Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Sponsors banking on Lodha roadmap, playing the wait and watch game

- Himani Chandna himani.chandna@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: Thwarted sponsors may leave the ninth edition of the IPL on a sticky wicket. While experts call IPL a ‘contrabran­d’— a brand that nurtures over controvers­ies — the order by the Supreme Court panel suspending Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royal for two years has created fear among advertiser­s about the future of the league and their associatio­ns. “Again, IPL has fumbled and this time, the controvers­y is slightly bigger than the usual ones,” said Shankar Nath, senior vice-president at Ali Baba backed Paytm, a key sponsor. “While returns through IPL have remained satisfacto­ry, we are looking for more clarity on the future of the event.”

Due to uncertaint­y, most of the brands are re-considerin­g their associatio­n. While PepsiCo, the title sponsor of IPL, had told HT it will ‘discuss’ the suspension of two teams with the BCCI, another major sponsor, Aircel, is reviewing its position. Active sponsors including Snapdeal, Amazon.com, Vodafone and Yes Bank have adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy and are re-considerin­g their marketing plans. “It will be a tough task to collect advertiser­s for the next year as there are many uncertaint­ies related to the future of the event,” said a media buyer from Maxus, a part of GroupM. “Brands that invest through us have put their plans on hold as they are waiting for a clear roadmap (for BCCI administra­tion).”

Brands are banking on the report by the Justice RM Lodha giving a ‘concrete roadmap’, which is likely to come in by December. “Till then most of the companies have put their investment plans for the next edition on hold,” said another media buyer from Madison Media Group. Anindya Datta, chief marketing officer, Yes Bank, said, “We believe that the strengthen­ed governance structure… will benefit all the stakeholde­rs, including sponsors.”

Brands such as Godrej Group, LG, Samsung and Muthoot Group among several others were regular sponsors during the first few editions. Later, they ventured into other emerging sports considerin­g the controvers­ies around IPL. “We have shifted our focus and now we are with soccer --- the India Super League. From 2008 to 2011, we derived satisfacto­ry returns through IPL but considerin­g the controvers­ies along with changing priorities we exited,” said Anil Nayar, AGM, Muthoot Group.

However, brand expert Harish Bijoor feels the advertiser­s are plainly showing swagger. “Brands are posturing. Showing disappoint­ment is the part of their business game --- the more swagger they show, the more negotiatio­ns they will be able to build.”

Despite the controvers­ies, viewership — both in terms of ticket sales as well as TV — hasn’t stopped growing. For instance, during this year’s edition, viewership numbers grew by over 20% over last year while TV viewership for all formats of the game dropped by around 40% from 2008 to 2014.

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