainly work for well-established brands that need to create new stories every year, said Ghoshal. For new launches, both on-ground and television work together, providing opportunities to create an impact.

“When Voltas started with IPL, we were a very small player, and our investments in IPL were very humble and modest. However, brands should not get intimidated by big sponsors. Every brand today has an opportunity to do something unique and relevant for its audience, even if it’s a small investment in spot buys or whether it’s an opportunity to showcase your products in the stadium, or whether it’s an opportunity to carry your channel partners with you. Hence, marketers should focus on creating the right story, and the right fit for the brand, while leveraging the property. Any national brand, especially in the leadership space, needs scale; and IPL gives you that scale,” he suggested.

According to Khanna, in an ideal scenario, a combination of all three works well in unison. However, there obviously is no one-size-fits-all solution.

For a smaller brand with a limited budget, a digital association may help get more bang for their buck, target more specifically and address their objectives better than TV or a high-profile team sponsorship slot. Established brands with bigger marketing budgets tend to favour TV and team associations (sometimes associating with multiple teams at once) to take their message and brand out to the audience at scale, said the ITW spokesperson.

Even Titus believes that for a well-established brand, a mix of TV and digital associations would work better depending on their campaign objectives and budgets. For new entrants, high-impact sponsorships work well as they help in creating quick visibility and rapid awareness in a short period of time. Conventional media and digital associations are also important for new entrants.

Although, he advised brands to analyse the property they are associating with and make sure it is a brand fit. If it isn’t, the sponsorship might not result in good traction.


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