Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)
Sponsors banking on Lodha roadmap, playing the wait and watch game
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.