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IPL 2021: Why marketers have reasons to cheer

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Advertisers are upbeat about reports that BCCI may allow 50 per cent crowd attendance for this season as this will let them participate with more touchpoints

With IPL 2021 set to commence in a few months and with reports that BCCI is likely to allow 50 per cent crowd attendance for matches, there is visible cheer among the franchise stakeholders. This move can also bring back the fan frenzy that has been missing for almost a year now and allow brands to participate with more touchpoints.

As per reports, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is keen to allow spectators back in the stadium for the upcoming T20 series between India and England. This will be the first time since Covid-19 impacted live sports that such a step is being considered.

Speaking to ANI recently, a BCCI official reportedly said, “We are trying to open the stadium for fans to witness what awaits to be a thrilling T20 series between India and England. While we are yet to decide on the numbers, the idea is to get close to 50 per cent of the seats filled. But the final decision lies with the government. Safety is a priority even as we adapt to the new normal.”

If this move becomes reality, the way marketers handled their strategy for IPL 2020 could also be turned on its head.

It must be mentioned that in the absence of spectators during IPL 2020, brands had to rely largely on TV and digital campaigns with very limited ground activations and many touchpoints that brands amplify during IPL traditionally were lost. However, if spectators are allowed again, marketers have reasons to cheer.

According to Ashish Bhasin, CEO APAC and Chairman India, Dentsu Aegis Network, this development is “good news”.

“In India, cricket is evergreen and always works. There is definitely more excitement in bringing in spectators. I don’t think it will change marketers’ strategy, it just makes it more attractive and more effective. So it’s good news. Of course, this has to be in tune with the social distancing norms and other protocols. It augurs well, and cricket, which is evergreen, will continue to do better with this,” said Bhasin.

Now all hopes are pinned on the upcoming India vs England series in March, which could herald the possibilities that brands are so looking forward to. In all likelihood, it will be Ahmedabad, which can hold over one-lakh spectators, where spacing of seats to maintain social distancing will not be an issue and this proposal can be put to test.

Naveen Kundu MD, EbixCash, a major partner of five IPL teams, says with this move, brands will see a new opportunity to bounce back.

According to Kundu, the country is managing Covid well and with new cases falling drastically as well as the starting of the vaccination drive, there is strong hope that spectators could return to stadiums this year.

“With BCCI  considering allowing 50 per cent stadium capacity for India England series, we feel, by May, when IPL is likely to begin the season of 2021, brands will see a new opportunity to bounce back. In my view, they will make the best of this opportunity as stadiums will come alive and brands will look forward to renewed activations.”

Some experts who we spoke to also feel that if spectators are allowed, more brands that were hesitant to be part of the league earlier would be willing to shell out marketing dollars, unlike 2020 where activations were muted and budgets too.

Sapna Arora, CMO, OLX India, believes that IPL is the ‘kumbh mela’ of media. It is one grand carnival where there is a 45-60-day congregation on multiple dimensions – a ‘sangam’ of sport & entertainment–, unlike any other multifarious media platforms covering the event. In her view this event brings together audience of myriad ages, demographics and regions, and most importantly, appointment viewing in the age of capricious & volatile consumption.

“Audience being allowed back in the stadia stalls will certainly add more verve, especially in an environment where people are eager to rebound. It is natural that many businesses will plan around the IPL. After all, it allows brands to meet objectives that could be as varied as a new launch, a challenger brand getting an opportunity to garner top-of-mind awareness, an unknown brand getting national legitimacy or an established brand influencing a change in category behaviour. In 2020, IPL was the darling amongst internet brands and start-up communities. In 2021, having an audience in the stalls will also render to brands an additional opportunity of running offline integrations, that was limited if not totally absent in 2020,” explained Arora.

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