Mumbai: Many television viewers of an Indian Premier League (IPL) match between Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals on 28 March were surprised to see an advertisement for Videocon mobile services during the commercial breaks on Sony MAX channel.
The ad was in Tamil—possibly the first regional language ad to be aired to the quick-format cricket tournament’s national viewership.
“Our research had shown that the market has become extremely segmented. The consumption of media is today happening at a micro level where it becomes extremely important that the consumer be addressed in the way that he wants. The ads in the local language forms an emotional connect with the consumer. This had led us to air the Tamil ads in local teams matches,” said Sunil Tandon, group chief marketing officer, Videocon Group. “The response has been overwhelming, and we have had customers who have called up as well as written to us about how this airing has touched them emotionally.”
The group has since been running Tamil ads for its newly-launched mobile phone service during all matches involving the Chennai Super Kings. The strategy is based on a study that shows while viewership on regional channels—where such ads are normally broadcast—is fragmented, IPL brings together a large number of viewers of a particular region when their home team is playing.
Executives at Sony MAX, the official IPL broadcaster, are hailing it as a brave new trend in advertising, but some media buyers say it makes little sense to purchase costly ad spots for airing commercials in a language that is lost on the bulk of the viewership.
Graphic: Paras Jain / Mint
“I’m not surprised that planners and buyers are doing this,” said Sneha Rajani, executive vice-president and business head of Sony MAX. “If you look at the viewership data, there is tremendous polarization (in viewership). There is tremendous team support.”
Each IPL team has gained a loyal audience for its matches from the region it belongs to, according to TAM Sport, a division of TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, which tracked IPL viewership from 28 March-3 April.
For instance, when Mumbai Indians played against Deccan Chargers and Kings XI Punjab that week, the television rating points (TRPs) in Mumbai touched a high of 11.74 and 10.15, respectively. This was much higher that the ratings generated by any other IPL match in Mumbai.
Similarly, a Kolkata Knight Riders match against Deccan Chargers generated a TRP of 12.17 in Kolkata, the highest for the city, and 8.19 in Hyderabad, also the highest for that city.
“This is the start of a good trend,” said Rohit Gupta, president, network sales, Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd, which owns Sony MAX. “It’s not been tried before. If it is successful, it could open up a lot of new avenues, especially for regional advertisers.”
But not everyone is convinced. “I thought it might have been a mistake,” said Hiren Pandit, managing partner, entertainment sports partnerships, GroupM.
He said it would be a “colossal waste of money” if a brand paid premium rates to reach a national audience for showing ads in a regional language that 80% of the viewers don’t understand.
Still, the trend could boost IPL’s efforts to find regional sponsors. Early this year, the league had offered regional advertisers a chance to back the tournament at just about a quarter of the price top sponsors pay.
Even Pandit said “it makes sense if Sony MAX could split the feed region-wise,” so that those who don’t speak the language don’t have to watch the ads.