The IPL brand-wagon

In its eleventh year, the star-studded affair has seen packed stadiums and some nerve-wracking contest, but then, as far as the brand is concerned, has the IPL been able to grow?

Fans of Chennai Super Kings cheer during an IPL match. “When it came in, the IPL was more about the masala. It grabbed eyeballs because it masala was more than cricket, but over the years, that has stabled," Santosh Desai, the MD and CEO at Futurebrands, is of the opinion that at the moment the league has stabled into a particular form.   -  K.V.S. Giri

Santosh Desai feels a few years from now, the Indian Premier League (IPL) could be like an ‘ageing rockstar’.

Piyush Pandey, the seasoned ad guru, believes the star-studded league is ‘rocking’ and will remain so.

Harish Bijoor, the brand expert, is worried about the future of the tournament.

It’s not too often that the leading brand gurus of the country share different thoughts on a particular event.

But trust the IPL for dividing the house.

In its eleventh year, the star-studded affair has seen packed stadiums and some nerve-wracking contest, but then, as far as the brand is concerned, has the IPL been able to grow?

Pandey, the executive chairman and creative director of Ogilvy South Asia, feels that the brand has only grown over the years. “It is a fantastic brand that India has made, and a brand that everyone is participating in,” Pandey tells Sportstar.

“It is a strong brand. If you look at the matches, you see, even innerwear brands are advertising. It was supposed to be for bigger brands, but now the entire reach has democratised the brand. Look at the kind of people who are advertising. They are not stupid, so they are investing here because of the value,” Pandey points out.

Read: Chennai Super Kings leads the television battle

However, Desai, the MD and CEO at Futurebrands, is of the opinion that at the moment the league has stabled into a particular form. “When it came in, the IPL was more about the masala. It grabbed eyeballs because it masala was more than cricket, but over the years, that has stabled. For whatever reasons, the masala has now made way for serious cricket. The sports league across the world does not sustain on masala,” he says.

But he also indicates that in the longer run, there is a possibility of stagnation. “Maybe in the long run, IPL will be like that ageing rockstar, which will go on, but in the predictable lines,” Desai says, adding: “If you only create razzmatazz with the overall format remaining the same, then that could be a bit of stagnation. This could also happen if you keep pricing it heavily, and the format remains the same,” Desai explains.

Bijoor, who heads Harish Bijoor Inc, talks in the lines of Desai but admits that he is worried about the tournament’s future. “I am not in praise of IPL as a brand property altogether. IPL is a matter of worry when it comes to the overall branding this season. Viewership, on-ground activation is a matter of worry. The fact that next IPL may not happen in India due to general elections is another worrisome factor,” Bijoor points out.

Also read: Chennai Super Kings, the face of sub-nationalism branding

Star India, the official broadcaster, got the IPL media rights for the next five years, at a whopping price of Rs 16,347.50 crore, and Bijoor feels that the investment has been very deep. “The investments and the broadcasting rights of the IPL matches have been very deep, of some Rs 15,000-plus crore. That investment needs to match the viewership growth the tournament is meant to have. We need to track it carefully,” Bijoor says, adding: “The IPL management needs to invest heavily in micro-branding and that is missing at this point in time.”

Pandey, however, has a different take on this. The seasoned ad guru believes that with Star airing the tournament in various regional languages, the stakes have gone up. “The language coverage, through Star, will help it immensely. Stagnation is the last word that comes to my mind,” Pandey says, pointing out that today, even smaller brands are investing on the IPL, because of its value.

Fans enjoy an IPL match in a Fan Park.   -  KOMMURI SRINIVAS

 

Even the latest television figures suggest that overall viewership of the tournament across all platforms TV (in-home and out-of-home) and digital in urban Audiences up to week four has been 40 percent higher than the comparable number of matches last year. Within this, TV urban viewership is 492 million impressions (+25 percent growth versus year ago) and digital impressions are at 79 million impressions.

The tournament has reached 518 million across screens across India so far (Total Audience Reach estimated by BARC for the week 15-18 for the first 34 matches across Star network channels in U+R 2+, Out of home TV IPL bouquet (Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru) and Hotstar data analytics).

To ensure that the fans living in the smaller cities and towns too feel included in the IPL frenzy, the Fan Parks have been organised in most of the small towns, and the footfall has been quite trend-setting.

But even then, Bijoor believes, that is inadequate.

 “I know all the 11 things they are doing, and I do believe, these 11 things are inadequate. For a tournament the size of IPL, the value of IPL, and for a tournament that harvests sub-nationalism from so many years, the IPL needs to be branded better. The format itself needs to change,” Bijoor says, coming up with an idea. “After 10 years, we must re-jig the format. The teams must include one women player if not two to make the league more happening. That’s a must,” the seasoned branding expert points out.

Eleven years ago, when the IPL started, it was touted as the ‘Manoranjan ka baap’ (Father of entertainment). But seasons later, the current jingle of the league says it all — ‘Yeh khel hai sher jawano ka’! (It’s a game of young tigers).