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Ed-tech & Esports Bet Big On Ipl 2020 Sponsorship

The rise of digital-first companies as big sponsors in this IPL season has also to do with the ongoing market sentiment, where digital-first is also the approach adopted by consumers across categories.

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The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) is all set to kick off from 19 Sep­tember 2020 in the UAE. In the wake of the pandemic, IPL is unprecedented for many reasons this year -- from a game without spectators to a 50 per cent dip in sponsorship revenues and the missing home ground. 

The crisis for this IPL season started when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that it will part ways with its long-term title sponsor VIVO, owing to the boycott China calls amid the growing hostility between the two countries.

With VIVO, which used to spend a whopping Rs 440 crore annually on the game, out of the league, the BCCI has roped in a fantasy sports platform Dream11 as its title sponsor for one year for Rs 222 crore.

The bidding for IPL 2020 title sponsor­ship was a contest among three brands — Dream11 (Rs 222 crore), Byju’s (Rs 201 crore) and UNACADEMY (Rs 170 crore). The surprise element was Tata Sons seen as the frontline bidder by many till the end, choosing not to bid at all.

Rise of Ed-tech & Esports

The flavour of the IPL season this year are the digital-first players, especially edtech and esports platforms that are betting on the game to work its magic on them. From Dream11 to Byju’s to Unacademy, digital-first companies have collectively pumped in over Rs 400 crore in sponsorships so far.

“Over the period of 10-12 years of IPL, it has been like that. Lead categories have been varying over the years. It used to be telecom, auto, finance, e-commerce, and now, ed-tech, gaming etc. IPL provides the best opportunity for brands to build rapid awareness and massive reach over a concentrated period and based on the life stage of brands they see significant value in IPL. It helps them with scale and imagery, which is what they may be after”, explained Sundar Raman, Sports Advisor & Consult­ ant, Formerly CEO Sports - Reliance, COO IPL and MD MindShare.

The rise of digital-first companies as big sponsors in this IPL season has also to do with the ongoing market sentiment, where digital-first is also the approach adopted by consumers across categories.

According to Charu Sharma, Director, Mashal Sports and popular sports Com­mentator, in the digital universe, there are billions of items float­ing around desperately seeking attention and the new age digital businesses are the ones which are receiving mountains of funding at this time.

“They are doomed if they can’t break out of the clut­ter, which is why the digital enterprises are turning out to be big advertisers. And the high potential visibility and atten­tion received by IPL, as well as the high-cost barrier, makes it an ideal playground for the well-funded digital enterprises.”

Speaking about how legacy brands have lost to digital-first players in this IPL season, Sharma added: “Legacy brands, as well as other regular consumer brands, who were the usual suspects on TV during the IPL, are struggling to cope with the terrible eco­nomic tsunami caused by the Covid-19. Perhaps, high-cost advertising does not fit into their recovery strategies. Add to this, the pullback by major Chinese telecom brands. Also remem­ber, legacy brands belong to companies that depend on long-term strategies and budget decisions are taken well in advance. The long delay in confirming IPL dates may not have suited them.”

Made for TV

Over the last 5-plus months, there has been a total ban on sporting events of all kinds. In fact people have exhausted their options in terms of content to watch on both TV and OTT platforms, and they are all looking for new content and IPL 2020 holds that promise.

With IPL 2020 finally taking place de­spite the ongoing pandemic, experts feel this pent up viewership is going to work in favour of the league and is expected to be 25 per cent higher than the last season. 

The sentiment is already visible if we look at the ad spot rates. Star India, the official broadcaster of IPL, has hiked the ad rates by 20-25 per cent. The ad rates for the 13th IPL would come for anything between Rs 12 lakh/10 seconds and Rs 12.5 lakh/10 seconds.

Star India has also hiked ad rates for the tournament on Disney+Hotstar from 120 CPM for a 10-second spot to now 180-200 CPM. Sources with knowledge of the matter reveal that Star is offering packages ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 5 crore.

According to reliable sources, the broadcaster is quite upbeat about IPL revenues and expects a “completely sold-out season”. It must be mentioned that in 2019, the broadcaster is said to have earned about Rs 2,200 crore in advertising revenue.

Franchise Sponsorships

For the eight franchises, this IPL 2020 is going to be etched in the memory for a long time. And not for its pleasant memo­ries. The overall dip in sponsorship revenue and now a 20-30 per cent expected dip in franchise revenues has added another concern to IPL team owners. 

Despite the challenges, team fran­chises have been negotiating sponsor­ship values and have managed to rope in some top brands.

Since on-ground and on-air sponsor­ship of IPL have steep price points, fran­chise sponsorships have always played a critical role as it allows relatively smaller brands with lower budgets get a taste of the marketing power of this league, which undoubtedly is uncontested.