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BW Businessworld

IPL 6: The Royal Game Plan

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Rajasthan Royals — tagged the underdogs of IPL the last few seasons — are back with a bang this year. While it is to be seen how the franchise fares under the captaincy of Rahul Dravid this year and whether it manages to recreate the magic of IPL 1, the franchise continues to make news on collaborations, fashion shows or sponsorships. BW Online’s Tanuja Chatterjee speaks to Raghu Iyer, CEO of Rajasthan Royals team, about the team’s business plans for season 6 of IPL.
 
Despite the recession, do you expect to do better business in IPL 6 as compared to earlier seasons?
The good news is that the Indian sporting industry continues to attract eyeballs in India and across the world. There is no doubt that IPL is the most popular and hi-profile event that offers brands a perfect platform to showcase them and reach out to their target audience. While sponsors are coming forward, teams are also going all out and looking for more opportunities to ensure they grow and do well. Though the slowdown does have an impact, the situation is better than what it was a few seasons ago and we are hopeful of doing well this year.
 
Could you share your marketing and advertising strategies for IPL 6?
As a team, Rajasthan Royals is known for some of the most path breaking strategies surrounding the IPL. We aim to conduct activities which ensure personal engagement with fans, and it is this fan-connect that has helped us tremendously over the years.
 
We continue to have top-notch brands as sponsors like Ultratech, Tata Consultancy Services, Gilpin Travel, Garnier, Valvoline, Supertech, Nissan among others. In addition to this, we have signed on Provogue, as the official fan wear partner with Shilpa Shetty Kundra designing an all-new line of exciting Royals’ merchandise.
 
We offer innovative merchandising to fans via a website called myheroes.co.in. At the grassroot levels we have associations with KOOH sports who have the license to develop cricket coaching centres in various schools and cities. Last year, we organized a talent hunt called ‘Cricket Star Rajasthan’ to unearth local talent. In fact, we have awarded an IPL contract to the winner of the last season; he will be playing for the Royals’ this year.
 
In the social media space we have various promotions, contests, and player trivia to keep our fans engaged. We are also launching an exclusive Royals’ You tube channel, where fans will have access to inside stories, locker room stories and many more such innovative and interesting content. In addition to this we will soon have various on-ground activities, like mall activations, autograph sessions etc.

How profitable has IPL proved to be for Rajasthan Royals? Are you coming up with any new monetisation plan for IPL 6?
We have always aimed at efficiently managing our team with concentrated efforts to ensure maximum value for all stakeholders and efficient utilisation of funds. The balance between able player management and sponsor benefits must be maintained, at any point the latter should not affect the former, or vice versa.
 
Last year, the Rajasthan Royals brand was valued at $130 billion. What is it this year? How do you plan to make the Rajasthan Royals brand grow?
 
I am uncertain about the exact figure but we’ve clearly matured as a franchisee, and grown from the $67 million figure in 2008. Our one and only product is the cricket we play and we plan to play high quality cricket in the seasons to come. I believe that if a team plays well, areas such as brand value etc. take care of themselves.
 
What are the main revenue channels that you would be focusing on? What is the main stream of branding for your team?
We focus on three main avenues for revenue collection - Sponsorships, ticket sales and merchandising.
 
In terms of sponsorship, we have been very fortunate to have multi-national brands supporting us over the years like Ultratech Cement, TCS, Valvoline, Supertech among others. In addition there are newer brands looking to enter the market which add to the brand value. We also focus on establishing association with local and smaller brands in Rajasthan. Gate sales and ticket revenues are also an important aspect. To ensure we have fans coming out to cheer the team we try to enhance the viewing experience each year.
 
Our merchandising business is an area of focus and we continue to do well in Rajasthan and across India. Fans buy products ranging from apparel, souvenirs and autographed memorabilia to cricket gear. This year we have launched exclusive fan wear collection in association with Provogue, one of India’s leading apparel brand. The collection has been designed by Shilpa Shetty Kundra, and we are hoping this development will surely excite our fans and further boost our merchandise sales.
 
Gate collections have always been the frontrunner revenue generator for a team. How have you distributed the price structure for every level of audience?
We’ve started selling match tickets on the internet, at box offices, through retail outlets, and have established a strong ticket distribution network in most major cities in Rajasthan. We haven’t increased the basic ticket prices. The tickets are priced beginning Rs 200 and go on to Rs 15,000 with 5-star buffet and hospitality services. Exclusive hospitality tickets are also available with a better viewing experience. We’re reaching out to fans in the best possible way to ensure enthusiasts get a chance to catch the action live.
 
How many advertising plots have you assigned for your team uniforms? Could you also name them?
We have quite grown as a team when it comes to gaining sponsorships. Sponsors on our jersey would be - Ultratech Cement, Supertech, Kent RO, Nissan, TCS ,Valvoline and Rupa.
 
What are the expectations from your team this year? Have you also implied any changes in the game plan?
Ours is a team made up of experienced cricketers and exciting young talent. We are confident that the two will come together and do very well. We might not have the biggest names, but we have one of the most balanced line-up. The level of competition is high but we hope to beat that and come out victorious.
 
As HDFC Life has ended their association with your team, how has that affected your team’s functioning?
We’ve enjoyed a rewarding partnership with HDFC Life. At every opportunity that comes our way, we try to deliver maximum value to our sponsors. We continue to attract the interest of leading brands that come back to us year after year.
 
How has the recent political unrest over Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu affected your team?
Cricket is a sport that conquers boundaries. Though developments such as this are unfortunate, we are hoping for the best.