The Indian Premier League trophy (Image courtesy: Twitter/@IPL, BCCI)
The Indian Premier League - the distraction from the distressing reality of life, came to a screeching halt after the Covid-19 virus infiltrated the bio-bubble designed to keep players and staff safe.
So what happens now? Players go home. Via Maldives. Advertisers are probably feeling the same degree of rage as Indiranagar ka gunda. Use words, not bats. Star Sports, the broadcaster, is in a jam. Losses for the world’s richest cricket board, BCCI, could be way north of Rs 2000 crore, according to reports.
Over 18 sponsors and over 100 advertisers threw open their purses in the middle of a pandemic to get their brand on every piece of IPL real estate. Nothing was spared. The result: A traffic jam of ads and logos on players, on the pitch, and on our screens. Commercial breaks were packed with dancing celebrities and cricketers with anger-management issues. And MS Dhoni. Star Sports had increased the rate of ad slots this year from Rs 12 lakh for ten seconds to Rs13 lakh.
Where do the big advertisers go? Nowhere, for now. They wait for the ‘pause’ to end and play again. Besides, there’s no match for the IPL in terms of scale and attraction for advertisers. Even in a bad year. Television viewership of IPL 2021 was down almost 10% from last year, which prompted many advertisers to rework ad deals.
Now, for big advertisers, it’s a game of wait and watch. Keep your eye on the ball and the virus.
The best-laid plans: We spoke to Karan Shroff, chief marketing officer, Unacademy, an associate sponsor which ran a big IPL campaign this year. IPL associate sponsorship comes at a price tag of Rs 120 crore for three years. The one-year old edtech unicorn had also battled other brands for title sponsorship rights in the past. Earlier in 2021, Unacademy brought in cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as its ambassador. Tendulkar is also an investor in the company.
“As a marketer in such uncertain times, it is important to be fluid and nimble so that we have multiple action plans and contingency measures in case of disruptions.” Never put all your eggs in one basket. Buy more baskets. “We always have multiple marketing initiatives that are at play simultaneously, which include our OTT integrations, brand associations and ambush campaigns.”
Marketers like Shroff are waiting for the situation to stabilise. He believes the “break will provide marketers with a unique opportunity to create a second burst when IPL recommences. We generated a certain kind of momentum within the 3-4 week period when the campaign was live and managed to create a substantial impact. Typically, after the initial few weeks, any campaign starts losing momentum and enters into a lean period. So we view this temporary disruption as a break from the trend and expect the second half of the tournament to be high impact from an ad-marketing perspective, whenever IPL recommences.”
But the future of these IPL campaigns depends entirely on how the second wave of a raging pandemic goes.