What does Vivo coming back as IPL's title sponsor mean for BCCI and the brand?
In 2018, Vivo acquired the IPL title sponsorship for Rs 2,199 crore in a five-year dealBCCI
IPL 2020 sponsorship crossed the ₹500 crore mark last season
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What does Vivo coming back as IPL's title sponsor mean for BCCI and the brand?

IPL 2020 sponsorship crossed the ₹500 crore mark last season
  • Following a public outcry over IPL’s association with Vivo India, the Chinese smartphone and technology brand, was suspended from the title last year.
  • Now that the brand is back as title sponsor for IPL 2021, we speak to brand experts to find out if there’s a chance of this association with the tournament backfiring for BCCI.
Before the beginning of Indian Premier League season 13 last year, there was a storm of anger on social media as a reaction to the Indo-China border dispute. People were calling a ban on all Chinese products and uninstalling Chinese or China-funded apps.

This anger was also projected on IPL over the tournament’s association with Vivo India. The Chinese smartphone and technology brand also bore the brunt as it was suspended from the title in 2020, despite signing a five-year deal with BCCI in 2018 for Rs 2,199 crore. It was replaced by Dream11, which bagged the rights for Rs 222 crore (approximately $29.7 million at that time).

Now that the public resentment towards Chinese products has faded and after maintaining a low profile last year to cushion the blow, Vivo is back as the title sponsor for IPL 2021.

In the last few months, as people have had more time to kill in India, many brands, actors and celebrities have been boycotted online. As a result, it has become increasingly tough for a brand to navigate through these volatile climes and launch even a slightly ‘controversial’ campaign or enter into a collaboration that could invite the infamous online trolls.

So, after dealing with a public outcry last year, can the renewed association between IPL and Vivo India backfire at the parties involved? And can the partnership help Vivo build back its image?

Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults inc, said, “Things come a full circle, as even this has! Vivo is back as title sponsor! This just means that it is business as usual as far as Chinese brands of every avatar is concerned. The common man never really bothered to check nationality of the brand in use. As the brouhaha settles, this means Vivo is back in the driver's seat as far as IPL eyeballs are concerned.”

Last year, Dream11 IPL had set a viewership record with an overall consumption increase of 23% versus 2019 on Star Sports. Its television viewership reached an outstanding 31.57 million.

Disney+Hotstar, on the other hand, had signed around 300 advertisers and had earned ad revenues in excess of Rs 300 crore despite the tournament being put behind the paywall. IPL 2020 had clearly showcased that it is pandemic-proof with the number of brands coming on board for sponsorship. So, with consumer sentiment picking up and advertisers opening their purse strings, IPL 2021 could be the biggest tournament we have seen so far, which can act as an image booster for title sponsor Vivo.

Lloyd Mathias, Angel Investor and Business Strategist, said, “Vivo moved out as the IPL title sponsor in 2020 given the pressure on Chinese brands due to the Indo-China border conflict. Now with the situation getting better and the pandemic flattening out, it makes sense for them to make a comeback and up their marketing to full throttle. The 2021 IPL back in India, will mean big awareness and impact – just what they need to get back their salience.”

With the geopolitical issues around the conflict in Ladakh moving in a positive direction, Ronita Mitra, Founder and Chief Strategist, Brand Eagle Consulting said that the sentiments towards the Chinese brands should also improve.

Mitra said, "At a functional level, the Chinese brands including Vivo are valued for money brands making smartphones affordable for a large segment of the population. While patriotic sentiments had overtaken commercial and brand preferences and rightly so, consumers may be more open towards brands that are within their reach despite their Chinese origin. The visibility offered by IPL would certainly give Vivo a big boost in pulling up brand metrics as well as sales. Given that the country-level issues between India and China are settled to a significant extent, consumers will focus once again on the game and possibly not hold onto the negative sentiments against the Chinese brands including Vivo.

Vivo coming back as the title sponsor may just be a win-win for both the brand and IPL. For IPL, the commercial gains will be huge as few brands can match the outlays that Vivo is bringing in."

However, the social media world today can be rather unpredictable. Karthik Srinivasan, Social Media Expert and Communications Consultant advised the brand and tournament to act smartly and stay prepared.

He said, “As long as the brand produces useful products (in this case, impressive phones, at good prices), I really doubt any other factor could affect its potential in the long run. The brand's primary function is to be useful to its target buyers. What's happening around the animosity between the two countries is beyond one brand's control. Unless the Indian Government completely bans Chinese-owned products (or services, like the way it did in the case of TikTok), I doubt there would be any material impact on the image of brands like Vivo. But, as we have seen that 'toolkits' are more widespread across the spectrum, there could be online campaigns mounted against the brand before or during the next IPL. But they would not matter to the larger world beyond social media.”

Can the partnership backfire?

Now that the border dispute between China-India has cooled off and the common people of India have moved on with their lives, experts think that the partnership can only backfire if the tension escalates.

On whether BCCI can get into trouble again, Srinivasan answered, “I do not think so. Unless the Government finds that a well-known body like BCCI working with a Chinese-owned brand is negatively impacting their response to the border crisis and intervenes by asking BCCI not to go ahead with the sponsorship, I don't think it should matter much to Vivo. There could be some online backlash (which could be engineered, of course) against players who endorse the brand as part of the overall deal, but these should not affect the brand's actual standing.”

Bijoor, on the other hand, predicts that ‘there’s a chance of this backfiring.’ He said, “It is all dependent on the strident voices on China and chinese brands. If tensions deepen, if at all, there is bound to be a reaction once again. And the sponsor shall pay, as shall IPL itself I guess.”

Mathias said, “Geopolitics can have a serious impact on business. However, it is difficult to predict as for now the border tensions have cooled off. Should there be any escalation of tensions, this may become an issue but that’s the chance the BCCI is taking, knowing fully well that they will be able to pull in a last minute sponsor – as they did in 2020.”

Despite the slowdown, IPL continued to attract strong consideration from advertisers in 2020. After observing silence for around a year, coming back as IPL’s title sponsor can add to Vivo’s growth and bring back consumer trust.