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Storyboard18 | Tata Group’s IPL masterstroke?

Tata Group is all set to replace Chinese mobile manufacturer Vivo as the Indian Premier League’s title sponsor in the 2022 season. We find out what’s in it for Tata and the full story behind Vivo’s exit.

January 12, 2022 / 11:48 AM IST
IPL: Vivo had a deal worth Rs. 2,200 crore for title sponsorship rights from 2018-2022. (Image credit: Photo tweeted by @IPL)

IPL: Vivo had a deal worth Rs. 2,200 crore for title sponsorship rights from 2018-2022. (Image credit: Photo tweeted by @IPL)

One of India’s largest business houses, the Tata Group, is all set to replace Chinese mobile manufacturer Vivo as the title sponsor of the Indian Premier League (IPL) starting this year. The event’s governing council decided in a meeting this week.

In fact, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah said that this was a momentous occasion for the IPL as the Tata Group is the epitome of global Indian enterprise with an over 100-year legacy and operations in more than 100 countries across six continents.

“The BCCI, like the Tata Group, is keen to promote the spirit of cricket across international borders, and the growing popularity of the IPL as a global sporting franchise bears testimony to the BCCI’s efforts,” Shah said.

What encouraged an established legacy Indian conglomerate to take up the title of one of the most expensive properties in the country, and that too at a time like this, with the pandemic wreaking havoc on events? And what finally led to Vivo India’s departure from the IPL?

Also read: 'Tata bye bye, Vivo,' says Twitter as Tata Group becomes new IPL sponsor

Big spends, limited returns?

“Most important is the financial aspect of it," a person familiar with the matter and the company told Storyboard18 on the condition of anonymity.

Vivo had a rollercoaster ride with the IPL. The company had a deal of approximately Rs2,200 crore for title sponsorship rights from 2018-22, committing to pay around Rs440 crores annually, apart from the spends on advertising, marketing, new launches, etc., around each season of IPL.

“Nearly 2x of it was spent on media. That is a huge amount,” said the executive.

The last two seasons of IPL didn’t really work well for Vivo India. First in 2020, with the Galwan Valley military face-off between the Indian and Chinese Army soldiers, the brand took a break for a year after a nationwide backlash. At that time, Dream11 took over as a title sponsor. Then, the 2021 season of IPL in which Vivo returned as a title sponsor had to be suspended due to the second wave of Covid-19. “With people staying at home, no live events, dependence on only TV and digital viewership, no merchandising, etc., made Vivo take this decision,” the executive said.

Another source close to the brand confirmed that Vivo had been looking for a partner to work out an exit route over the last six months but wasn't able to find a replacement. BCCI was fine with Vivo quitting as long as they got a suitable replacement. According to reports, the BCCI helped both Vivo and Tatas come to an agreement and seal the deal.

The financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed.

Tata Group’s interest in sports

Tata Group in general is not new to sporting sponsorships. Tata Group companies have been constantly associating themselves with sports such as running, wrestling, racing and much more. Over the years, we have seen TCS bagging title sponsorship rights for many global marathons including New York, Amsterdam and more recently London Marathon.

Late last year, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) inked a deal with British racing team, Jaguar Racing, to be the title partner for the upcoming 2021/22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Now, the team will be known as Jaguar TCS Racing. Both these events offer TCS with an opportunity to display their technological prowess.

On the other hand, Tata Motors has been associated with sports such as wrestling, Pro Kabaddi, e-sports and much more. Tata Group has also been previously involved with the IPL through Tata Motors and TCS, which had partnerships with the league itself and the Rajasthan Royals franchise, respectively. In 2020, Tata Group had even shown interest in coming on board as IPL title sponsors but eventually didn’t make it to the bidding table.

Now the question is which of the group companies will be fronting the sponsorship?

Tata Group spokesperson said that more information will be disclosed in the coming days as they are still working on a few details.

But an internal source told Storyboard18 that Tata Group doesn’t go alone into these sponsorship deals. “This one in particular could most probably be partnered with Tata Motors,” he told us. Tata Motors generally has a lot of action around the IPL. They have new launches lined up, so they definitely have some action there. “Also, you can’t have the same group companies with different sponsorships across the board for the same event.”

How will brand Tata stand to benefit?

The industry is lauding this move by the Tata Group.

A media buyer who spoke on the condition of anonymity felt that the investment in a popular sports league looks like an attempt to make Tata Group more relevant and appealing to a younger consumer base.
He said, “While the title sponsorship is bound to give the group solid visibility, it would be interesting to see how much the company invests in on-air and digital advertising given the league might face challenges in terms of hosting in-stadia matches with audiences owing to the ongoing pandemic.”

An executive from a popular sports management agency said, “Being the title sponsor of IPL is in line with all their recent initiatives of image transformation. Just like the super app, being the title sponsor of IPL will give Tatas an opportunity to be a part of something that is cool, modern and trending.” He adds that the narrative that they are perhaps attempting to push is their “openness to experiment and be a part of new generation projects and ideas. In India, there is no better vehicle than cricket to get a communication across. IPL is still the biggest cricket property in India and the Tatas will use it to the fullest to grab eyeballs.”

Ramsai Panchpakesan, senior VP and national lead, integrated media buying, Zenith, told us, “Tata Group is perceived as one of the most trustworthy homegrown organizations in the country and this announcement is like a celebration for consumers. They now have their favourite cricket property being backed by their favourite company.”

He also thinks that it is the need of the hour for Tatas. “Every organization comes out with some sort of rebranding communication or re-positioning communications at regular intervals to announce their future plans. IPL is a perfect fit for Tatas to do so. Since their offerings are widespread they needed a platform that reaches every segment of the society and every corner of the geography. This is a perfect marriage of IPL’s reach and Tata’s ethos.”

IPL is all set to be a 10-team tournament in 2022 and now with a new title sponsor on board, there is a lot to look forward to.

(With inputs from Saumya Tewari)

Shibani Gharat
Tasmayee Laha Roy is Assistant Editor of Storyboard18. Storyboard18 is Network18's flagship platform focused on the advertising & marketing community and a leading source of news and analyses on the business of brands.