As India faces a second wave of COVID-19 infections, will VIVO IPL 2021 repeat last season's success?
How will the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in India impact consumer sentiment before IPL?
VIVO ipl 2021 is just three days away and our country has surpassed 1 lakh mark in daily covid-19 cases

As India faces a second wave of COVID-19 infections, will VIVO IPL 2021 repeat last season's success?

VIVO ipl 2021 is just three days away and our country has surpassed 1 lakh mark in daily covid-19 cases
  • VIVO IPL 2021 is just three days away and our country has surpassed 1 lakh mark in daily COVID-19 cases.
  • With high interest from advertisers this year and consumers back at home in Maharashtra, will IPL 2021 beat its previous records? We speak to digital, media and brand experts to find out.
At the time of writing this report, the number of positive cases in India have crossed 1,25,89,067, and the death toll stands at 165K+. And the number is growing with each passing day. At the same time, nearly 80 million doses have been given so far and the vaccination drive has been steadily expanding in our country. So, there’s a mixed feeling of terror and hope in the air and consumers are trying to make sense of this new normal.

When brands started buying ad spots on IPL and bidding on the sponsorship deals, the COVID cases in India were going down and the economy was improving. However, it seems like we are back to square one.

So, with IPL around the corner, which has seen a lot of interest from the brandverse this year, will consumers reciprocate?

“On the back of a year-long hiatus for sporting events, and the continued challenges associated with Covid, this year will naturally suffer its consequences. Low or no spectator events and a lower advertiser interest will also have a lower revenue for IPL. TV which gives the maximum for such sporting events will continue to have high interest among avid fans of the game and format, but the casual watcher will probably opt-out,” said N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research.

Last year, IPL broke its viewership record in the opening week itself, as revealed by BARC and Nielsen. Dream11 IPL’s viewing minutes had increased by 15% than 2019, that is 60.6 billion viewing minutes across 7 matches and 25 channels in 2020. The opening match with Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super King garnered an average of 52 million impressions, which is 29% more than 2019 and 158 million viewers watched the match.

And now that we have moved into a semi-lockdown mode with entertainment outside the home taking a backseat, Rupak Ved, Chief Operating Officer, Logicserve Digital thinks that brands will shift their monies to digital mediums. Consumers will rely on television and OTTs for their entertainment dose and IPL will benefit.

Ved said, “To a large extent, consumers and brands have got used to living life along with the threat of covid. Both have gone through different phases of ‘Shock-Adapt-Growth.’ And cricket is more than a sport in our country. With that, the biggest cricketing event - IPL, is a sentiment, it is an expression. It connects friends, family and the country! We looked forward to IPL even when there was entertainment outside the premise of the 4 walls of our residence! This year it will be even more special. IPL definitely improves sentiment in the country, we saw it just 6 months back and I feel that history might repeat itself here. Also, with vaccination catching pace, it will definitely add to the positive sentiment. Brands will surely subscribe to this. They have realised that digital is the only way to now reach a consumer who would be found more virtually than physically. The monies of physical advertising - OOH, cinema, BTL etc would be ploughed back to digital. To keep the consumer sentiment positive I feel IPL will be a great prescription.”

Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, CEO and Co-Founder, Gozoop believes that this year will bring in extraordinary success for the broadcaster and Disney+ Hotstar by breaking previous records.

He said, “The past 12 months have been painful and stressful for many in different ways and IPL provides that window of entertainment that acts like a pain relief spray — temporary yet effective. So not just repeat last year's success, I say it will exceed it. IPL drives 1.2X better results as per studies. This has been proven year on year. Also, it has proved to deliver an 8-9% uplift in the awareness & consideration metrics across all categories.”

Adding how IPL will also improve consumer sentiment, Naqvi said, "The sentiment around COVID at the moment is that of acceptance. Last year, it was fear and uncertainty as it was completely alien. Businesses are better equipped to make sense of their marketing spends. IPL would be something that people would, in fact, look forward to in case they are stuck at home and categories like mobile gaming, ed tech will see a big rise. Digital businesses will have an upper hand as well over everyone else."

Considering that the current situation of the country seems to mirror that of 2020, Mitchelle Jansen, AVP Operations (West), WATConsult is confident that the same consumer trend will be similar to last year.

She said, "The cliche that holds true for India is that "Cricket is a religion here" and when you're forced to stay in and your life is full of restrictions and limitations, you're sure to turn to cricket for comfort and some sense of normalcy. That's exactly what happened in 2020 which led to some amazing viewership numbers for Star India. Given the current scenario, history might just repeat itself, but only time will tell. Let's grab our popcorn and watch the game unfold."

Looking at the advertiser interest for IPL 2021, Priti Murthy, CEO, OMD India is confident that this year will beat IPL 2020’s viewership and ad revenue records.

“The rate at which TV ad inventory is being sold, it looks like IPL 2021 is slated to be a bigger success than last year. The opening markets, an economy in bounce-back mode, and the general sporting excitement that started picking up with the India-England series – these are some aspects that show promise for this season of IPL. Speaking strictly numbers, according to reports, the projected ad revenue for 2021 is set to be around Rs 400 Cr higher than 2020. That is quite a positive indicator,” said Murthy.

Advertiser interest

Star Sports has already roped in 18 sponsors and over 100 advertisers across multiple brand categories and according to Anil Jayaraj, Executive Vice President, Star Sports, the interest among advertisers has only grown with each passing year. Disney+ Hotstar, on the other hand, has onboarded 10 sponsors so far for VIVO IPL 2021.

As per media reports, Star charged around Rs 8 to 10 lakh for a 10 seconder last year. Star has previously charged brands Rs 25 lakh for 10-second slots during the India vs Pakistan ICC World Cup match and between Rs 16 to 18 lakh for other World Cup matches. In comparison, the IPL ad charges are still reasonable but the rates are among the costliest for a programme in the country.

With summer brands increasing their ad budgets, experts are hoping that consumer sentiment will improve once IPL begins and sales will follow. It is also supposed to bring the advertising industry back on track.

Telling us what kind of interest the clients have shown this year, Murthy said, “With respect to our clients specifically, they have looked at IPL in terms of two classifications - IPL on TV and IPL on Disney+ Hotstar, and based on these budgets and KPIs, brands have selected what’s most meaningful to them and what makes most sense for them specifically. Certain brands have chosen to stay out too, preferring to explore other cricket opportunities that will come post IPL. As a big-ticket property, and boosted by high viewership both via broadcast and streaming, with the added factor that summer brands are on the bandwagon now, this April’s IPL will definitely help boost adex, and as the total inventory gets sold, the numbers will become clearer.”

The categories of advertisers this year include Edtech, Fantasy Sports, Beverages, Pay Wallets, Home Décor, Auto, Telecom, Consumer Durables, FMCG, Financial Services amongst others. According to media reports, 80% of inventory has already been sold. Star usually keeps some inventory for later, but this year, they plan to sell the entire thing in the beginning only. A digital media expert said the reason behind this is high demand as brands are using every opportunity they can to connect with consumers and bounce back.

The spokesperson said, “A lot of brands have witnessed massive growth in revenues after taking up sponsorships with IPL last year when the entire market had slowed down. It’s only natural to learn from that and take action proactively this year. Also, the difference between IPL in 2020 & 2021 was just a matter of 4 months, and hence this kind of demand and all spots filling in early.”

At the same time, Duff & Phelps’ report suggests that the IPL ecosystem value has decreased by 3.6% in constant currency terms to INR 45,800 crore from INR 47,500 crore last year.

Chandramouli said that IPL 2021 will not be able to beat 2019.

He said, “It is unlikely that either viewership or ad volume records will be broken this year. While the advertising budgets of brands are beginning to get better, they are nowhere close to what they used to be in mid-2019. Even IPL is likely to see smaller and newer advertisers with a few of the bigger brands that will remain a part of IPL due to FOMO.”